Dr Julie Murphy
Research Associate, Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research
"The Nuffield Research Placements programme is highly structured and well respected by numerous STEM-related organisations across the UK. It provides opportunities for a wide range of students from varying backgrounds and, for this reason, we are very keen to be a part of the programme."
How do you formulate a suitable research project for a Nuffield student?
In our first year of hosting students, we used the information published on the Nuffield Foundation's website to help us come up with some general ideas. We then thought about the projects being undertaken in our lab and the available human resources over the summer period. In the past, we have supported informal lab placements so these experiences helped us put together assignments which were suitable for sixth form students. The projects we offer are very relevant to our work - focusing on the genetic basis of mitochondrial diseases.
What do you feel are the main benefits to you and the students in taking part in the Nuffield programme?
The key benefit of having students working in our lab is that we are able to actively engage young people in the cutting-edge science going on within the centre. We also get the valuable help of enthusiastic students with several important research projects. By working closely with these students, my team and I have developed our scientific communication skills as well as gain useful time management and supervisory experience.
From the students' perspective, they are able to gain experience of working on real-life research projects; getting to use sophisticated scientific techniques and lab equipment which they wouldn't otherwise have access to in school or college.
Has this activity been recognised within your organisation?
Yes, most definitely. The actions of our Nuffield students and their project reports were highlighted to our department during one of our research progress meetings, which allowed us to communicate these activities to the Principle Investigators and other faculty staff.
Do you feel that hosting students has helped you to communication your area of work to a wider audience?
The Nuffield programme has certainly enabled us to engage local people with the research we do as well as improve transparency and public perceptions about the centre. It has also helped us to develop our practice when working with young people. These elements are important as we want our research centre to be part of the patient community, to foster trust between researchers and local people. By hosting Nuffield students, we have the perfect opportunity to open up a dialogue with the general public in order for us to highlight the work we do and initiate a debate about the importance of biomedical research.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and maths