“Explore my passion for research and address a key gap in my knowledge of research methods”

By James McCleane Fay

My decision to study the MSc in Data Science and Analytics was an odd one. I’ve just graduated from Applied Psychology, from the excellent and extremely supportive School of Applied Psychology (SOAP). I like research, so I looked at several PhD programmes in my final year, wondering what I was going to do next.

The main barrier to what I was interested in (games design and human-computer interaction research) was my comparative lack of experience with maths and computers. Despite having an excellent introduction to statistics in Applied Psychology, the focus was on social science research and I wanted to broaden my statistical skills further. Data science was a natural choice: it provides a wealth of knowledge on managing, interpreting, analysing and applying models to huge datasets. For somebody excited by research and data, it prepares you for both an industry focused job and a research focused job.

Changing colleges from Arts to Science was daunting. Would I be able for this? Is this all a bit beyond my abilities? What if I don’t know x, y or z? Despite my apprehension, this year has been extremely enjoyable so far. I’ve had to grapple with probability (trust me, it’s unintuitive and approximately half the people who say they understand it don’t understand it), databases, coding and a lot more contact hours. But I’ve also been exposed to challenging concepts that require a lot of work to understand, new friends from different countries, lecturers with different styles, a lot less reading and a lot more practice.

Quercus has provided me with the ability to explore my passion for research and address a key gap in my knowledge of research methods. Without the monetary support, I would not have been able to afford my masters course. I work part-time 20 hours per week, pay rent, bills and study Monday to Friday as a fully independent student. Without the support of Quercus, I may have had to take a year out and put my plans on hold. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to continue my studies and learn fascinating things that will make me a better researcher and hopefully earn me the moniker of ‘Data Scientist’ at a company who will value my experience and education. It’s a relief not to worry about my second semester fees, and to be able to focus on my studies without worrying all year about how I’ll pay them. The Quercus Scholarship rewards hard work and perseverance, so if you’re in a position to work hard and apply, go for it! You might be able to do your dream course after all.

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