Natassia Robinson

Institute of Health and Society Newcastle University Baddiley-Clark Building Richardson Road Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE2 4AX


Dr Jill McKay, Dr Heather Brown, Professor Mark Pearce and Dr Viviana Albani

I obtained my undergraduate degree in Biomedical Science from Lancaster University in 2013.  After this, I did a Master’s degree in Human Nutrition at the University of Sheffield. For my internship I spent three months at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) investigating the relationship between hormones, DNA methylation and breast cancer.

DNA methylation as a potential mediating mechanism linking early-life events and subsequent obesity: finding intermediate biomarkers of obesogenic environments

The developmental origins of health and disease hypothesis proposes that exposures in early life predispose an individual to diseases, such as obesity, in later life. The mechanisms behind this hypothesis are largely unknown but DNA methylation has been proposed to be involved. DNA methylation is an epigenetic mechanism with the capacity to regulate gene expression.

My project uses life-course longitudinal epidemiological data to investigate if epigenetic markers mediate early life risk factors and obesity. Attention is also given to the relationship between socio-economic status and obesity in early life, childhood and adulthood.


Where did I get my PIPs

PIPS Internship Organisation Name 

International Agency for Research on Cancer


Lyon, France

When deciding on your internship, what did you want to experience and what did you hope to gain from that experience? 

I wanted a placement that would be good for my personal and professional development and something that could potentially enhance my employability. I wanted to develop skills that I already had and also learn something new in a challenging environment. I also wanted a placement that was linked to my interest in epigenetics.

Did you get the experience you were expecting and did you achieve the personal development you had hoped to make? 

Yes, I definitely learnt a lot and it was definitely challenging. In terms of personal development I feel more independent now and more capable of dealing with problems and difficulties when they arise in a project on my own. I developed skills relating to analysis of DNA methylation data which will be required in my own project and can generally only be gained through experience. 

Did you discover anything about yourself or make any achievements that you were not expecting?

At the start of the project I had doubts whether the analysis was feasible because there were no clear aims set out; it was exploratory. Therefore I was surprised and happy at the end when I had taken the project from start to finish deciding on which direction to go and getting to make decisions on my own on the best way to do things, which resulted in new concepts about the subject as well as a novel workflow/methods.

Has the internship made you feel differently about potential career options and has it helped to put the skills from research into a broader context?

I feel that it confirmed that I would like to stay in a University environment, however I think that if this wasn't possible it wouldn't be the end of the world and there are other options.  It was useful to compare and contrast practices in a University institute to a research/government institute, they were similar in lots of ways but also had many differences.

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