Dr Tracey Martin

Lecturer in Cancer and Cell Biology
Cardiff University-Peking University Cancer Institute, School of Medicine, Cardiff University

How do you select suitable projects?

We have been providing placements for the Nuffield Research Placements scheme for about eight years. The students work with me and some of the post-doctoral researchers at the Institute of Cancer and Genetics, at University Hospital Wales where we are based. We provide around five placements each year.

The projects that we select for Nuffield students generally slot into our existing work within the department. We like the students to really feel part of the department and find they can pick up the work quite quickly, as we are able to provide some of the background knowledge for them. This also benefits the students, who are able to describe the background and rationale for their projects when they are being assessed.

What motivates you to provide placements?

We felt the Nuffield scheme would be a good opportunity to expose the research we do, particularly to people who may be interested in entering a career in research. A number of the students we see are interested in studying Medicine with a view to practicing it in the future; this scheme allows us to show students what other options are available to them, and how interesting and rewarding a career in research can be.

What benefits do you get from supporting the scheme?

It is always useful to get extra people working in the lab, and it is beneficial to us to have young eyes come in and take a fresh look at our work. It is a rewarding scheme to be involved in as we see the students get so much out of the placements. The project supervisors and other members of staff very much enjoy having the students working alongside them.

As a department we are always looking to promote science interest and education in young people. The scheme also fits in nicely with the wider university’s innovation and engagement agenda.

What do the students get from the placement experience?

They not only get the experience of working in a scientific environment, but they also get the general experience of working standard office hours, which they are not used to doing. One of the main benefits is that they get an insight into not only how research works, but the processes that are involved in research; from literature reviews to final reports, they see the whole process.

The whole experience of working in this environment is a great confidence booster for the students, which is evident particularly when they present their projects. It also helps to enhance their social groups, as we find that many of the students stay in touch with their fellow Nuffield students and also undergraduate students they meet whilst working here.

The placement experience can also help students decide whether the science career path is one they would like to take or not, which is good as it is better for them to know early on. If they do decide to pursue a career in science, this scheme provides a boost to their CV, as it demonstrates their capabilities and motivation.