Ashley Sibanda

Ashley Sibanda completed her Nuffield Research Placement in 2016 at the National Foundation for Education Research. She has accepted a place to study at the University of Rochester, New York as of August 2017.

What did you do on your Nuffield Research Placement?

I am a mathematician. Everyone else did science but I’m a mathematician. I used statistics on developed tests, for example to see if they’re valid, and if they’re measuring the right kind of questions. The tests are such high stakes, they determine what people are going to do in their lives, e.g. university, schools, so you have to make sure you are taking a large enough samples and using the right systems. I used SPSS which provides accurate results, the right kind of tables and graphs. So I did all that maths behind tests so that tests are not just hard to make people cry, they are hard for a reason. So that was fun statistics.

What was your favourite thing about doing your placement?

I found that statistics is not as boring as I thought it was. Because I am applying for mathematics and statistics I was really afraid that I am going to be stuck for four years doing boring maths with really mathsy people. But then I found statistics can have a twist, and real life applications are really quite useful. The skills that I got are really fantastic.

What skills did you learn from doing your placement?

I would say producing valid, reliable results and actually writing a report because I had no idea. I am a mathematician and scientist, I don’t do English so when they said report I was like “What do I do?” But they work you through it, the mentors are great and I produced a really professional piece of work with my name on it.

What challenges did you find on your placement and how did you overcome them?

Everyone was really nice so that wasn’t a challenge, it was more a relaxed workplace but the challenge was actual work. Even though I do further maths this is way more advanced. There were questionnaires I had to work with that you needed to develop your own new variables for and that was really tricky.

If someone was thinking about applying for a Nuffield Research Placement, what advice would you give them?

Apply, definitely. When I applied I didn’t know what Nuffield was. I was like, research, 4 weeks, free? I should apply. But then when you actually do it you gain skills that you never thought you would gain. It’s different from work experience at McDonalds, it’s what you want to do with your life. So definitely apply, it’s worth it.