By Claudine Anderson, Policy Manager in the RCUK Public Engagement with Research team.
Here at RCUK, we believe that engaging young people with exciting cutting-edge research is vital to help inspire the next generation to follow a career in research. This is why we support many schemes that connect young people and researchers, including Nuffield Research Placements which enables young people to discover the world of research. Run by the Nuffield Foundation, the Nuffield Research Placements scheme offers up to 1000 placements a year for students to work alongside researchers on their own research projects to gain an insight into a wide variety of research careers.
The students are in their first year of a post-16 science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) course, and are interested in research. Students who don’t have a family history of going to university or who attend schools in less well-off areas are particularly encouraged to join the scheme. For students who go on a placement, working on a research project is an amazing experience. For example, Mariam Zaidi took part in the scheme as she wanted to learn about scientific research and get a feel for what it’s like working in a lab. The MRC National Institute for Medical Research, London, mentored Mariam while she did research for them on the development of the heart in embryos. Mariam said about her experience, “Scientific research is not what it always seems like. Everyday you’re getting involved with something new, whether it is a continuation of previous work or a whole new project. I realised how important it is to help identify causes and even possible treatments of various diseases. Science progresses every day and being part of a lab environment for these few weeks, it highlighted this to me in a clear and memorable experience”.
But it isn’t only the students who benefit from working on these research projects. Researchers also benefit as these bright, motivated and enthusiastic young people bring fresh-thinking to existing projects and work to a high standard making a significant contribution to the researchers’ work. In addition, supervising a student provides researchers with an excellent opportunity to develop skills and knowledge, such as project and time management and mentoring and communication skills. These skills are especially useful for PhD students, postdoctoral researchers, and staff who want to gain management experience. Researchers who have taken part in the scheme have also enjoyed the opportunity to promote their work and raise wider awareness of the research being carried out by their department.
The Nuffield Foundation wants to provide as many research opportunities as possible for the committed students who apply for the scheme, and is looking for researchers who can mentor a student this summer. Would you be able to supervise a young person on their project? You could be supervising a future Nobel Prize winner! The scheme works with researchers from all disciplines so if you are in an AHRC or ESRC discipline and use STEM skills in your research, you can also supervise a student. The students’ projects last between four to six weeks, during July and/or August and can be, for example, a pilot project or a specific part of a larger project, either lab- or field-based. The Nuffield Foundation is looking particularly for researchers in the following regions:
- Cornwall – Maths and Physics
- North Cornwall – Environmental sciences
- Coventry/Warwickshire, Birmingham, Shropshire – Physics/Astrophysics
- Birmingham/Wolverhampton – Engineering
- Oxfordshire – Chemistry
- Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire & Berkshire – Biochemistry
- London – Chemical, Mechanical & Civil Engineering / Biomedical – genetics and genomics / Physics – particle physics, astronomy and materials
- Cambridge – Physics, Biology, Chemical Engineering
- Essex – Physics, Biology, Chemical Engineering
- Suffolk – Biology, Chemistry or Plant Science
- Derbyshire – Physics, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Biology, Pharmacy , Maths
- Yorkshire – Chemistry, Physics, Engineering
If you are a researcher in these regions, please help to inspire the next generation by giving a student a life-changing opportunity that will transform them into a future researcher! If you are outside of these regions, then the Nuffield Foundation would still be very happy to hear from you. To take part or for further details, contact Sarah Botting, Manager of the Nuffield Research Placements.