Ben Braud – Work experience at the Institute of Mental Health: Studying and researching Tourette Syndrome

17 year-old Benjamin Braud has Tourette Syndrome (known as ‘tics’ or ‘TS’). He chose to spend a week long work experience placement at the University of Nottingham, specifically with researchers from the division of Psychology, based at the Institute of Mental Health. After he’d finished his experience we asked him how he got on…

How did you come to have your work experience at the University of Nottingham?

I came to the University of Nottingham because I wanted to see the variety of choices and skills they offered. In fact, when I contacted the research team (who I already knew because I’d volunteered to help them with Tourette Syndrome research in the past) they allowed me to spend a week with them, which I’m grateful for.

Were you already involved in research at the University of Nottingham?

Yes, I’ve done many exercises and relaxations on TS which were part of research studies that students were doing. Also, I’ve done a few MRI scans which enabled the researches to have a closer and detailed look at my brain.

Were you in a particular team or department?

I was involved in the department of Psychology where I helped Jane Fowlie, Dr Ruth Wadman, Amelia Draper and research students. I also went to the Institute of Mental Health, where the MRI scans were being done. It was extremely interesting and fascinating to take part in the research. I would be happy to do it again.

Why did you choose this work experience placement?

Since I have been helping the research teams with their study into TS, I wanted to see the other sides of their job, which in fact were quite interesting. It was great to find out about the other studies and opportunities they are involved in.

What did you hope to achieve from this work experience placement?

This work experience has given me a variety of skills. It has been extraordinary, fun and most all fascinating. I’d hoped to gain more knowledge to allow me to have a clearer idea of how to get on the path to my future career – which I did.

Can you give us an idea of the kind of things you did – any duties or things you were asked to do?

The activities I participated in were always interesting! I did research activities (games/simulations), learnt about new research studies, and I even learnt about Psychopaths! I also learnt about how research is conducted and learnt more detail on how Tourette Syndrome occurs with the human brain with Professor Georgina Jackson and Dr Elena Nixon. However, there is so much to talk about as it has been a great journey!

What do you feel you gained from the experience?

This experience has given me skills which I can develop, mainly confidence and communication skills because meeting new people has boosted my confidence. Plus everyone was friendly – the environment was great! There are plenty more skills which I have developed but the main one would be new knowledge about the outside world, which has enabled me to be more confident about myself.

Would you have any advice for anyone about to go on work experience?

My first thoughts were that they would treat me like a lab rat, however; I was wrong because the people have been kind, honest and friendly, which was great. The only advice I would give is just be yourself and look smart on your first day as it will give the people a good impression about you and what you are like. Also, don’t be afraid to ask any questions – I learnt a lot.

What are your future career plans/goals?

Before I went to work experience I wanted to go to University. But now I feel like I want to do an apprenticeship. Even though the University of Nottingham offers science based studies, I would prefer to do an apprenticeship in a lab in the same type of research, but maybe in a different disorder. Perhaps help with TS. But, nevertheless, this work experience has given me a lot of options and choices.

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