Kai Zyn Diep
"After my placement, I entered the National Science and Engineering competition and reached the finals at the Big Bang Fair where I won the Google Creative Tech award. By attending the competition, I was able to visit STEM related companies which gave me a useful insight into what I might do in the future."
Why did you apply for a Nuffield Research Placement?
I was thinking about studying science or engineering at university and I thought that doing a research placement in those subjects was a good way for me to decide which field to go into.
What was your project about and did you know anything about the area before you started the placement?
My project addressed the addition of Computer Science into the UK national curriculum. I had to develop physical computing hardware and teaching resources to enable tutors to teach school children about basic programming and electronics. Initially, I only knew that this project would allow me to use some well-known computing hardware such as the Arduino and Raspberry Pi, which I would then code using programming languages such as C++ and Python.
Was the placement what you expected it to be?
Yes, the placement did meet the expectations I had when I originally applied. However, there were some elements that I didn’t expect, such as getting to use a SenseBoard, which is a hardware platform developed by the Open University; it uses many sensors and actuators to function. Another thing that didn’t expect was the opportunity to present my project findings to teachers from various local schools, which was a great experience.
How did your supervisor help you with your project?
My supervisor helped me by getting me to recognise the aims and objectives of the project and suggested ways to complete the work. He also helped with any programming issues that I encountered.
Did you gain any new skills from undertaking your placement?
This project has greatly expanded my technical skill, as it developed my knowledge of both programming and electronics which is important for my chosen university degree.
Other skills that I have gained are writing reports for specific audiences, especially teachers, who may little experience of programming languages, and improving on my presentation skills.
Has your experience helped you to decide on a career path?
My research project definitely helped me narrow down my university degree choices. Before I started the placement, I was interested in doing a chemistry degree. However, I have since changed my mind and chosen to study computer science instead. I have received offers from several top universities, which I feel is a result of talking about my experience in my personal statement and during admission interviews.
What advice would you give to students applying for a Nuffield Research Placement?
If you’re interested in any STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects, you should definitely give this a go. It gives you an insight in your chosen field and helps you gain practical experience that will help you in the future.