Amy Sanders

Amy Sanders completed her Nuffield Research Placement in 2016 at the University of Brighton. She went on to present her project at The Big Bang Fair.

Why did you apply for a Nuffield Research Placement?

I was about to start applying to study Biomedical Sciences at university and I thought that a research placement would give me some very valuable lab experience. It was also a good indicator as to whether Biomedical Sciences would be the right course for me, as I thought that if I enjoyed the placement I might enjoy the course that's related to it as well. Not to mention, the research placements sounded quite interesting, especially as I wouldn't have normally gotten this opportunity.

What was your project about and did you know anything about the area before you started the placement?

I was researching whether a compound, called resveratrol, changed how many pancreatic cancer cells it killed, depending on the starting number of cells. I had never heard of this compound before and I wasn't aware that pancreatic cancer has one of the lowest survival rates of all cancers. I met with my mentor before my placement started so that she could explain about why pancreatic cancer has such a low survival rate – it's hard to diagnose and there aren't many treatments available for it. She also taught me a bit more about the cell cycle to give me a greater understanding of pancreatic cancer. Next, she told me that there had been previous research showing that resveratrol, which is found in grapes, kills pancreatic cancer cells, but the research couldn't agree on how effective it was. I investigated seeding density as a possible reason for why the research results were different for different researchers.

How did your supervisor help you with your project?

My supervisor taught me more about cancer than A-Level Biology has and she taught me about what resveratrol was. She also taught me some cell-culture techniques and she also showed me how to do some seeding density calculations, as I didn't know what seeding density meant before I started my project, let alone how to work out how many cells I was seeding.

Did you gain any new skills, both scientific and general work skills, from undertaking your placement?

Yes, I learnt how to write a scientific report, which I'm sure will help me when I go to university. The report writing skills that I picked up have already helped me in A-Level Psychology as I already knew how to right a scientific report when my teacher taught it in our lesson, which meant that I could write one quite easily when I had to carry out my own research project in college. I have better time-management skills since the placement, because of the report deadline. In addition, I have developed my presentation skills as this project meant that I had to talk to lots of strangers about my research at the CREST awards ceremony and at the Big Bang Competition. This project also taught me how to use cell culture and I have improved my aseptic techniques, which I imagine will be very valuable to me at university.

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

I would say make the most of it, as those weeks flew past and I feel as though I should have asked more questions just to sharpen my knowledge and skills a bit more. I would also say, don't worry if they can't find you a placement straight away, I wasn't given a research placement until the last week of July, which worried me at the time, but everything worked out well.