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BALR Summer Studentship 2022: Ankesh Gandhi

I am delighted to share my experience of a BALR studentship during the summer of 2022. The award involved an 8-week summer placement as part of the Margaret Turner Warwick Centre for Fibrosing Lung Diseases at the NHLI.

I was kindly introduced to this opportunity by Dr. Alison John whilst completing my Immunity and Infection dissertation within the wet lab. During my time there, I approached Dr. Iain Stewart as observing the use of biostatistics in Interstitial Lung Disease research was of particular interest to me. Despite my strong interest, biostatistics is a field in which I have had little previous experience hence I was privileged to join such a world leading team within the NHLI.

Together we explored project ideas, the most striking was the use of remote monitoring in respiratory patients, as such novel technology is being used in other medical fields such as psychiatry to monitor and predict patient outcomes. Seeking a challenge, we looked to model home spirometry data from patients with Interstitial Lung Diseases, then subsequently seek associations between lung function parameters and changes in patient quality of life. An appealing avenue for research as findings could be used to monitor patient health for a disease commonly associated with poor quality of life. Furthermore associations with certain lung parameters, such as peak expiratory flow, could allow monitoring in cost effective settings.

As a newcomer seeking experience in coding, I was quickly introduced to STATA which served as a programming language for our statistical analysis. Recent findings within the lab, now published in Lancet Digital, had identified clusters of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis patients using FVC data modelled over a 3 year period. We thus sought to replicate these findings in our dataset over a period of 90 days. Using STATA, I was able to model various lung parameters through latent class growth analysis from which a stable and declining group of patients could be delineated. Our second phase involved testing for association between quality of life measured via EQ-VAS and declining groups of patients using a least angle regression. Thereafter quantitate the magnitude of these links using a linear regression. The findings were then validated with a second replication cohort.

I relished every moment of this challenging project, despite predominantly working remote I was well supported by my supervisor Dr. Stewart, the wider team and STATA webinars. I particularly enjoyed sharing updates in our weekly lab meetings and also hearing presentations from colleagues regarding their work. In addition, a weekly wellbeing meeting between the group on each Friday really helped to foster a good working environment. Whilst developing my soft skills, it was thoroughly enjoying to apply statistical coding for data management and analytical purposes.

Since completing the 8 week project I was privileged to be able to attend at the BALR 2022 Liverpool Conference, celebrating the 40th anniversary of BALR. Listening to various talks spanning from respiratory research models to career success, then later presenting my work to both established and early career researchers. Thereafter this work, in combination with relevant work within our lab, has been further developed and presented by Dr. Stuart at international conferences such as ICLAF and ERS. Of recent, I was shortlisted to present this work at a Royal Society of Medicine Respiratory section event and won 1st prize at this year’s Respiratory Medicine Section: Student Award.

I would like to thank BALR and the team at the NHLI Margaret Turner Warwick Centre for providing such a valuable opportunity, with special mention of Dr. Iain Stewart for his guidance & continued support and Professor Gisli Jenkins.

Poster at BALR 2022: R- Dr. Iain Stewart L- Ankesh Gandhi

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