Kiera's story

Kiera is a volunteer in our study, but she also spent some time working with us! Read about why she chose to be so actively involved here.

Kiera playing the fiddle

I’m a 5th year medical student studying at the University of Edinburgh. Before I came to university, I grew up in Orkney and most of my family still live there. Like a lot of children in the isles, I learned to play the fiddle. These days I play in a ceilidh band, in the limited time when I’m not studying. I’m always trying to sneak some Orkney tunes into our sets!

My mother heard about the VIKING II study through a piece in the Orcadian newspaper, and both she and I decided to join as volunteers. I have always been interested in genealogy, I have 4 grandparents from Orkney and we have a fairly decent family tree going back a few centuries in some lines! Since arriving at university, I have also become interested in genetics and how it impacts medicine. I know how important population studies can be for shaping the future of healthcare, so it made perfect sense to join the study.

As part of my degree, I have to do some research. So, last year I decided to email the team to see if there was any way I could get involved. By chance, there was a really interesting project they thought I would be able to help with. One part of VIKING Genes is the plan to return genetic results to volunteers in cases where it could improve their health. I have helped with developing a method to find these results in the huge amounts of sequenced gene data that has been created so far.

I have really enjoyed being part of the VIKING Genes project as both a volunteer and now behind the scenes as well. It has given me an appreciation for the amount of work that goes into a study like this, and the possible changes it could lead to within healthcare. I also better understand the benefits for volunteers. It’s fascinating to learn more about our genetic ancestors and, if you happen to be someone who gets results returned, it could make a big difference to your health in the future. I’m sad that I’m coming to the end of my time working on the project as I now have to prepare to become a doctor, but I look forward to all the updates I will get as a volunteer!