Embarking on a PhD with the NIHR - Hannah shares her story so far
Hannah Lumley (pictured right) is currently a Research Assistant at Newcastle University, funded by the NIHR Newcastle BRC. For the past three and a half years she has been working on a project called SINONIMS but more recently, she has secured a place to study for a PhD, funded by another NIHR programme in the North East. She tells us more about this, her career journey so far, and where she plans to go next.
Tell us about your role as Research Assistant (RA) with the SINONIMS project
SINONIMS stands for ‘Study in Novel Neuromuscular Imaging Biomarkers for Motor Outcome in Stroke’, and I have been working on this with the Stroke Research Group at Newcastle University.
The project involves using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) methods to look for certain changes in the brain and muscles following a stroke. These changes could help us predict how well stoke patients will recover leg function.
If we could predict this accurately, it could help people get tailored rehabilitation. There are different ways to rehabilitate people after a stroke, such as compensation or strength training. Knowing what type of treatment someone needs can help increase the likelihood of their recovery.
What are the most valuable things you have learned about working in a research environment?
- How to set up, coordinate and maintain a study
- Recruiting patients in a hospital setting
- Clinically assessing patients
- Improvement in Excel skills
- Confidence in presenting work
What is the subject of your newly awarded PhD?
I will be funded by the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration North East North Cumbria (ARC NENC). My project is aimed at creating an algorithm to help diagnose strokes and stroke subtypes. It will use health data and biomarkers to examine whether machine learning can improve the accuracy of early stroke diagnosis.
What will be the benefit to the public and patients?
It means we could identify whether a patient is having a stroke, and which type of stroke, more quickly. With this, we could enable faster treatment, reducing the likelihood of disability. There are three main stroke subtypes, all needing different treatments which aren’t available at all hospitals. Stroke can also easily be mistaken for other conditions, so this knowledge will help identify the best treatment, as well as helping paramedics get people to the right hospitals.
How has your research experience up until now prepared you for this PhD?
I have a BSc in Psychology and MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience, so I have a lot of neuroscientific knowledge. I also gained a lot of experience in data collection, literature synthesis, critical analysis, statistical analysis, report writing and presenting during my degrees. I have worked in research roles since then, which has given me experience instroke projects; specifically, the PEARS programme (Promoting Effective and Rapid Stroke Care). This gave me insight into the current state of stroke services, and I learned more about treatments, working closely with patients to hear their experiences. Additionally, the SINONIMS project has given me experience in recruiting stroke patients and allowed me to create a statistical analysis plan for a clinical study.