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Nuffield Research Placement

Suggested Age Range: 16 - 25
Type of Activity: Work placement

Nuffield Research Placements provide over 1,000 students each year with the opportunity to work alongside professional scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians.  Students in the first year of a post-16 science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) course are eligible to apply. Placements are available across the UK, in universities, commercial companies, voluntary organisations and research institutions.

Students in the first year of a post-16 science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) course studying at a state-maintained school or college in the UK are eligible to apply.

Projects take place in the summer holidays and must have broadly scientific or technical content, but they don’t have to be based in a laboratory. They might be office-based or include fieldwork, or they might focus on engineering, data science or computer science. Placements take place across the UK and are administered at a regional level by a network of Nuffield Coordinators.

Betty and the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust: Oncology

Betty, a student from Cornwall, completed her 4-week summer placement at the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust (RCHT) within the oncology

“It has been a great experience and I feel I got a lot out of it. I was able to
watch my first surgery, which was absolutely incredible.  During my time at RCHT, I watched four surgeries, attended a wide variety of clinics and carried out my own research questionnaire on 240 participants.  Everyone at the Sunrise Centre was really kind to me and very helpful.  My mentor was very attentive and made sure that I was able to get the most out of this wonderful opportunity, I would definitely recommend such a placement to students in the future.”

During Betty’s placement, she completed an investigation on behalf of RCHT, looking at ‘how may the patient experience be improved within the oncology centre waiting room?’

Her aims were to gain a basic understanding of the biomolecular origins and causes of cancer, to understand what treatments may be offered to patients and to investigate how a patient’s experience of the oncology centre may be improved.

She completed her study, wrote up her findings in a report and presented it to RCHT.

“This project has been more than worthwhile, it has been very helpful in developing my understanding in oncology as well as developing my people skills with patients and my technical skills within research.  It has absolutely confirmed that I would like to study medicine and has made me consider whether I would like to become a research doctor in the future.”

William and the University of Plymouth: Computer Science

William completed his 4-week placement at the University of Plymouth alongside Dr Matthew Craven.  During his time there, William had the chance to carry out research on the use of botnets being used to distribute malicious programs.

“I was initially tasked with writing computer simulations to depict different mathematical models describing how Botnets spread across a network.  After completing this initial task I went on to vary and dynamically set some of the parameters within simulations.  I then went on to look for alternative models and techniques used for depicting botnets and produced computer simulations for these.  By combining the ideas from the different models I studied, I went on to produce novel models for describing Botnets.”

He also travelled to Norway to present his paper at a workshop in the European Symposium on Research in Computer Security. It was successfully published as a conference paper and is available to buy here.

“The placement was an invaluable experience. It gave me a great insight into exactly what researchers and academics do on a daily basis.  It especially helped me to appreciate the deep mathematical rooting of computer science and helped me in deciding to study Mathematics at university.

I think my computing teacher at Richard Lander, Mr Griffiths, and my Maths teacher at Truro College, Jan Dangerfield, have been my greatest sources of influence.  They have both encouraged me go on to pursue additional projects and to further my own learning in my subject, which ultimately led me to go on to produce this paper.

Although I am not a public speaker I found the presentation in Norway exhilarating as I was able to explain the details and nature of my thinking in deriving the models introduced in this work.  The conference also proved to be very useful as I learned a considerable amount about cyber security and also made some useful contacts regarding facial recognition, something which I am currently working on.
Over this summer I have been employed with a software development company, TouchByte, based in Penryn, which specialises in facial recognition.  This has also been a great experience as I have gone on to learn a lot more about how Mathematics plays an integral role within a range of fields in practical computing.

Secondly, this process has taught me the value of persistence. Most importantly, I was initially rejected by the Nuffield organisation for a research placement. However, after being rejected I asked them again if they had any opportunities for a willing student, which led to my placement and this paper.

Ultimately, the most useful thing I have learned from this is that in most cases you have nothing to lose by asking.”