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Posts about: Research

The transition from MSc student to a PhD student, at The University of Salford by Abolanle Gbadamosi

27 February 2018

The first transition for me was moving from my home country, Nigeria, to England to study – it was very daunting to begin with. The initial decision to come to England to study for a Masters was very different from the decision I made to stay to further my studies and start a PhD. When I came to England to study for my Masters, I wanted to gain further skills and knowledge – the decision was based on the challenge to get better academically, and in turn to inform my future career path. The decision to further my education and embark on a PhD was based on the skills and knowledge I had acquired during my Masters degree. The wide range of resources available to students to make learning convenient at the University of Salford was beyond expectations. As a postgraduate student, I had unlimited access to an extensive range of books, e-books, journal articles, and government publications to help me study, as well as request for articles that are not licensed to the University.

The major influence in deciding to apply for a PhD was based on the final semester of my Masters programme, when I conducted a research study for my dissertation. The research study examined the associations between sitting at work and mental wellbeing. I loved the idea of looking into a problem and trying to find out as much as I could about it, and looking into something that there was little previous research on. That’s the joy of being a researcher (although it is not always as simple as it sounds!).

The progression from a postgraduate taught degree to a postgraduate research degree is a big step in one’s education, because the doctorate degree is seen as the highest level of educational achievement. The move from a ‘regimented and structured’ life of a taught programme to the ‘unstructured’ life of a PhD can be scary. This is because the structure of deadlines and assignment submissions is no longer there – you have to carefully plan your own time and set your own targets. It can be quite overwhelming at times, sitting in an office every day of the week, rather than attending classes for two to four hours every day. I am in an office with other PhD students, many of whom are working in studies that are not related to my field – this can make the PhD journey lonely at times, but also interesting because I get to learn about things outside of my own area of research.

When I started my PhD, all of a sudden I was exposed to all these opportunities and changes. The PhD involves independent research and that means a lot of input from me as a researcher – like I said, it can be quite scary if you face it all alone. The University has provided various workshops and study skills sessions to help me adapt to the system, without feeling too overwhelmed! Also, there is an allocated staff member to stand in as a personal tutor to help discuss any issues that may affect one’s studies. I have made use of these resources and intend to keep making use of them. So far so good, it’s been an interesting journey and I hope it will get even better!

In the first year of Abolanle’s PhD, she has had the work from her Masters study accepted at the International Conference on Ambulatory Monitoring of Physical Activity and Movement (see poster), and has recently submitted work from her first PhD study to the International Society for Physical Activity and Health Congress.

Association between sitting at work and mental wellbeing

University of Salford and Teams4U Partnership: Uganda

11 December 2017

With its numerous and diverse cultures, Winston Churchill wrote “Uganda is truly the Pearl of Africa” and went on to say “The Kingdom of Uganda is a fairy tale. The scenery is different, the climate is different and most of all, the people are different from anything elsewhere to be seen in the whole range of Africa….what message I bring back…concentrate on Uganda”. Over one hundred years later this is still true, and Uganda, relatively untouched by tourism, retains a taste of Authentic Africa.

Children at a primary school in Kumi

The University of Salford has been working with charity Teams4U for over eight years. Recently, the University’s partnership with Teams4U has been developed to allow students to gain hands-on experience of delivering a public health intervention programme in rural Uganda, learning how to break down cultural barriers and to communicate with the people they serve in order to make the programme a success. Students on our BSc Public Health and Health Promotion course have the opportunity to take a subsidised ten day trip to Uganda (the student pays £200 towards the cost).

The Teams4U Uganda programme is the brainchild of honorary Salford graduate Dr Dave Cooke, who wondered if physical activity could help primary school children to achieve better results at school. Since it began, the programme has evolved and changed to tackle some of the underlying issues that lock communities in a cycle of poverty.

Small changes make a big difference

The experience of handing a football to a child that has never touched a ball is something that is difficult to describe. Before the programme began, children in rural primary schools in the Kumi district of Uganda didn’t have PE lessons; with class sizes at over 100 children per teacher, finding an activity that they could all take part in was difficult. To make matters worse, the budget for most schools is just £1.50 per child for the whole year, meaning they can’t afford basic sports equipment like footballs. Often the schools aren’t funded at all – the money just ‘disappears’.

