Simon Choi

“I gained so much more than I expected from the experience. The Nuffield Research Placement was a massive confidence booster, both in terms of my scientific and general work skills such as communication and independent thinking.”

Why did you decide to apply for a placement?

My ambition has always been to become a civil engineer. I love learning about scientific and mathematical concepts connected to engineering and really wanted to gain some practical experience of the day-to-day work of an engineer. I decided to apply to the Nuffield programme in order to get some hands-on experience and learn new skills.

What was your project about?

I spent my summer working with Transport for London investigating the most suitable methods of constructing new drainage systems as well as maintaining the existing network. Despite being a massive fan of the Tube, I had absolutely no idea just how important drains are to the smooth running of the transport system.

Many people are unaware that underground pipes are all around us, especially in a city like London. The pipelines tend to be situated below the railway tracks which are themselves surrounded by stones. When water gets onto the tracks, it travels through the surrounding stonework and eventually drains into a pipe where it is diverted away. If the pipelines fail to functioning properly, water will begin accumulating on the tracks and lead to flooding of the line – a potentially disastrous scenario for London Underground.

As the pipes are the saviours and unsung heroes of the transport system, they must be maintained, developed and reconstructed whenever necessary. The essence of my research project was to compare several drainage methodologies in order to determine which are better than others.

How did your supervisor help you with your research project?

The entire section of drainage engineers and technicians helped me immensely over the six-week placement, but my project supervisor was, quite simply, amazing. He was always very supportive and took the time to ensure that I had the necessary level of knowledge to complete the final report. This assistance enabled me to get ‘stuck in’ confidently with the project and, despite the hard work, made the whole experience very enjoyable.

What advice would you give to students applying for a Nuffield Research Placement?

Grab hold of this fantastic opportunity and complete the online application form to the best of your ability. Make sure that you complete each of the sections in full and proofread what you’ve written before you submit your work. It’s a good idea to discuss your application with your tutor so that he/she can give you some advice and guidance. This way, you are more likely to spot areas that need correcting, learn from your drafts and submit a well-written personal statement.