Nicole Collaco

  • Nicole CollacoNicole Collaço is from Berkshire. She joined Oxford Brookes as a research student in February 2016 and the title of her thesis is ‘Exploring the experiences and needs of younger men with prostate cancer and their partners; a qualitative study’.

    How did you hear about Oxford Brookes University?

    I heard about Oxford Brookes University through the PhD project I applied for.

    What attracted you to Oxford Brookes University to conduct your research?

    The funded PhD project is the main factor that attracted me to study at Brookes as it is an area of research I am very interested in. I was also aware of the training facilities available and Oxford Brookes’ reputation for high quality and impact research in this field. There was also a wonderful opportunity to be involved in the new Oxford Institute of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Research (OxINMAHR), which I felt was an exciting platform for integrative learning and support.

    What were you doing before?

    I am a complementary therapist by background and worked as a massage therapist for Chiropractors, as well as being involved in a charity project that provided aromatherapy sessions for people with Sickle cell anaemia. In addition to this I was involved in a research work placement at the University of Southampton on a project called Mechanisms in Orthodox and Complementary and Alternative Medicine Management of Back Pain. This study was investigating how the therapeutic relationship, practitioners’ beliefs, clinic environments and patients’ beliefs can affect the outcomes of lower back pain therapy.

    How easy did you find it to settle into the research environment?

    There is a great network of support in the research community at Oxford Brookes and lots of events that are organised throughout the year which provide a great opportunity to meet other research students working in different areas. There are also many resources provided by the university to support you, through seminars, presentations, and workshops which have been really helpful in understanding the basics to the more in depth aspects of research processes.

    Tell us about your research.

    The PhD project aims to provide a detailed understanding of the experiences of a sample of younger men with Prostate Cancer (PCa), (aged 65 and under) and their partners.

    The PhD project is part of an ongoing large UK-wide study called Life After Prostate Cancer Diagnosis (LAPCD). The LAPCD study aims to identify the impact of PCa on everyday life with the view to establish ways to inform the development of healthcare service delivery and better support the needs of men with PCa and their partners. LAPCD is led jointly by the University of Leeds and Queens University, Belfast, in collaboration with Oxford Brookes University, the University of Southampton, and Public Health England. The wider LAPCD study is surveying around 100,000 men diagnosed with PCa (18-42 months previously) in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This survey is asking men about their experience of life following PCa diagnosis and problems they have experienced.

    This PhD project will use telephone interviews to gain a richer understanding of the experiences of younger couples affected by PCa in order to identify their issues and concerns. This will help to inform the development of appropriate interventions to address the needs of this patient group and their partners.

    What do you enjoy about being a research student?

    For me, the best thing about being a research student has been collecting data. My project specifically entails interviewing couples affected by prostate cancer and it’s been an incredible experience to get to talk to them, understand their experience and learn from them. Reading so much around the topic of interest made me develop expectations or preconceptions about what their experiences may be, so it’s been an interesting process to learn things about them which is different to what you’ve read about. I have also enjoyed the opportunities to present my work and meet other people in similar and different areas of interest to me, as it really opens your eyes to breadth of research that is being carried out.

    There are many challenges that you might face as a research student. Sometimes the work seems never ending and your motivation can be tested many times throughout the process. I’ve also found that I’ve been pushed outside of my comfort zone in this process which can be really difficult at times, but also rewarding when you’ve done things that you never imagined yourself doing. 

    What do you think about the research training offered at Brookes?

    The research training at Oxford Brookes has been of a high standard and plenty of opportunities for training are available throughout the year. I have attended a number of training workshops, seminars and presentations, some of which have really helped me to understand and evaluate the way I move forward in this research process.

    What are your future plans?

    My goal is develop my research skills and hopefully build on the work that I am currently carrying out. On completion of my PhD I hope to secure a post-doctoral position in a similar area of research on the experiences of people affected by cancer.