Playing the team games with Teams4U

The concept of the programme is simple, but the impact on the children is profound – headteachers have even said they felt inspired to change the way they teach as a result. However, this is where students can get involved in vital research, as many questions still need answering: does the experience of the teachers of the programme change their attitudes to physical activity? Does the donation of balls for football, netball and other activities have an impact on physical activity and sports in the schools?

Breaking the cycle of poverty

The programme also revealed other barriers to education that children in the community face. While both girls and boys are often kept off school to help out at home or work in the fields, girls in particular are not always encouraged to attend school. To add to this, we found that a big problem keeping girls from school was the lack of feminine hygiene products and limited access to water, meaning that they were missing up to a quarter of their schooling.

Keen to break the cycle of poverty where children drop out of school, girls have babies very young and have large families that they can’t support, the team set up two separate programmes to tackle these issues. The first, ‘Develop with Dignity’, provides washable pads for girls to use, meaning they now feel comfortable going to school on their period. Secondly, we organised educational sessions with parents, children and community leaders to discuss the importance of staying in school.

Girls receiving washable menstrual pads and underwear

Again, research is needed to understand exactly how these interventions work: does the intervention increase school attendance, for girls in particular? Are parents and the community more aware of the importance of education?

Join a trip to Uganda

You can join in and help run the sports and Develop with Dignity programmes. If you come as part of the BSc Public Health and Health Promotion, you can also help us do research to evaluate the programme.

Our volunteers often find that while they go to Uganda with the intention of serving, they end up gaining more than they give: the experience of sharing time with children who get so much joy from the simple gift of your time and attention.

Find out more

Watch this video about the University of Salford’s public health and health promotion opportunities in Uganda

To find out more about the other public health and health promotion work that the University of Salford and Teams4U have carried out in Uganda, go to our related blog posts

Find out more about Teams4U and Develop with Dignity

The ‘Green Infrastructure and the Health and Wellbeing Influences on an Ageing Population’ project

8 June 2016
A collaborative research project looks into health benefits of green infrastructure

A collaborative research project looks into health benefits of green infrastructure

The University of Salford is partnering with the University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University on a £700,000 research project that looks into the benefits and values of green infrastructure on an ageing population.

Green infrastructure (GI), a term used in reference to green and blue spaces (areas of grass, and canals or waterways), has direct and indirect influences on human health and wellbeing. However access to such health and wellbeing benefits isn’t shared equally amongst the population, particularly for those based in urban areas. Additionally with people aged 65 and over more susceptible to environmental stressors, this age group in particular may also be the least likely to benefit from GI.

The ‘Green Infrastructure and the Health and Wellbeing Influences on an Ageing Population’ project (GHIA), which has been funded under the Valuing Nature Programme by NERC, ESRC and AHRC, intends to look into the relative benefits and stressors of GI and how GI should be valued in the context of the health and wellbeing of older people. This value might include the monetary value of preventing ill-health but also broader interpretations, such as the historical, heritage or wildlife value which influences whether older people actively seek experiences in green and blue spaces

The project will involve collaboration with Greater Manchester health organisations that specialise in improving the health and wellbeing of older people and the design and management of GI across GM – an example of the health ICZ. These organisations will include GM’s Red Rose Forest, Public Health Manchester, Manchester City Council and Manchester Arts and Galleries Partnership.

Penny Cook will be working with Philip James from the School of Environment and Life Sciences on Salford’s contribution to the GHIA project. Salford’s role will be to look for relationships between health outcomes, using hospital data, and the occurrence of green infrastructure across space. Researchers will work with the Salford Institute for Dementia to involve people with early-onset dementia to understand how they appreciate the urban landscape through different sensory perceptions.

Double jeopardy: childhood neglect in children with FASD

29 January 2016

Alcohol and pregnancy are a dangerous mix. The physical effects of alcohol on a developing foetus are well known and potentially devastating. It is known to impact physical development – causing stunted growth, craniofacial abnormalities, reduced head and brain size, sight and hearing problems, and limb and organ defects. Foetal alcohol exposure causes problems in cognitive and psychological functions such as learning, speech and language, memory, attention, inhibition, social cognition, planning, motor skills, attachment, and behaviour. The name given to the range of outcomes caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol is foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

Double jeopardy: adding childhood neglect

Children who are exposed to alcohol prenatally are also at risk of what has been described as a case of double jeopardy: they are much more likely to experience adverse environmental experiences during the first months and years of development. These experiences can include neglect of daily care, abandonment, and emotional, sexual and physical abuse. The effects of such experiences can compound the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure, as they impact development in a similar way. Maltreatment such as neglect and abuse, especially if this is prolonged and lasts beyond the first six months of life, can have a significant impact on attachment, cognitive, psychological and social development and even physical growth.

