Helen Sheehan

How did you get involved in the Nuffield Research Placements Programme and why did you want to take part in the programme?

I heard about the Nuffield Research Placements Scheme through my school, and other students in my school who had done placements highly recommended them.  The placement was a great way to gain first-hand experience of scientific research.

What were the aims of your project, and how did you go about achieving these?

My project was part of a PhD project, and it involved investigating the properties of parts built from a new steel, SHS 7574 Nanosteel, that were built by a process called Selective Laser Melting.  I carried out various mechanical tests and microscopy on the parts in order to learn more about the steel's microstructure.

What did you learn most from your placement experience?

Working with a research team, I learnt a lot about how research is carried out, and it gave me a chance to see all the opportunities that are available after achieving a primary degree.

What are your longer term plans and how did your placement affect these plans?

I have been made an offer to study Engineering at Cambridge, and the placement opened my eyes to the different fields of engineering, helping me make decisions about which course to choose.

What was it like exhibiting at the Big Bang?  How does it feel to have won the top prize in the Science and Maths category?

The Big Bang Fair was an amazing few days, and it was a real confidence boost to be able to explain my project to both the judges and the public.  Being Highly Commended was completely unexpected, and a great feeling.  I also learnt a lot from talking to all the other competitors and exhibitors, and the diversity of all the exhibits within the Fair was incredible.  I also won a place at the EU Contest for Young Scientists, which I'm sure will be an equally great experience.  I'm looking forward to it!