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Environmental science placement at the University of Northampton | Case study

By Nuffield Foundation

Ria-May Berry’s placement at the University of Northampton

 

Nuffield Research Placement student, 2019
University of Northampton
Street Trees in Far Cotton: Distribution and Changes Through Time

 


Why did you apply for a Nuffield Research Placement?

I applied for a Nuffield Research Placement because I wanted to gain real-life experience in the world of scientific research and to see the real application and effects of research. I wanted to see if this was a career choice that I would be interested in pursuing in the future.

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

Before my placement, I had been interested in the field of environmental science but had never seen or learned much about the field. My project was about street trees and their effects in urban areas. This was something I had never really heard of but had seen some new articles regarding this area.

I…wasn’t aware that the project was going to be mine and that I would be in almost complete control of the project. This was a really pleasant surprise as I improved my independence and confidence in my own work, something that I didn’t have beforehand. Ria-May Berry

Was the placement what you expected it to be?

It was a lot better than I had expected. I thought I would’ve been working at a computer for most of the time and doing work for my supervisor and wasn’t aware that the project was going to be mine and that I would be in almost complete control of the project. This was a really pleasant surprise as I improved my independence and confidence in my own work, something that I didn’t have beforehand.

How did your supervisor help you with your project?

My supervisor gave me advice when I needed it and showed me how things worked but in general, I was very independent throughout my project. I found this more helpful than having my hand held through the whole project. I was shown how the equipment and the software worked and if I was stuck she came to help me. I did most of the fieldwork on my own, all of the analysis of my data and produced all the maps in my report on my own. I was helped more with my report than the project itself as this was something I felt I needed.

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

I gained skills in resilience as initially the thought of giving up my summer holiday didn’t sound like a fun idea but, in the end, it was the best decision that I ever made. I also improved my independence by travelling in each day on my own and did most of the fieldwork on my own which was quite daunting as I didn’t believe I was responsible enough beforehand. My confidence improved and have learnt to overcome my imposter syndrome.

Has your experience helped you to decide on a career path?

My placement has been invaluable to my career path. I have discovered a love for research that I didn’t know I had and has given me experience in the software that I will be using at university, giving me an advantage in my course. I have realised that I am not only interested in the field of environmental science but I also really enjoy the real-life application of the field. It is one thing to like and enjoy and subject, it is a different thing to apply it to real-life careers, this placement has helped me to realise that I am also interested in the careers available in the field.

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

That they should do it and take advantage of everything. Make connections with people in the field and to ask as many questions as possible about the field or about university in general. My supervisor was not only good at providing advice regarding the field but also helped with university advice in general.

What are your future plans?

To study environmental science at Leeds university and hopefully go into a career in the field or in the research side of the field.

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We improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in EducationWelfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We offer our grant-holders the freedom to frame questions and enable new thinking. Our research must stand up to rigorous academic scrutiny, but we understand that to be successful in effecting change, it also needs to be relevant to people’s experience.

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