Although the placement wasn’t what I expected it to be, it certainly exceeded my expectations and I encourage other students to be welcoming of something different because it will be worth it in the end.
What was your project about and did you know anything about the area before you started the placement?
My project was looking at how researchers actually do research, I analysed data from research teleconference conversations and learnt to code using Nvivo. From this, I was able to draw out recurring themes and topics of conversation, and make observations and conclusions based on these findings. Prior to the placement, I had no experience of conducting observational studies, especially using such an advanced coding software, nor did I have any knowledge of how researchers worked in the context of a sociological group of people.
Was the placement what you expected it to be?
No, I didn’t expect that it would be so computer based. I also didn’t realise that I would be working on an area where they hadn’t really done any research yet, it was all new to me and to the department. The research I was doing was really important and is it is now being used in the department. My placement made me see that a career path in the social sciences is in fact a very wide path that could take me almost anywhere, and anyone with a keen enough interest in the study of how people work can do very well in such a broad area of science.
How did your supervisor help you with your project?
I was given both support from my supervisor and a lot of independence, too. I had weekly meeting with my supervisor which were really helpful and meant that I was always able to ask any questions. My supervisor gave me the bare bones to get started with my project but they wanted my input into the project and I was strongly encouraged to draw my own conclusions from my research.
Has there been any follow up to your placement?
As a result of doing this project I entered the National Science + Engineering competition and was a finalist at the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham. Being able to attend was an amazing experience; the conference centre was huge and absolutely filled with exhibit after exhibit of fascinating Science, Technology, Maths & Engineering organisations. The exhibits covered everything from dancers covered in LED lights to Dalek-programming at a Doctor Who station. I got to meet young people like me with a keen interest in science, as well as celebrity science enthusiasts at the top of their fields. It proved to me how many opportunities there are out there for young people interested in the application of all things STEM in our everyday lives. I highly recommended the experience.