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WHO Europe HEAT Modelling Team Placement
About the placement/internship

Why did you decide to do a placement/internship?

My PhD focuses on economic modelling of physical activity policies and interventions, the Physical Activity Unit at Zurich developed a widely used tool, called HEAT, to estimate the benefits of physical activity for transport planners. There is therefore considerable overlap with the model I am developing in my PhD which focuses on physical activity in education.

How did you find your placement/internship?

Organisation website

Application process

I contacted the head of the department directly, and had several Skype meetings to confirm the exact nature of the visit.

Main responsibilities

I was working on a specific project for which I had some previous experience. The project would provide some analysis and recommendations to the steering group.

Typical day

I was largely involved in research, primarily working alone but having regular meetings with specific members of the team based in Zurich, but also some contact with team members in Basel and Cambridge.

What did I enjoy about my placement/internship?

Working in a new environment, with economists and engineers. Ability to focus on one project with no distractions. The work was incredibly interesting and developed my programming skills.

Challenging aspects

Getting the placement arranged was the biggest challenge, particularly accommodation in Zurich which was very expensive.

Did you use any skills learned from your course?

Yes. This was very cross-disciplinary so required knowledge of epidemiology, health economics, programming using R, computer science (basic data-scraping and data management).

Has your time on placement influenced your future career choice?

No, but it has strengthened my belief in the importance of ensuring impact of research. Publishing is clearly important but often in my field increasingly complex models are developed which become 'black-boxes' that people don't understand and end up misinterpreting findings. Learning how a successful tool has been developed is very important to my future research.

Advice to students

My piece of advice to students

Don't be scared to contact senior researchers (professors and those leading projects). Don't undersell yourself, you will likely have a lot to offer, particularly if you straddle multiple disciplines. Understand the work the department does, and find a way you can make a valuable contribution.

Form completed: 29 Aug 2018

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