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Community Blog: Meet Melanie

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

 I am a second-year Health Science student, aiming to finish my degree at the Technical University of Munich (Germany) in August 2019. Part of my course is a mandatory placement over a period of five months, which I embraced as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at gaining relevant work experience abroad. Then, in March 2018, I started working for the Walker Institute, with Dr Rosalind Cornforth as my supervisor.

I made the decision to complete my internship at Walker, due to its interdisciplinary themes ranging from health and social wellbeing to water, energy, food, and disaster management. Addressing climate variability and change, which are undoubtedly fundamental and present circumstances constituting major risks to the health of all of us, was a key part in peaking my interest in learning more about the research within this area. I was very proud of having my own desk and my name printed on the office door - both little things with great meaning to a student who normally shares a lecture hall with a minimum of 200 fellow students.

I started my placement with the documentation of relevant activities on drought management, associated with the institute’s RAINWATCH project, which led to the creation of a spreadsheet with the aim to enabling group work. This task helped me to familiarise myself with the Walker Institute and the university’s internal stakeholders.

Furthermore, and to my delight, I got the opportunity to contribute to a paper, regarding the data evaluation from the WHO/ WMO Walker Malawi Health Early Warning System project, together with Dr Rosalind Cornforth, MacKenzie Dove and Celia Petty. Due to the data analysis I introduced myself to NVivo 11 Pro, a qualitative data analysis (QDA) computer software providing a place to organise, store and retrieve data, therefore making work more efficient and time-saving. The final results will initially be submitted to the Lancet Global Health journal. Becoming a co-author, is an unbelievably beneficial step to my future career and means a lot to me.

Time flies, and so too, did my time at Walker. I spent the last couple of months on my last project. With the help of Dai Clegg, I managed to design the health interface for the Walker Institute’s ‘Readiness Assessment Protocol’ via the Open Data Kit (ODK). This particular toolkit helps to collect, manage, and use data around the world and seems to be a clever way of producing future questionnaires and interviews supporting climate-resilient futures within the African Union and similar.

Throughout my placement, I tried my best to incorporate and apply all the skills and knowledge I have learned during my studies. I hope that my unbiased and fresh view on the topics have brought forward projects and pending tasks. I gained so much more than just work experience. I met lovely people and made new friends, enhanced my English skills and learned the valuable art of dealing with unexpected problems and solving them. I got insights into the area of research and publication. I realised, that I can achieve so much more with the little experience I have than I thought, which strengthened my beliefs in myself and my skills.

I want to thank everyone for all the support and opportunities I got. I never thought I could learn so much within such a short amount of time.

Keep up the great work you are doing and take care,