Jessica Wynn, from Highfield School in Letchworth, spent 4 weeks working on a bursary placement at North Hertfordshire Council looking into air pollution. Jessica was recently awarded the top prize in the Science and Maths category at the Big Bang Fair, and has also appeared in her local newspaper. We asked her to look back on her bursary experiences and tell us a bit more about her experiences…
“The bursary placement has confirmed to me that in the long term I would like a research career”
How did you get involved in the Nuffield Bursary Programme and why did you want to take part?
I first found out about the bursary programme from science teachers at school. I wanted to take part because I already knew that a research career was an option for me and so I wanted to see what it was really like in practice.
Jessica with Kate Bellingham, John Beddington and Brian Cox.
What were the aims of your project, and how did you go about achieving these?
My project had three main aims. The first was to see if pollution levels (I concentrated on nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter) at certain sites of concern within the district of North Hertfordshire exceed the limits set out by the Environment act 1995. In order to do this I used a range of equipment, which is owned by the North Herts district council such as the Tapered Element Oscillating Microbalance for particulate matter and diffusion tubes and the chemiluminescent analyser for nitrogen dioxide. My second aim was to see if a pollution model that is based on traffic counts and other road data is accurate. In order to do this I compared the modeled data with measured data from the previously mentioned instruments. My third aim was to evaluate the methods of measuring air pollution in the context of use by local authorities.
What did you learn most from your bursary experience?
One of the most striking things that I wasn’t expecting was how much fascinating science goes on in small towns at such a local level - just to make sure that the air is safe to breathe. It also helped me to develop skills that will be really valuable in a workplace and particularly in a scientific context such as problem solving, teamwork, numerical skills and communication.
How have you shared your bursary experience with others at school?
I have spoken to various people, teachers and students, who have been interested in my project. My display work from the Big Bang Fair should be going up in school soon and I have written for the school newsletter about my experience. Hopefully it will inspire others to take part!
What are your longer term plans and how did your bursary experience affect these plans?
Provided I get the grades, I should be off the University of York next year to study Chemistry, Environment and Resources. The bursary placement has confirmed to me that in the long term I would like a research career - the sense of discovery and then being able to communicate my findings to inspire others is something that had always appealed to me, but even more so now I have taken part in the bursary scheme.
What was it like exhibiting at the Big Bang? How does it feel to have won the top prize in the Science & Maths category?
Exhibiting at the Big Bang was really exciting and as science communication also interests me it was a great opportunity to communicate my work and to also talk to other young scientists about their work, which was really fascinating and I have made plenty of new friends. I was thrilled to have won and even after a few weeks, it still hasn’t really sunk in.