RADAR-CNS, RMT and my PhD: An interview with Shazmin Majid

Shazmin Majid is a doctoral student at the University of Nottingham. Her PhD project will use RADAR-CNS’s open source RADAR-base platform. She spoke to us from Prague, where she is undertaking an internship with  RADAR-CNS partner, Merck Sharpe and Dohme (MSD)

Can you tell us about your PhD project?

Prior to my PhD, I worked as a researcher on a feasibility study of unobtrusive behavioural monitoring for depression. I developed an appetite for the use of remote measurement technology (RMT) for people with bipolar disorder on the basis that data signatures would look different for those experiencing mania compared to depression. I applied for a PhD position at Horizon Centre for Doctoral Training which specialises in using personal data in a meaningful way. I got the position last year and started my PhD in September 2018.

My project is called ‘Unobtrusive Behavioural Monitoring of Early Warns Signs of Relapse in Bipolar Disorder'. The goal is to create a system which will use various forms of personal data (such as smartphone data, car usage data, financial data and home utility usage) to indicate when people with bipolar disorder are experiencing early warning signs of mania or depression.

Why did you choose to use RADAR-base? And how exactly will you use it?

One of my co-supervisors, who has been involved with RADAR-CNS, talked to me about the RADAR-base platform – it’s really useful that we’ve got a system which is open-source, free-to-use, which has been tried and tested on other projects, and is ready to use straightaway.

The first stage of my project is to build a prototype system, showing how RADAR-base can process data from a wide range of sources. This will include wearable tech used by people with bipolar disorder, but could also be information about, for example, their car use. If they are happy to let us track things like this, it could prove a vital insight into their life – if they normally drive to work every day but then there’s an unexpected change in driving habits, it may suggest something is wrong. I’m very conscious of concerns around privacy – we won’t be collecting data from any source unless any individual gives consent and individuals have control over what data we collect.

You’ve also spent time in London working with RADAR-CNS researchers. Tell us about that…

My supervisors helped me to apply for a Short Placement Award for Research Collaboration (SPARC). This award of £2,500 allowed me to spend two weeks at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London in May 2019.

I spent time with several lovely members of the RADAR-CNS team learning about user involvement, iterative testing and industrial links. I was supervised by Dr Faith Matcham and spent time putting together an analysis of user experience transcripts for her. The experience will be really helpful as I begin the PhD project.

…and it also helped you find your placement in Prague. How did that happen?

During the SPARC placement, I was on a conference call with someone working for MSD in Prague, which is one of RADAR-CNS’s partners. She mentioned that they were looking for interns to spend some time with them. It sounded like a really exciting opportunity – and next thing I knew, I was packing my bags!

I’m working on understanding user preferences for data visualisation for RMT for the RADAR-CNS project. I’m very excited about being part of this multi-country, partnership-based project, seeing what can be achieved through all this collaboration.

What are your predictions for the future of wearable tech and RMT in healthcare?

I think there is a very exciting future for wearable tech and RMT. From my recent experiences, it’s been motivating to see how many potential users are open to this type of technology and have a shared belief in RMT changing the way healthcare is developed. For me, having a user-centred approach in the design of technology is imperative. Having user feedback to iterate design and having a co-design approach is key in my PhD and important in creating technology that is usable, feasible, acceptable and clinically valid.

Finally, a very important question - which has been your favourite city, Prague (pictured right), London or Nottingham?

Haha - definitely Prague! You get donut wraps filled with Nutella within walking distance no matter where you are – and the Charles Bridge is beautiful.