Health Data Immersion Week: Study Design in Health Data Science - 15th-19th May 2023

Delivered in partnership between the University of Birmingham's Institute for Interdisciplinary Data Science and AI and Health Data Research UK (HDR UK), this course was part of a series intended to enable graduates with advanced skills in mathematics and computational science considering a career in health data science to gain a rapid introduction and insight into key topics.

Appropriate health study design is critical to ensure that we can answer the questions we are interested in, for example, is a drug effective for treating a condition? Does daily monitoring of your blood pressure lead to reduced chance of a heart attack? However, health studies often need to consider a number of complex factors which might lead to biased or misleading results.

This course gave participants an insight into how health studies are designed and implemented. Using a combination of lectures, seminars, and interactive, group-based problem-solving sessions, participants learned about key aspects of health study design, and heard from the following academic and industry-based experts as to how they implement studies in the real-world:

Dr Derrick Bennett

Dr Derrick Bennett

Associate Professor, University Research Lecturer, Senior Statistician, Nuffield Department of Population Health, and Medical Research Council Population Health Research Unit, University of Oxford

Dr Max Little

Dr Max Little

Associate Professor, University of Birmingham, TED Fellow and Visiting Associate Professor, MIT

Sara Brookes cropped

Dr Sara Brookes

Training and Education Lead for Clinical Trials, Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit (CRCTU), University of Birmingham

Annie Ng

Dr Annie Ng

Science Lead, Kheiron Medical Technologies Ltd. 

Content for this course was developed by University of Birmingham Teaching Fellow Dr Ben McCanna and Professor Iain Styles, and HDR UK/University of Oxford Professor Chris Yau, with each day focusing on the following topics:

  • The scientific method in health sciences
  • Randomised controlled trials and interventional data
  • Mendelian randomisation and instrumental variables
  • Observational studies and dealing with bias
  • Designing an experimental study

Ayobami Olanrewaju, Immersion week participant

“The event was amazing, especially considering my background in information technology. It provided me with a clear understanding of outcomes, exposure, confounders, and the process of conducting a randomized control trial. The knowledge I gained from the training has further strengthened what I learned during my time at my institution, and I am now applying it to enhance my PhD research. The initial explanation and background building before the practical session greatly contributed to clarity and reignited my passion for science. I would enthusiastically participate in similar trainings, particularly those focused on health data science. To recap, I arrived at the event feeling confused and somewhat inexperienced, but I left with a wealth of knowledge and newfound confidence to tackle any challenge. Thank you.”

If you have any queries about the immersion weeks, please email

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