Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group summer placement

By Krystian Przydzial – 3rd year Experimental Psychology undergraduate student, University of Bristol

During my second year of university, I was considering different summer opportunities to gain valuable work experience in a field that I may want to work in. I approached a number of staff members in the psychology department who could offer a summer research project for me work on. After approaching the Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group (TARG) in the psychology department, it struck me as group which could offer an insightful opportunity into research. I was told about the Alcohol Labelling project, and after reading more papers that have been published by the staff – including Angela Attwood, Marcus Munafó, and many other talented research members – I decided that this was an opportunity that I wanted to be part of.

The next step was looking into vacation studentship schemes for a grant which would fund my time during the summer that I would be working. Angela Attwood (my supervisor) and I mutually agreed on the Wellcome Trust: a biomedical research charity, which offered funding for students wanting to engage in research in the summer before their final year of university.

The application entailed sections about my career aspirations and interests in research which was quite a daunting yet useful process which made me really consider post-university plans. A research proposal also needed to be submitted, which I was able to complete after guidance from Angela to inform me more about the Alcohol Labelling project.

Completing 8 weeks as a research member in TARG has been very eye-opening and rewarding. Psychology at Bristol really focuses on the experimental element – so I’ve developed a solid understanding of different research methods. But I was also aware that I didn’t know what it really meant to work in research. I was exposed to the ins and outs of running an experiment – which is especially disciplined within TARG due to drug administration and a comprehensive list of things that must be done with every study. Seeing the entire process of an idea for a research study develop and reach a point of recruitment is not really something that I was ever taught or exposed to on a detailed level (nor is it really something that can be taught by just sitting in a lecture). By seeing the whole process, I felt a real sense of reward from turning an idea to a study being run. This practical experience is invaluable and will make me feel more confident entering my own experiment that I will have to run as my final year project. TARG also seems to have a real emphasis on the importance of teamwork. All the dedicated research members are consistently working together and sharing ideas to create something far better than a single person could ever achieve. Teamwork has also given me the opportunity to learn even more about psychology; as everyone was happy to share their knowledge and current research that they are a part of.

The specific project which I was responsible for was designing and testing a pilot study which involved assessing the feasibility of group procedures. The aim was to create a more sociable environment which more accurately depicted a setting that people would consume alcohol in. People had a pint of lager in groups of 3-5 people and were exposed to novel interactive beer mats. These beer mats displayed information about how many calories and units are in their alcoholic drink, alongside with health warnings about the dangers of alcohol. It was my responsibility to design measures of quantitatively assessing participant’s responses the beer mats and if they believe that it is an effective way of conveying more information about alcohol which could potentially be available in pubs/bars.

This was the link to the bigger Alcohol Labelling project of assessing ways of conveying more information about alcohol to the general public, just like food items have calorie information and cigarettes display health warnings. The project is ongoing and I was happy to be a part of a project which could potentially help the general public to be more informed and perhaps consider a more controlled and healthy lifestyle.

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