My name is Martha Dean-Tozer and I am a 2nd year undergraduate student, studying Psychology with Criminology. Alongside this, I am also working within the Centre of Reproduction Research (CRR) as a DMU Frontrunner. A DMU Frontrunner is a paid internship advertised towards students to improve their employability and opportunities for future work when leaving DMU. The frontrunner placement I have been undertaking is as a research assistant at the centre. This opportunity has enabled me to become more skilled in a variety of different tasks in a research environment.
I applied for the CRR placement as it looked like an interesting area of work in which I would like to explore. Despite my limited knowledge on the area of reproduction, I was intrigued by the work they did at the centre. Furthermore, the multidisciplinary aspect of the centre appealed to me as it was very relevant in terms of work experience for my course and possible future career options. During the application process, I was required to do a presentation on a piece of reproduction research in front of a panel of three social sciences staff. After undertaking a broad literature review to decide what to focus on, I decided to do a presentation on whether using Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) for conceiving children had an effect on symptom severity and the diagnosis age of autism. This particular area of research interested me because of its focus on child development and autism which I had previous knowledge on from my psychology lectures (e.g., Schieve et al., 2015). Presenting this study not only helped me to feel more comfortable about presenting, but also shed light onto the possible aspects of reproduction research which could be explored further during the placement.
I have been lucky enough to work with Dr Esmée Hanna during my placement and assisting her with research on male factor infertility. During my first couple of weeks of the placement, I was asked to create infographics for the CRR twitter page during fertility week. Two infographics (shown below) were created to visually present Esmée’s two studies; ‘The experience of male factor infertility’ and ‘The impact of male infertility on work and finance’. These two infographics were published to the CRR twitter account using the #menmatter hashtag to follow the theme which Fertility Network UK (the national UK fertility charity) set during their annual fertility week. This not only contributed to raising awareness and support for men suffering with male factor fertility, but also helped to advertise and share the work of CRR and Esmée’s research in an innovative and accessible way. As a result of this, I was asked to run a training workshop on how to create infographics by a health and wellbeing lecturer, Chris Elsey. This involved me presenting how I created the infographic to Chris and his frontrunner James. I led them through the basic steps to create their own infographic which in turn would help them with their own visual presentation of research. From this work, I was able to gain confidence and develop my presentation skills which I hope will improve my employability for future career opportunities.
I am currently working on my own research project which looks at single women using sperm donors to conceive. My goal is to submit this research to an undergraduate journal which accepts multidisciplinary research from undergraduate students. This research area took my interest because of the societal relevance this poses to many women and the increasing interest in sperm donation for women who wish to be single mothers by choice. I conducted this research using forum analysis through a support network site. I was able to find a thread where women were sharing their experiences, hopes and advice. I began data analysis using the thematic analysis method where I have identified reoccurring themes which presented the implications and impact of this experience. Presently, I am writing up my first draft and developing my writing to the best of my ability.
My average day in the life of a CRR frontrunner firstly consists of me checking through my emails and being up to date with anything I have missed. I always write a to-do list which helps with structuring the day. My frontrunner work mostly consists of me in the office at my desk where I am most productive and motivated. Every two weeks I have a catch up with my line manager who sets me tasks which are typically administrative or related to developing various projects. For example, I recently completed some thematic coding on research interviews that were conducted by CRR members Christina Weis and Wendy Norton, who are carrying out research on men’s experiences with surrogacy. This required me to use NVivo which allowed me to pick up skills in using this software, which will be useful for my dissertation and future assessments. This project is just one of the many examples of interesting work that is being carried out within the CRR, which I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to work on. More recently, I have been involved in the EDNA Project which is focused on how egg donation is regulated and experienced in the UK, Spain and Belgium. This has included updating conference lists and anonymising interviews.
Over the last 7 months, I have developed my confidence in presenting and IT skill which will undoubtedly serve me well through any future opportunities. I have had the privilege to work within a supportive and enthusiastic team of people who have helped me throughout the placement with anything I have needed. I have enjoyed my frontrunner placement with the CRR and would recommend this internship to anyone who is considering to apply.
Written by Martha Dean-Tozer.
Schieve, L. A., Fountain, C., Boulet, S. L., Yeargin-Allsopp, M., Kissin, D. M., Jamieson, D. J., … Bearman, P. (2015). Does autism diagnosis age or symptom severity differ among children according to whether assisted reproductive technology was used to achieve pregnancy? Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45(9), 2991–3003. doi: 10.1007/s10803-015-2462-1
Please note that this blog post was written before social distancing and stay-at-home recommendations began.