By D Sharon Pruitt [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By D Sharon Pruitt [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

To make matters worse, children who suffer maltreatment during early childhood miss out on normal attachment development. This can seriously impact their own parenting skills as adults, and lead to dysfunctional attachment behaviour if and when they become parents themselves. Those who suffer from foetal alcohol spectrum disorders are more likely to develop alcohol misuse issues, and are more likely to be involved in risky sexual behaviours. This can increase the risk of unplanned pregnancies, and so the cycle can be self-perpetuating.

Forthcoming research on FASD and neglect

The effects of a) prenatal alcohol exposure and b) early childhood maltreatment are well documented, but there is a surprising lack of research into their combined effects. My research will address this gap, first of all by conducting a systematic review into all published studies into the combined effects of prenatal alcohol exposure and early childhood maltreatment. I am currently writing up the results of this review for publication. It found only six articles on the subject, four of which used experimental methods to assess the impact of both issues. The main finding of these four articles is that speech and language deficits are more likely in children with both issues, compared to children with one or the other.

PTEH1512  © www.philtragen.com

PhD STudent Alan Price (PTEH1512 © www.philtragen.com)

There are several other aspects of cognitive development that are yet to be addressed in this population, and so the next stage of my research will assess deficits in social cognition and executive function – two of the most prominent areas of deficit in children with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders and in children with a history of maltreatment. I aim to study these deficits using a combination of caregiver reports and behavioural tasks conducted in a lab at the University of Salford. I am also planning to incorporate a measure of brain activity using functional near infra-red spectroscopy (fNIRS) – a non-invasive technology that uses light waves on the near infra-red spectrum to measure blood movement in the cerebral cortex – the outer layer of the brain. This technology is especially useful in samples of young children, and this will be the first time fNIRS will have been used in this population.

I am currently in the process of applying for ethical approval, and hope to begin data collection soon.

By Salford University PhD student Alan Price

Twitter: @alandavidprice1

Email: A.D.Price1@edu.salford.ac.uk

From one of our Alumni – Umar Kabo Idris

30 October 2015

My name is Umar Kabo Idris from Kano state, Nigeria. I am a passionate public health professional who is highly interested to be a part of strengthening health systems and closing the wide gap of health inequality in Nigeria. In pursuance of this interest, I was fortunate to work with an NGO that plays a vital role in health systems in northern Nigeria through the use of appropriate technology. My interest grew even bigger while working in many rural areas across various states. After working for almost two years, I thought of getting a masters degree in the field of public health in order to acquire the appropriate research skills and vast knowledge to fulfil the desired passion and achieve my end goal of changing people’s lives in the area of better health services and to also advocate for better health policies. With gratitude to God, that has been achieved as I have just concluded my masters degree program in Public Health from the prestigious University of Salford, Manchester.

During the masters programme time, I thought of a dissertation topic that would fit into what could change or bring in better health policies, add value to our localities particularly with regards to improving the lives of people in my state. I arrived at something to do with technology because from my ideas and those found from research, it is clear that technology is massively used to support many interventions through health systems strengthening in many developing countries. The research looked at the impact of local public health workers using GIS technology for polio vaccination coverage. It was a successful research, in the end we explored on ways the same technology could be used in other local interventions especially now that Nigeria is officially no longer listed as a polio endemic countries. Thereafter, that led us to find out the prevalent diseases that needed more attention and how the technology could be used to support those interventions.

The journey of my passion did not stop at that, my masters research has given me a broad scope of what I love to do. I immediately got the opportunity to apply for an opening of Assistant Project Manager in my second week of coming back. I applied and was called for interview due to my experience of work in the same organization I left for masters last year. Part of the job interview focused on my dissertation findings and it was an easy ride for me. In the end, I can say I got the job and my first task is to be a part finding out how we can use appropriate technology to support the upcoming measles campaign scheduled to take place in the third week of November 2015. I am highly exited and happy to get my masters from a great team of public health in the University of Salford, even more so from my inspiring project supervisor (Anna Cooper). I am also happy that I am on the right track of achieving my aim.