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Summer of science for budding researchers

25th September 2019

Students from schools and colleges across the North East had the opportunity to work alongside academics on real-life research projects this summer, thanks to a partnership between Northumbria University and the Nuffield Research Placement programme.

The competitive programme, which lasts between four to six weeks, aims to provide talented, motivated students with the opportunity to undertake science, quantitative social science, computing, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) research projects in a professional environment.

Each of the 24 students involved was partnered with an academic or PhD researcher and given the opportunity to assist on a real research project.

Explaining the benefits of the programme, Dr Ian Walshe, a Senior Lecturer within Northumbria’s Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation, said: “The step between school and higher education can be quite daunting and I feel this is a great stepping stone which can really enhance a student’s CV.

“During their time with us, students are able to experience the working environment of a university, and take part in real research trials.”

Caption:Placement Student Jacob BrothertonJacob Brotherton, a placement student from Ashington Academy, said: “I applied for the Nuffield Research Placement as I wanted to experience what it was like studying at university, working with academics and using all the facilities on offer.

“My project has been really interesting – I’m researching land contamination in relation to civil engineering. It’s been a great experience and something which will be great for my CV when I’m applying to university.”

Caption:Student Khadija ShahKhadija Shah, a student from Gateshead College, said she had also benefitted from the programme. She explained: “I had done work experience in the past but it had always been shadowing so I was looking for an opportunity to actually get involved in research.

“I’m interested in studying medicine at university and as part of my placement I have been working with older people in the community.

“It’s been great to talk to them about their clinical experiences and hear first-hand from the people using medical services. I’ve also been involved in data analysis and literature reviews so it’s been a great experience.”

Caption:Student Mueed UddinMueed Uddin, from Emmanuel College in Gateshead added: “I applied for the placement as I had heard it gives you really good lab experience, especially for chemistry which is the subject I am interested in studying at university.

“It’s been an amazing experience. The work is challenging but being able to be involved in real research and making new discoveries is something not many people get to experience at our age so I feel really lucky to be part of the placement scheme.”

The Nuffield Research Placement is a widening participation scheme, with a focus on students who are the first in their family to attend University. The majority of students who are offered a placement are eligible for a full bursary of £100 a week, with all student travel expenses covered.

Gill Drinkald, from Northumbria’s Research and Innovation Services team, coordinated the placements this year. Explaining the benefits, she said: “The academics involved provided access to such interesting research topics, as well as guidance and support which enabled the students to produce a scientific report at the end of their placement.

“Recruiting and working with twenty four gifted young Nuffield Research Placement students, has been a real insight. I have witnessed the students grow in confidence and enthusiasm for their research subjects as a result of working with academics and their teams in a real research environment whether that be lab-based, fieldwork etc.

“Northumbria’s involvement in the Nuffield Research Placement programme demonstrates the University’s commitment to widening participation and encouraging students from underrepresented groups to consider higher education, and providing the routes to making that possible.”

Students applying for the Nuffield Research Placement programme must have good GCSE results, be aiming to go on to study at university, and have demonstrated enthusiasm and commitment to working on a research project. The programme is provided by the Nuffield Foundation as part of its mission to improve social well-being and educational opportunity across the UK.

Some of the students taking part in the Northumbria placements have entered their work into the North East heat of the Big Bang Competition – a young scientists and engineers fair which takes place in October. If successful there they will go through to the national final at the Big Bang Fair in March 2020.

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