Dr Ivan Wall

Lecturer in Cell Therapy Bioprocessing, Department of Biochemical Engineering, University College London

“Yes, without doubt, I would recommend the scheme to others. It has been very rewarding on many levels, none more so than in seeing the enjoyment that the students gain from spending time in the lab.”

What type of projects to you offer?

Our projects are predominantly lab based and enable students to gain first-hand experience of a real engineering research facility.

What motivates you to provide placements?

We are keen to educate young people about the importance of biochemical engineers to society. Manufacturing new medicines, such as vaccines, antibodies and stem cell therapies, biofuels and biologic tools to combat pollution all depend on biochemical engineering to create sustainable manufacturing processes. Hosting students through the Nuffield Research Placements scheme enables us to get our central message across whilst creating novel educational experiences for students who want a career based on STEM subjects.

What do you feel are the main benefits to both your organisation and to the students taking part in the scheme?

We are able to promote our department and, more widely, UCL to young people at a time when they are making important decisions about careers and university courses. The students experience life at university in a research environment that is unlike anything they will experience at school or college. They engage in novel research that will have real life impact on society. Furthermore, they are able to engage with PhD students and that interaction with mature individuals, who are not their teachers, enables genuine personal development.

Has this activity been recognised in your institution and has it been of benefit to your department?

Yes, it has been of substantial benefit. Most universities across the UK are publicly funded and it is increasingly important to engage with the public and show them how public money invested in university research is being spent. Moreover, it is crucial to perform outreach to school children in order to inspire the next generation of engineers who will continue to create the products that make everyday life more comfortable for people across the world. The Nuffield Research Placements are an ideal platform for this activity.

What personal skills would you say members of your team gained from supervising a Nuffield student?

For our PhD students, supervising students in the lab on a day-to-day basis has provided excellent training in teaching and communication skills, particularly as they have to take complex scientific or engineering principles and explain them in a language accessible to A-level students.

Has the scheme helped you to communicate your area of science to a wider public?

Yes, it has. We are keen to promote our activity so that we can recruit the biochemical engineers of the future. Nuffield Research Placement students are encouraged to present their work back in science classes at school so that we can further disseminate our key message.