Inspirations, challenges and aspirations – Cedric Burden Shares his PhD Journey

In this blog post, Cedric Burden, PhD student with HDR UK Wales, shares his PhD research journey with us – from key insights and findings from his research, to challenges, and his aspirations for the future.

Can you give us an overview of your research topic and what inspired you to pursue it?

I am researching the inequalities linked with asthma and focusing on Welsh schoolchildren. The picture is complex because of the large number of factors that describe asthma and the environment in which the children live, play, and attend school. As a school teacher, I have seen how children struggle with asthma, and I want to find ways to help young people overcome suffering.

What specific research questions are you exploring in your PhD?

I am investigating the cohort of children with asthma from deprived areas and comparing them with all Welsh children. I am exploring if this group of children have worse attendance and attainment at school due to exposure to worse air quality.

Could you share some key findings or insights from your research so far?

Asthma has been found to have a significant detrimental impact on school children with asthma. It is also evident from studies that worse air quality is linked with asthmatic issues in children. However, the specific role of asthma as a mediator between air quality and school performance is unclear.

What methodologies or approaches are you using in your research, and why did you choose them?

The approach of my study is to explore what has been found in previous academic studies and then to use statistical tools to examine linked health data. I will be looking for patterns in the attendance and attainment of the school children.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered during your PhD journey, and how have you overcome them?

Developing my skills and knowledge to ensure that my research methodologies are appropriate has been challenging. To ensure this, I have taken development courses in epidemiology and coding. I also work closely with my supervisors.

How do you balance your time between working on your PhD and your personal life?

I enjoy learning, exploring, and working, so I plan full work days, but then I take lunches with colleagues and plan time to relax in the evenings and at weekends.

What support systems or resources have been most valuable to you during your PhD?

My supervisors are brilliant and provide a good balance of challenge and support. In addition, other PhD students and research colleagues provide a wealth of support and encouragement.

What are your plans or aspirations for after completing your PhD?

I plan to find research opportunities associated with linked health data so that I can contribute further to improving health, education, and the environment.

How do you envision your research contributing to your field or making an impact beyond academia?

My research will improve knowledge and understanding of asthma’s role in school outcomes, inform better asthma management, empower the self-care of individuals with asthma, and inform policymakers in education and health.

What advice would you give to someone considering pursuing a PhD?

If you are considering a PhD, then ask some questions of the research teams, take a visit, read around the subject that interests you, make an application and practice for the interview. It is brilliant work and you will gain greatly yourself.