The NIHR School for Public Health Research (SPHR) has launched its summer internship programme for 2021, and we are very happy to announce that three of these internships are being hosted by LiLaC.

The 2021 scheme offered 17 undergraduate students from a wider range of degrees and disciplines with an interest in public health the opportunity to carry out a 6-8-week project supervised by SPHR Early Career Researchers and PhD students.

The scheme aims to raise the profile of public health research careers amongst undergraduate students and encourage students with an interest in public health from a wide range of degrees and disciplines to undertake a placement in public health research.

We would like to congratulate our successful applicants, Nicola Merrett, Tsvetomira Ashova, and Kavita Bhopal on their new roles over the summer.

Meet our NIHR SPHR Interns:

Nicola Merrett will be supervised by Dr Rebecca Mead, a post-doctoral fellow at Lancaster University; Tsvetomira Ashova will be supervised by Adam Mars, a PhD candidate at Lancaster University, and Kavita Bhopal will be supervised by Dr Alex Alexiou, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Liverpool. All three projects are situated in the SPHR Places and Communities programme.

We hope these summer internships will offer these undergraduate students a first-hand opportunity to gain experience working within a research team and develop valuable research skills.

Nicola Merrett

Nicola Merrett

“Hi, I’m Nicola! As a Sociology student at Lancaster University, I am excited to begin this internship with Lilac and the School for Public Health Research to study health inequality in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic and local public health responses. Outside of this, you can normally catch me hanging around animals or sailing!”

Nicola is contributing to a project led by Dr Rebecca Mead exploring Local Resilience Forums and the Covid-19 response. Nicola will examine the extent to which equity is a thread throughout existing local authority policies and strategies before examining equity sensitive policy changes that have emerged out of the COVID-19 response and how they relate to the work of the Local Resilience Forum.



Tsvetomira Ashova

Tsvetomira Ashova

“My name is Tsvetomira, and I am a third-year Marketing and Advertising student at Lancaster University. I am beyond happy for having the opportunity to explore the topic ‘How has the infrastructure and labour force associated with social prescribing adapted to COVID-19 and lockdown?’. The topic is directly correlated with my interests – I have always been curious about people’s mental and physical health. In my first year of university, I even considered changing my major to Psychology. Being one of just 17 interns chosen to participate in the NIHR SPHR programme is a huge honour for me! This project will help me gain a better understanding of social prescribing and its importance for the health of our society. All the gathered insight be beneficial for my personal development, as well as help ‘build the evidence base for effective public health practice’.”

Tsvetomira will work together with Adam Mars, who is currently a PhD student at Lancaster University, investigating how infrastructure and labour force associated with social prescribing adapted to COVID-19 and the recent lockdown.


Kavita Bhopal

Kavita Bhopal

“My name is Kavita, and I am currently a second-year BA Geography undergraduate student at the University of Liverpool. I am very interested in public health research, particularly looking at ethnic minorities and their heightened risk to COVID-19, including its impact on health inequalities. I am excited to start my journey as an intern at the NIHR SPHR and see my full potential.”

Kavita will work together with Dr Alex Alexiou on the topic of using small-area measures to explore the drivers of placed-based inequalities in health. Kavita will be investigating the geographic and ethnic inequalities in the consequences of COVID-19 at neighbourhood level and mapping these inequalities across areas in England.



Each intern will be expected to complete a short report at the end of their internship, along with a blog post or public focussed briefing demonstrating their findings.

We wish them every success in carrying out their projects.