Nuffield 2017

Why did you apply for a Nuffield Research Placement?

The Nuffield Research Placement appeared as a good opportunity for me to gain some insight into the working conditions for a scientist. Being interested particularly in Physics, geography and astronomy, I wanted to try a placement that involved either of the mentioned subjects. The other reason was for some work experience, which would help to improve my UCAS application and CV later in life.

I managed to gain what I sought, and much more! A Nuffield Research Placement is not your everyday standard work experience shenanigans, but much rather provides an environment which places you in a relaxed position so that you have the freedom to contribute some real serious scientific work to the provided organisation.

What was your project about and did you know anything about the area before you started the placement?

I got a project that was related to geography, but had an environmental twist to it. In this case, it was about analysing potential possible green areas or already existing green areas in Northampton for urban residential gardens to plant productive plants, alongside with exploring different ways to promote urban plantations. The project was multi-purpose, as it included not only the potential for productive plants, but also the flooding mitigation in Northampton, plant diversity and seeing if areas other than residential ones (commercial for example) had taken any ecological action on the matter. They were minor topics that extended from the major one though, but it made to keep the placement interesting.

The only skill that I had known before was the techniques that I have gained during my geography fieldwork, alongside with some background reading about the topic. An array of programs had to be used in order to fully analyse and gather data on the ecological (and other) conditions in Northampton such as ArcGIS, Google Earth Pro and other GIS mapping software’s sites (CRDC for example) and for all of them, I had little to no interaction with beforehand. Your mentor will teach you a majority of the information that you will need to know while doing your placement. The additional things I knew before the project was a bonus that only helped to speed the project up while doing the fieldwork aspect. If anything, you have to do a little exploring with the programs or given devises so that you can get a little bit more accustomed to them!

Did you gain any new skills, both scientific and general work skills from undertaking your placement?

I already had a good grasp beforehand on how to work independently, since I prefer to do so during any project that I do. What I lacked in however was time-management, writing a proper full-fledged scientific report and effective researching skills and sites to adhere to. These will be critical skills that will be needed when I progress to University, and later down in life when I do my preferred job. While I did my placement, I had to communicate my project to other people effectively, and thus I got a taste of what it is like to present to a crowd. This has made me aware of what I will face in the future if I continue with my chosen STEM career.


Has your experience helped you to decide on a career path?

I still pursue a STEM related career path, and probably will continue such a path for my future. My initial choice was to do a career path in Astronomy, but this experience has enabled me to see other potential topics that I was not aware of (that I do thoroughly enjoy). I am considering to do a course in geography if my A-levels go according to plan, but one things for sure: I know I am going to do a career based in research or a STEM subject because of this experience, and I am grateful that I got to do work experience at my organisation.

What advice would you give to students applying for a Nuffield research Placement?

Just do it. No, really! Work experience can be a tedious and even aggravating topic if you do not make your choices correctly, and that will only lead to… unwanted regrets. The Nuffield Research Placement provides you with the perfect opportunity to work in an environment where you will not experience either of the aforementioned feelings (well, apart from some tediousness during the placement, but that is to be expected from any sort of work!), especially with the connections that they have, meaning that they will find you a proper placement most of the time, just don’t be heavily specific.

Worrying about your first day in your placement? Don’t worry! The hard part is getting to the placement, as you have to deal with the bottled feelings of ‘first impressions’ and how to carry that forward. Stay cool, greet your mentor (Or if waiting, acquaint yourself with your fellow buddies during your 4 – 6 week placement. No big talk needed, just casual talk.), get to your workplace, and enjoy yourself. You will eventually get what to do for your project over time as you are taught the techniques, and thus all you have to do then is just to give it your all. At the end of it, your future path should be clearer, and thus you will probably have an easier time getting used to University when you do it.