Zainab Master completed her Nuffield Research Placement in 2009 at the Open University. She is now a qualified community pharmacist.
What was your project about?
During the summer of 2009, I was fortunate enough to complete a Nuffield placement at the Open University, where I conducted six weeks of intense research in the geo-microbiology division. My project, based on this great institute, covered the research into how iron oxidising bacteria grow in volcanic environments, and whether they can survive in extreme conditions. The structure of this project contributed greatly to my ability to carry out independent research by challenging me to think critically.
I planned, developed and implemented protocols followed by the team I was working with, enhancing my organisational and inter-personal skills. I considered ethical implications of the bacteria as the variation of its quality could render it unsafe and learnt about the rigorous procedures required in iron and tin manufacturing, as well as scientific equipment such as Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM), autoclaving and Light microscopy.
What was the highlight/best bit of your placement?
I thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of the Nuffield Placement as I got the opportunity to explore a field that I was passionate about. Furthermore, I received a thorough insight into the careers open to me. Every day there was a new idea to think about or explore.
Although I was looking forward to the challenge, as an AS level student, I knew little about research labs and the true effort and commitment scientists put into their work and the inevitable hardships they have to endure. However, my time at the Open University helped me to gain a first-hand experience in practical science whilst imparting me with valuable research skills. It enhanced me to think clearly and find a new and subtly different side of microbiology and enabled me to obtain a prestigious Gold CREST award.
What is your current role?
I am a qualified community pharmacist, my role currently involves clinically screening prescriptions, providing advice on drug selection and usage to doctors and other health professionals, offering primary healthcare advice, consultations and support, and educating customers on health promotion, disease prevention and the proper use of medicines.
What path did you take after finishing your NRP and how has that led you to where you are today?
Completing this exceptional research project over the summer was a great opportunity for me to understand the work of a research scientist and confirmed my passion for research. It helped me during my time at university as the skills I learnt were applied continuously whilst completing my pharmacy degree. It also enabled me to practically apply my research skills during my pre-registration year to complete an audit on prescription errors.
If you could give one piece of advice to Nuffield students about to start a placement what would it be?
I would encourage anyone who is considering a research career in life sciences or is interested in science to apply and gain experience with a summer placement. The entire experience will give you a valuable insight into the world of scientific research, and allow you to build on and improve skills that will benefit you at university and beyond. A career in science can seem intimidating, but carrying out a placement will help you decide if it's right for you, and provide you the confidence to pursue it.