Kimberly Meechan

What was your project about?
My project focused on geolocators; these are small devices that record light level at regular intervals and use this to track the birds they are attached to on migrations. I was testing a new design of ‘lightstalk’ (this holds the light sensor above the birds’ feathers) to see if a more aerodynamic design was viable. Biotrack Ltd., the company that makes geolocators, provided the placement. I would like to say thanks to all of them again for their wonderful support throughout.

Did you know much about the area before you started?
Before my placement, I’d never even heard of a geolocator! This was great though as I had the chance to learn and conduct research about something completely new to me. Learning about geolocators, that have been used to reveal completely new aspects of the migrations of small birds, was fascinating.

Did you learn any new skills?
I learnt many things from my experience there, mainly data analysis and presentation skills – it was extremely satisfying to turn pages of light readings from different prototypes into a coherent picture of the differences between them and the reasons behind that. My ability to process data into graphs and reports has improved greatly as a result. My practical skills also improved vastly over the course of the placement – at the start I shorted out many batteries as I attempted to solder them in place, but by the end my soldering skills improved to the point where I could change tiny surface mounted resistors in the geolocators.

Has this helped you with your university applications?
My project definitely did help me with my university applications; Nuffield Research Placements are a very clear way of showing dedication to your subject and also a great topic to talk about in interviews – it came up in practically all of mine.

What are your future plans?
I will be starting university later this year; I have an offer to study Natural Sciences at Cambridge University.

What advice would you give to students applying for a Nuffield Research Placement?
I would definitely recommend applying! You’ll find you learn so much from it; it’s a chance to explore areas you’ve never heard of before and learn new skills. I’ve presented my project to people many times now and it’s amazing how it can improve your self confidence.

What was it like exhibiting at the Big Bang Fair?
In a word, brilliant. Presenting my project to members of the general public but also the judges was very enjoyable – it’s great to present your findings to people who are really interested in your project. On top of this, it was immensely pleasing to reach the top 5 of the Senior Science and Maths category and as a result, have a chance to present to the celebrity judges. Overall, I came Highly Commended. I would recommend anyone to submit their project to the National Science and Engineering Competition, even if you think you won’t get in – I nearly didn’t submit mine but am obviously so pleased that I did! Above all, it is a great opportunity to meet other students who are also really interested in science – one of the most enjoyable aspects was getting to know the other students exhibiting at the fair, who came from all over the country, and learn about their projects.