Usher Institute

BLOG: Insights from an intern - Advancing data analysis techniques

George Addo Opoku-Pare explores how his internship with the Inflammation and Immunity Driver Programme has enriched his journey towards establishing a career in health data research.

By George Addo Opoku-Pare | Student Intern

My internship was a tapestry woven with challenges, discoveries, and growth, stretching my knowledge and skillset, and putting them to the test.

Portrait image of George Addo Opoku-Pare, 2023 Inflammation and Immunity intern
Dr George Addo Opoku-Pare, Usher Institute 2023 Intern via the Inflammation and Immunity Driver Programme

I first qualified as a medical doctor in Ghana, West Africa, and later completed my master’s in Public Health at the University of Glasgow. It was here that I first developed my strong passion for data-driven research. Whilst studying I became involved with a novel, ground-breaking project which evaluated how aggregated genetic scores of fat cell functions have an effect on cardiovascular diseases . Whilst my interest continued to grow, I lacked the experience needed to further pursue a career in Data Science. Health Data Research UK's Black Internship programme was an ideal opportunity to widen my skillset and forge lasting relationships with colleagues in this niche area.

When I began my placement at the University of Edinburgh, I was immediately welcomed with open arms by my supervisor Dr Wendy Inglis-Humphrey, and line manager Dr Holly Tibble. Holly has been an amazing mentor and teacher, guiding me on how to enhance my skills in data analytics and visualizations. She tasked me with using data from the Generation Scotland project to predict as asthmatic attacks within a 12-week period. Her assignments, involving extensive research and application of coding skills, helped drive my outstanding growth.

Holly first taught me the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration. The Usher Institute promotes a collaborative ethos, encouraging working relationships between researchers from a diverse range of backgrounds. This challenged me to nurture my ability to effectively engage and communicate with a wider scientific audience than I was used to. At first, it,  was a struggle. However, overtime the continuous encouragement I received from Holly and colleagues allowed me to successfully integrate into their community. This broadened my perspective, emphasising that solving complex health challenges requires a holistic approach.

Of course, my journey has not been without obstacles. I have encountered several humbling experiences; navigating through intricate datasets, debugging code, and reconciling conflicting results. Yet, these moments also provided personal development and growth opportunities. The iterative nature of research taught me the importance of perseverance in the face of setbacks. My work with the Generation Scotland data also allowed me to hone my skills in handling large datasets, data pre-processing, model building and classification. This has lead me to becoming proficient in utilising advanced statistical techniques and machine learning algorithms, such as Classification and Regression (CART), to extract meaningful insights from these complex datasets. I was able to conduct robust analysis and present data-driven insights through reports and interactive visualisations. Moreover, cutting-edge software tools and programming languages, such as R has fortified my technical prowess.

This opportunity provided a dynamic and intellectually stimulating environment that constantly challenged me, enriching my confidence and understanding of health data analysis and research methodologies. My internship was a tapestry woven with challenges, discoveries, and growth, stretching my knowledge and skillset, and putting them to the test.

Looking ahead, I am excited to further contribute to ongoing projects and potentially disseminate our findings. The opportunity to make a tangible impact on healthcare outcomes by harnessing the power of data motivates me to continuously push the boundaries of my knowledge and capabilities. I am now looking to apply to PhD opportunities and working my way to becoming a public health data analyst.

Relevant links

Find out more about the Health Data Science Black Internship Programme

Find out more about the Inflammation and Immunity Driver Programme

Access Wendy Inglis-Humphrey's staff profile

Access Holly Tibble's Research Explorer