Stanley Phillipson Brown Research Assistant Internship
My internship at the IGDC: Thanzi La Onse
The Thanzi La Onse project seeks to build a model for meeting unlimited health needs with limited resources in southern Africa. The governance strand, which I worked on for 4 weeks, tries to understand how the politics in this part of the world can help and hinder this effort.
As a student with a year in industry on my course, this internship was an invaluable chance to explore a sector of opportunities I was interested in but knew nothing of. I could not have asked for a better introduction. The IGDC rapidly builds research skills by allowing mistakes to be made and learnt from while having expertise nearby to prevent mistakes accumulating.
I learnt to work to my strengths; narrowing down thousands of articles not just by what was relevant to the project, but by what was relevant to me, to my skills and to my knowledge. I learnt to examine my own assumptions; knowing nothing about Malawi at the outset, I noticed that a significant part of the country’s economy is tobacco plantations. From this, I assumed that smoking would be a significant health issue. It isn’t, as I realised when, surprised at the sparse references to smoking in the literature, I finally checked the actual mortality rates.
I learnt to make use of a team while working autonomously; using the skills and knowledge of those around me to overcome the tank traps my inexperience laid out before me. Always generous with their time, researchers from the centre also kindly shared those insights that only years upon years of diverse experience can bring. A gift to anyone, but priceless to undergraduate students who choose to use it wisely.
This internship gave me: an insight into how research works, an opportunity for critical self-reflection on how I work best, and a rare occasion to learn those amorphous skills that I never knew were missing, but which, now learnt, I cannot comprehend ever having lacked. Any student, presented with a similar opportunity at the IGDC, should seize it.