We have a small number of internships available annually to work within our research programmes. Intern students will usually be part of a research project team but may also work directly with a senior member of staff. We aim to give interns experience of what it is like to work in an epidemiological research group and you will be involved in some of the following: undertaking a review of evidence; analysing data; reporting results; writing a manuscript; making a presentation as well as participating in our regular activities such as journal clubs and literature review meetings. Below are some reports of visits by previous research students and at the bottom of the page you will see a list of publications which our intern students have co-authored.

My internship with the Epidemiology Group from September 2016 to February 2017Kaja Kristensen

I was a visiting student from the University of Bremen completing an internship at the University of Aberdeen Epidemiology Group from mid-September 2016 to mid-February 2017. As part of my study in Public Health this internship helped me to orientate myself vocationally as well as to gain practical experience. I was very happy to be offered an internship with the Epidemiology Group as I heard only positive feedback about being an intern there.

During my stay I was involved in two projects: a systematic review about mediation pathways within the association between musculoskeletal pain and sleep problems, and a validation study of a modified Patient Reported Outcome Measure. Working on these projects was very exciting for me as I had never worked on scientific projects like these before. Nevertheless, I was always given enough time to read up on topics, models and methods and to prepare myself properly for the tasks. 

In addition to participating in the work of the Epidemiology Group I had the opportunity to attend some courses provided by the Student Learning Service. I learned more about critical thinking and reading, as well as how to write a literature review. I also found the seminars held by the Institute of Applied Health Sciences very interesting and informative. The covered a range of different topics such as data protection, patient centred research and analysing observational data at multiple time points.

The weekly Epidemiology Group meetings, where literature reviews, journal clubs or practice presentations were held, were very useful too. I particularly enjoyed the journal clubs where recent papers were presented by one of the group members and discussed by the group. Hearing others’ opinions and critical appraisals helped me to improve my epidemiological comprehension. Additionally, the atmosphere in the epidemiology group was very friendly. I shared my office with two lovely colleagues who were always helpful as well as my supervisor who I worked together with during the internship.

The necessary preparations for the internship, such as finding accommodation, applying for the ERASMUS studentship and registering as a student were easily made even from overseas. I also didn’t find it hard to settle in Aberdeen; living in a shared flat, I got in touch with other international and Scottish students quite quickly. Participating in some of the University’s societies like the Choral Society also helped me to make new friends. Additionally, Aberdeen is a very international city with exchange students and master’s students from all over the world. Thus, I not only learned about Scottish culture during my stay but also many other cultures, too.  During my stay in Scotland I had the opportunity to visit other places such as cities like Edinburgh, Glasgow or Inverness which were easy to reach by either train or bus and were a perfect destination for a weekend trip.

All in all, it has been an amazing time in Aberdeen. I am very grateful for having completed my internship in the Epidemiology Group. I am sure that I want to stay in the field of epidemiology as this internship was the one of the best experience of my whole studies.

Kaja Kristensen
September 2016 - February 2017

About my internship at the Epidemiology Group, University of Aberdeen September 2014 to March 2015

Like some previous interns, I came to the Epidemiology Group as an undergraduate Public Health student from the University of Bremen in Germany. As part of my studies for the practical experience semester I worked with the group from September 2014 until March 2015.

I heard about the opportunity to undertake an internship with the group from a peer in Bremen. This encouraged me to apply and I was successfully awarded the internship as well as an ERASMUS studentship to assist with part of the associated living costs.

During my six month internship, I had the opportunity to work on two different projects with two different supervisors, both part of the Rheumatic & Musculoskeletal Disease programme of the Epidemiology Group. The first project, supervised by Dr Gareth Jones, was investigating disease flares in Ankylosing Spondylitis in collaboration with the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society and the University of Warwick. I had the chance to travel with the study team to Birmingham to help facilitate focus groups. The second project I assisted on was the MELODIC study, led by Dr Kathryn Martin. This study follows up participants from the MUSICIAN trial and is investigating physical activity maintenance in patients with Chronic Widespread Pain. My main tasks for both studies included preparing documents for ethical approval and contributing to study procedures including participant mailings and taking notes. In addition to these studies I had the opportunity to work on a systematic review of the literature of physical activity interventions that include components to maintain longer-term physical activity.

