A graduate in data science from Warwick University, Vanessa Rodriguez initially planned to take an MSc but then found out about the HDR UK PhD programme and decided to apply.

She is now based at UCL where she is enjoying the programme’s foundation year.

This is designed to help people from different academic backgrounds achieve a solid grounding in health data science before undertaking their three-year research project.

She said: “I haven’t done a master’s and don’t have a background in biology so this is a really good opportunity for me to broaden my skill set.

“I don’t think I would have done a PhD if it wasn’t for this foundation year – it’s a really great opportunity to develop the skills that you need before starting your research project.”

She has been highly impressed by the emphasis that HDR UK, and UCL, put on providing training for students.

Vanessa said: “The immersion weeks run by HDR UK have been really eye-opening. Recently we were looking at fairness in health data, which wasn’t something I had considered before.

“I feel the whole programme is really well rounded and gives you lots to choose from.”

She also feels that, because her fellow students are from such a wide variety of backgrounds and are based at universities across the UK, the programme introduces her to people and perspectives she might not otherwise encounter.

During her school years Vanessa had a strong aptitude for maths and later developed an interest in statistics. From that came an awareness of how much data science can do to bring practical benefits to people’s lives.

She recently became interested in the 100000 Genomes Project which was set up to look at the role our genes play in health and disease and is drawn to the idea of exploring how health data science can help address the needs of people with under-researched rare diseases.

Vanessa said: “One of the reasons I find it interesting is because of the chance to see how your research is helping people, and the changes that come from it are making in the medical field.”

The foundation year also means that Vanessa has ample time to make contact with potential supervisors and design the right research project for her skills and interests.