Omaya Ala Eldine

“I would advise anyone interested in STEM subjects to apply for a Nuffield Research Placement. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and it opens up so many doors for the future. Not only do you get to experience a real research environment but you’ll also meet working professionals, develop new skills and have a great time, too!”

Why did you apply for a Nuffield Research Placement?

I’ve always been interested in science and maths and I really wanted to do a placement in the engineering sector. It was important for me to get some hands-on experience before I started applying to university in Year 13.

What was your project about?

My objective was to improve the infrastructure of the railway system used by Volk’s Electric Railway Association, Brighton, so that it adhered to national standards. This involved researching a series of upgrades and maintenance works, including consideration for long-term maintenance savings, environmental impact and a timetable of repair and servicing work to make the necessary adjustments. I knew that my recommendations needed to keep costs and service disruptions to a minimum; rebuilding trains and track during the peak season, in the summer, would be very costly so my project report would ultimately save the Association time and money.

Before I started my placement, I didn’t know a great deal about trains or railway engineering. However, having completed AS-levels in maths and physics, I had sufficient mathematical ability to carry out the necessary engineering surveys and generate development plans.

What were you doing day-to-day on your placement?

I had to inspect and walk the track, understand the historical repairs which had taken place and evaluate the wear on the track caused by the train’s wheels. This involved surveying the railway line and recording data using specialist equipment. I also assessed the wear characteristics and provided advice to the Association’s management team to ensure compliance with health and safety legislation. Back in the engineering workshop, I was involved in the design and construction of a new stretch of track. I was able to produce plans for the improved railway using Computer Aided Design (CAD) software.

How did your supervisor help you with your research project?

My supervisor spent time at the start of my placement giving me all the information I needed to get started. We went over the Health and Safety Executive’s guidance notes for railway track which is used in the underground transportation industry. Using this guidance and other technical documentation, we modelled how best to design a series of turns and curves in a stretch of the railway line. I felt quite comfortable working with my supervisor and the team in the office made me feel very welcome.

What new skills did you gain as a result of your Nuffield placement?

My Nuffield experience enabled me to develop many key transferable skills such as time management, organising workloads, problem solving and personal motivation. I have expanded my knowledge of civil engineering particularly that applied to the railway industry. The placement made me realise that engineering is definitely the field I want to work in; without the experience, I would probably still be undecided on a suitable career path. My aim is to study for a degree in Chemical Engineering at university after completing my A-levels.