Furthermore, I was able to receive some advanced training, including the ‘General Clinical Practice Course for Researchers’ and library courses on handling big databases and reference management software. Besides meeting regularly with my supervisors and the study teams to discuss the progress of work, I was also able to ask members of the team questions and discuss project developments. There was always a really nice working atmosphere where I got help or tips from other students as well as academic staff when I needed it. Every week the whole epidemiology group gathers together. Such meetings allowed me to participate in journal clubs, literature review meetings, and presentation practises. I also attended seminars given by international research scientists as part of the Institute of Applied Health Sciences seminar series. Thus I had many opportunities to learn and be exposed to a wide variety of interesting research topics. 

Like former interns, I really enjoyed living in the “Granite City”. There is a common misperception that Aberdeen is grey and rainy, but actually when the sun comes out it is beautiful with “silver” buildings sparkling in the sunshine. I loved being so close to the beautiful coastline and beaches, a bustling city centre with great restaurants and shopping, and being on the doorstep to the wonderful landscape of the highlands. I found that there were great facilities for sports in Aberdeen, either at the gym or through university societies.  I met really nice people with whom I also travelled and visited other cities in Scotland, castles and whisky distilleries.

The internship within the Epidemiology Group was a great experience and gave me lots of insight into epidemiological research. It gave me the opportunity to improve my technical, intercultural and language skills and has helped orientate my future career. I now know that I want to stay in the field of Epidemiology.  Even though I must return to Germany to finish my undergraduate studies, I know that my relationship with the group won’t end with the internship. I plan to stay in contact and work on writing up paper(s) for publication. I am really happy that I had the chance to spend my internship with the Epidemiology Group and am very grateful for the great time I had at work and in Scotland in general. I have made many friends and contacts for the future and know that this internship was the right decision!

Chloé Charlotte Schröder
March 2015

Internship at University of Aberdeen Epidemiology Group October 2011 to March 2012

Bremen Interns: Stephan Schild von Spannenberg, Viktor Hardock and Tanja WirthWe are three undergraduate Public Health students from Bremen, Germany and we undertook the internship at the epidemiology group in Aberdeen from October 2011 until March 2012 as a part of our study. Because of the co-operation between the University of Aberdeen and Bremen we found the contact and applied for a vacancy.

A telephone interview gave us the chance to introduce ourselves and to become acquainted with the head of the group. After getting a positive response we were offered a contact with a previous intern who gave us helpful tips with regard to how to find accommodations or necessary preparations in advance.

The internship was unpaid, but we got support from Erasmus, which helped us to finance our stay in Aberdeen. For the sixth month period every one of us had his or her own supervisor and worked with them on different research projects. Tanja belonged to the Dental School and worked in the field of oral health. Viktor was based in the Maternity Hospital doing research on reproductive health, while Stephan worked in the Polwarth Building in the field of musculoskeletal epidemiology. In addition to regular meetings with our supervisors to discuss the progress of our work, we could contact them for any questions or problems that occurred.

Our main tasks during the internship were to conduct literature searches, to enter and analyse study data and to write a paper about our projects. Furthermore, we gave presentations about our work in front of the other members of the group. There was always a friendly working atmosphere, with weekly cake meetings of the whole epidemiology group. Apart from that, we got the opportunity to join regular seminars given by international research scientists and to attend training sessions for PhD students. All this made us feel as fully valid members of the group at any time during our internships.

Living in Aberdeen was great. The friendly and open minded Scottish people made the integration simple. Especially the contact to previous intern and the PhD students helped us to settle in. Aberdeen has a busy city centre with shopping streets and restaurants and together with the huge number of the different pubs it offers a lot of opportunities to get in touch with the Scottish people and other international students. Additionally, there are a lot of facilities to follow sport activities either in a gym or in some of the sport clubs of Aberdeen. We also had annual leave for travelling and sightseeing in Scotland. We visited the most important cities and castles and enjoyed the unique landscape of the highlands. We even had a chance to visit our family during the Christmas holidays.

