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  • Alexandra Keogh

Summer scholarship: My HRB Research Experience

"This programme has encouraged me to consider a future career in health research... It has fuelled my passion to work in an environment to better public health."

The Health Research Board (HRB) is a State Agency that funds health and social care research under the Department of Health. The vision of the HRB is to improve health by promoting excellent data-driven research that promotes evidence-informed care and by creating solutions to strengthen current health policies. Through supporting exceptional research, it is hoped that discoveries will lead to improvements of current healthcare infrastructures, promote first-rate training in health research and generate economic returns through healthcare innovation.

This summer, the Family Genomics Research Group welcomed Alexandra Keogh to join our team for her summer scholar research experience. Alex was awarded a place on the HRB Summer Student Scholarships programme. This scholarship was funded by the HRB Summer Student Scholarship 2021 (Reference: SS-2021-052). Alex discusses her research project supervised by Dr Cathy Wyse and Dr Lorna Lopez and how her HRB research experience has impacted her as an aspiring researcher.

It’s lovely to have you with us today! Why don’t we start off the interview with a little bit about yourself and about the research programme that you were a part of?


It is a pleasure to be here! My name is Alex and I am one of the HRB student scholars. I am currently going into my fourth year studying Biomedical Science (BSc.) at Maynooth University.

I was granted the HRB student summer scholarship in order to carry out an eight-week research project with the Family Genomics Research Group at Maynooth University. My research project was a data analysis-based project that investigated the effects of circadian rhythm and mealtime variations on people’s susceptibility to being infected by the common cold. I think it is really important to explore the factors that could lead to viral infection especially with regards to the common cold as it is one of society's most prevalent infectious diseases. The study that I carried out was the first to explore associations between sleep and meal timing with susceptibility to viral infection.

Why did you want to take part in the HRB summer scholarship programme?


I chose this programme as it provided me with the opportunity to gain experience of a real research environment and improve skills needed in this line of work. The HRB scholarship allowed me to gain invaluable skills that will help in my future career and employment opportunities.

What do you think are the most important skills that you have learned from conducting this research project?


This programme allowed me to develop essential skills that I would have otherwise lacked, going into a research career. It has improved my confidence and challenged me to learn and adapt to unfamiliar work. Practicing critical thinking and communication was also very useful.

Has this experience had any impact on your perspective of the research field or influenced your future career aspirations?


This programme has encouraged me to consider a future career in health research and allowed me to gain insight into what is involved, and the procedures undertaken by a research team. It has fuelled my passion to work in an environment to better public health. I have been in awe of the amazing research the team carries out and the dedication to their work. I hope to succeed in a similar field in the future!

Would you recommend for others to participate in the HRB summer scholarship programme?


I would highly recommend this programme to others. It is a fantastic opportunity and I am so grateful to HRB and my sponsors for allowing and helping me to complete this research project. I have learned so much in my 8 weeks of research and loved every minute of it (even the times R programming and I didn’t see eye to eye).

It was a pleasure to have Alex work with The Family Genomics Research Group for the duration of her summer project. The HRB Summer Student Scholarships are open to undergraduate students studying full-time or part-time in a health or social care-related discipline (i.e. health sciences, social sciences, informatics, mathematics, statistics, and management sciences) in a third-level institution throughout Ireland. The scholarship scheme hopes students will garner an interest in research and aims to give successful students the opportunity to familiarise themselves with research methodologies associated with their chosen research team. Research areas may include health services, population health, and patient-oriented or clinical research.

If you are interested in applying to the HRB summer student scholarship, the call for applicants for 2022 is now open. Visit HRB Summer Scholarships 2022 to find out more information about how to apply. We encourage students that are interested in our research areas and neurodevelopmental conditions to contact us about research projects and internships. Please see our contact page for more details.


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