TWO savvy STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) students from Pembrokeshire College replaced four weeks of their summer holidays for a research placement via the Nuffield Foundation – a charitable trust working to improve social well-being by funding research and innovation in education and social policy.
College A-level students Sarah Cooper and Amy Staff were two of only 75 students to be selected for a summer placement out of more than 300 applications. Nuffi eld Research Placements (previously Nuffi eld Science Bursaries) provide over 1,000 students each year with the opportunity to work alongside professional scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians.
Placements are available across the UK, in universities, commercial companies, voluntary organisations and research institutions. Sarah and Amy didn’t take long to understand that this type of work experience would catapult their chances of getting into the university of their choice. Both students had exposure to high profi le research projects, including The Barcode Wales Project, which aims to catalogue all 1,143 species of native fl owering plants based on their unique gene sequence.
Sarah and Amy praised the foundation for their high quality placements saying they were; “amazing”, “so worthwhile” and “a great stepping stone to university.” Sarah has her sights fi rmly set on studying a Masters programme in Ballistics at Kent University so she was more than pleased to have won a place at Aberystwyth University to work on a project researching the transference of particles on fi bres led by forensic scientist Dr Deborah Croft.
“Only 75 students were placed this year so I feel honoured that I had such a valuable placement” said Sarah. Sarah also achieved 82% for her project work, the summer school’s highest grade and is now set to receive The Crest Award for young scientists. It wasn’t all hard work for the students however; both were involved in recreational activities – cinema trips, meals out and day trips including The Royal Welsh Show. Amy Staff’s placement was working on the Barcode Wales project at The National Botanical Gardens of Wales.
The project led by Dr Natasha De Vere gave Amy a real insight into wildlife conservation, a subject that she hopes to study at the University of West England (UWE) next year. “I was delighted to be given an opportunity to work on the DNA barcoding project and contributed to it by preparing Herbarium specimens, I also attended a seed collecting course led by Dr Stephanie Miles from Kew Gardens and a bee-keeping course.” Both Amy and Sarah received £80 per week and additional travelling expenses were paid by the foundation. Both students received a possibly life-changing experience, which will ultimately pay off when they commence their university studies next year. Who said swapping four weeks of sun for a lab coat wouldn’t be worthwhile!