The internship at the epidemiology group was a great experience for all of us and a big step for our study and further career. It enabled us to gain an insight into the epidemiology research and gave us the opportunity to improve our intercultural skills and English knowledge. A special benefit was our first publication which resulted from our research projects. We are happy that the epidemiology group has given us the chance to join them for our internship and are very grateful for the time we have worked there.

Stephan Schild von Spannenberg, Viktor Hardock and Tanja Wirth
April 2012

Manuscripts which our interns have co-authored

Whibley, D, AlKandari, N, Kristensen, K, Barnish, M, Rzewuska, M, Druce, KL & Tang, NKY 2019, 'Mechanisms between Sleep and Pain – What Do We Know from Studies of Mediation?' Journal of Pain, vol. 20, no. 4, pp. S19-S20.

Whibley, D, Al Kandari, N, Kristensen, K, Barnish, M, Rzewuska, M, Druce, KL & Tang, NKY 2019, 'Sleep and Pain: A Systematic Review of Studies of Mediation' The Clinical Journal of Pain. Jun;35(6):544-558

Ratz T, Dean LE, Atzeni F, Reeks C, Macfarlane GJ, Macfarlane TV. A possible link between ankylosing spondylitis and periodontitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Rheumatology 2015;54(3):500-10

Sakel M, Boukouvalas A, Buono R, Moten M, Mirza F, Chan WY, Maidment I, Cross J, Smith TO, Myint PK, Fox C Does anticholinergics drug burden relate to global neuro-disability outcome measures and length of hospital stay?Brain Inj. 2015 Aug 12:1-5.

Macfarlane GJ, Jones GT, Swafe L, Reid DM, Basu N. Alternative population sampling frames produced important differences in estimates of association: a case-control study of vasculitis. J Clin Epidemiol. 2013 Jun;66(6):675-80.

Schild von Spannenberg-S, Jones GT,  Macfarlane GJ. The evidence base for managing older persons with low back pain British Journal of Pain November 2012 6: 166-169

Wirth T, Kawecki MM, Reeve J, Cunningham C, Bovaird I, Macfarlane TV. Can Alcohol Intake from Mouthwash be Measured in Epidemiological Studies? Development and Validation of Mouthwash Use Questionnaire with Particular Attention to Measuring Alcohol Intake from Mouthwash. J Oral Maxillofac Res. 2012 Oct 1;3(3):e1. 

Macfarlane TV, Wirth T, Ranasinghe S, Ah-See KW, Renny N, Hurman D. Head and neck cancer pain: systematic review of prevalence and associated factors. J Oral  Maxillofac Res. 2012 Apr 1;3(1):e1.

Macfarlane GJ, de Silva V, Jones GT. The relationship between body mass index  across the life course and knee pain in adulthood: results from the 1958 birth cohort study. Rheumatology 2011 Dec;50(12):2251-6.

Macfarlane GJ, El-Metwally A, De Silva V, Ernst E, Dowds GL, Moots RJ; Arthritis Research UK Working Group on Complementary and Alternative Medicines. Evidence for the efficacy of complementary and alternative medicines in the management of rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic review. Rheumatology 2011 Sep;50(9):1672-83.

De Silva V, El-Metwally A, Ernst E, Lewith G, Macfarlane GJ; Arthritis Research UK Working Group on Complementary and Alternative Medicines. Evidence for the efficacy of complementary and alternative medicines in the management of osteoarthritis: a systematic review. Rheumatology 2011 May;50(5):911-20.

De Silva V, El-Metwally A, Ernst E, Lewith G, Macfarlane GJ; Arthritis Research Campaign working group on complementary and alternative medicines. Evidence for the efficacy of complementary and alternative medicines in the management of fibromyalgia: a systematic review. Rheumatology 2010 Jun;49(6):1063-8.

Macfarlane GJ, Pallewatte N, Paudyal P, Blyth FM, Coggon D, Crombez G, Linton  S, Leino-Arjas P, Silman AJ, Smeets RJ, van der Windt D. Evaluation of work-related psychosocial factors and regional musculoskeletal pain: results from a EULAR Task Force. Ann Rheum Dis. 2009 Jun;68(6):885-91.