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Profile photo of Charlie South

The below is an update from Charlie South, who has been working with us as part of the Collingwood Summer Internship scheme.

"Over the summer I was given the opportunity to undertake a research internship in the Department of Psychology, before my final year of study at Durham University, through Collingwood College’s Undergraduate Research Internship scheme. My internship was based in the Centre for Neurodiversity and Development, where I was supervised by Dr Mary Hanley. Over the course of my internship, I assisted Jess Hirst on her Ph.D. project within the CND, exploring the ‘Experience of neurodivergent pupils at school – what does school success look like?’ My specific area of interest is neurodivergence in girls - an area of significance to me personally as an autistic woman - which I was able to further explore while aiding in the research for this project. During my participation in this project, I developed my research experience in using standardised psychology methods and measures, as well as qualitative interview methods and analysis. This was an especially valuable opportunity for me as I am a Theology student and would not have otherwise encountered quantitative data collection and analysis methods in my current department of study, nor would I have been introduced to statistical analysis in psychology and programs utilised for this such as R, as I was during my internship.

Another key concept I was introduced to during my internship was research design, specifically involving different neurodivergent groups and how approaches vary across data collection from parents and neurodivergent individuals themselves. Regarding research design, I was particularly interested to learn about co-production and ongoing debates surrounding language use in the field of neurodivergence - and especially autism - studies. Both concepts I was introduced to at an event in July on participatory research methods which was run by the Centre for Neurodiversity and Development. At this event, I was particularly affected by the presentation from the eXtreme Youth Group and Investing in Children, who raised their concerns regarding language use for autistic people and stressed the importance of an individualised approach to the experiences of autistic people. Toward the end of my internship, I also participated in the Junior Scientist event run by the Department of Psychology. As a volunteer at this event, I was able to gain research and public engagement experience, especially in understanding how to practically interact with children in a research setting.

I am very grateful to have had this fantastic opportunity to contribute to the ongoing research within the Centre for Neurodiversity and Development. I feel I have been given a solid and thorough introduction to a field I hope to be able to further develop in my academic career. I am also grateful as an autistic woman to have had the opportunity through the CND to impact the broader approach to the study of neurodiverse conditions through my participation in an ongoing Ph.D. project. My plan, building on the research skills and knowledge I have accumulated throughout my internship, is to apply for an MSc Conversion in Psychology, and long-term goal is to specialise in the intersection between mental health outcomes and the female autistic experience."