Among the undergraduates awarded one of the new HDRUK-Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarships in Health Data Science is Zhe Ren Ooi who has found the scheme hugely enjoyable and challenging.

Brought up in Malaysia he showed a talent for maths from an early age and is now an undergraduate at the University of Oxford where he is studying mathematics and statistics.

Zhe Ren had become increasingly interested in what it might be like to work in research, and the scheme, which runs over the summer 2022 vacation, is an ideal opportunity to find out.

It is specifically designed to provide people who are part way through their undergraduate studies with an eight-week placement to carry out a research project, hosted by a leading organisation and under the guidance of senior academics or clinicians.

In Zhe Ren’s case this has seen him placed at UCL where he is developing a binary classifier to predict patients outcomes – this could include how factors such as height and weight may have an influence of someone with heart disease. The project is also tackling the issue of misclassifications in the available data and the factors that lead to them.

He said: “It seemed very interesting to do a research project over the summer, in term time you just don’t really have the luxury to really delve deep into theory.

“With this internship you can get to see how theory can be relevant to practice. It really appealed to me because it’s mathematically interesting, and also because of the implications it has when you are doing health science and practice.”

Zhe Ren’s project is being supervised by Dr Ioanna Manolopoulou of the UCL Department of Statistical Science – and he has valued the time that she and her colleagues have spent helping him think through the project and how to take it forward at each stage.

He said: “It’s certainly very challenging and very interesting. And because it’s research, no one knows the answers, so we have to figure it out as we go.

“But it also feels very independent in terms of what I what I want to do. I need to decide if my theory is sufficient to run the experiments. And if my experiments return something that’s weird, I need to go back to theory again.

“But my supervisor is really helpful. Every time I discuss something with her, she always has a good sense of what are the things to try out next.”

More broadly Zhe Ren feels that the scheme is offering him the insights he hoped for.

He said: “The scholarship really gives me a taste of what doing research is like. I wanted to see what research is like and whether I will be a good fit for research.

“It has given me really, really good experience and will be very helpful in helping me to decide whether or not I want to progress into research.

“It has also given me a good opportunity to work with a supervisor who is really experienced in statistics. It’s enlightening to see how how she does research and about good practice in statistical research.”