Marketing your Nuffield Research Placement
Taking part in the Nuffield Research Placement programme is an excellent way to gain some valuable experience and an insight into the world of research. By spending 4-6 weeks working on your project, you will have gained many useful skills that are valued by both universities and employers, regardless of the subject area you choose to go into after school or college.
Being able to talk passionately about an area of interest is something that universities and employers like to see at an interview, as well as within personal statements and CVs. When discussing your Nuffield Research Placement, think about which of the following skills you have gained:
Practical skills gained through a Nuffield placement
Technical skills – consider the procedures or research methods that you have not had the chance to learn at school; these skills might have been gained in the lab, out in the field or through the use of specialised software packages. Have you had the chance to share what you learnt with classmates, and how have your practical skills at school improved?
Data collection/analysis/interpretation – the use of large data sets is common in science, technology, engineering and maths and being able to analyse them efficiently and accurately is a very useful skill. Did you make use of Excel or statistical analysis computer programmes? Which statistical tests did you use to analyse your experimental data?
Health and Safety - you almost certainly had to follow strict health and safety protocols during your placement; were you responsible for making sure that chemicals and equipment were handled and stored correctly?
General transferable skills
Problem-solving – it can be quite common to face unexpected problems in science; did you have to overcome any barriers or use your initiative in order to adapt your original work schedule?
Verbal communication – It is likely that you had to present your findings to people without a background in your subject - if so, what skills were necessary to get the right message across without losing the key details? Did you present your work at a Nuffield celebration evening or similar event? Were you asked by your teachers to present your project work to your classmates?
Teamwork – did you have to work alongside other people in the team, either in a lab or in the field? When using expensive instruments, often different team members will want to use it at the same time – did you have to coordinate and agree session times or be adaptable so that you could use the apparatus once it was available?
Time management – often lab experiments or field studies have to be left for a precise amount of time; did you have to manage your time effectively to make sure that you could fit all of your work in during the allocated time?
Planning and Organisation –How did you go about planning your project to ensure that you could could collect the necessary data? Did you hold responsibility for documenting your observations and keeping a clear record of all of your results?
Written communication – Think about the skills needed to communicate complex ideas to both technical experts and the general public; did you produce a poster summarising your research project? Did you have to create a written report outlining the project aims, methods and procedures, results and a detailed conclusion or evaluation? Did you have to read a large amount of background material and summarise it concisely?
Commitment – Think about why you decided to apply for a Nuffield Research Placement; how do you feel about your subject after committing your summer holiday to carrying out research in a specific area?
Think about what you learnt by doing the placement - has taking part in the Nuffield Research Placement programme sparked an interest in a new area? Maybe you have been able to transfer the skills you gained through your placement to other subjects? You should also consider the wider personal skills which you would have developed through dedicating yourself to a research project – resilience, determination, logical reasoning and critical thinking.