Science Bursary students get to work

By Nuffield Foundation

Over one thousand students across the UK are currently gaining professional experience of scientific research though their Nuffield Science Bursary placements.

Students selected for a bursary carry out research projects in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) during the summer holidays prior to their final year at school. We give each student a bursary of £80 a week over the course of their placement. Projects take place in universities, industry or research institutions and can range from mapping coastal erosion or sampling efficiency of plankton nets, to creating a performance simulation model for a gas turbine engine.

Many of our students go on to present their work and win prizes at regional, national and international science fairs.

Physics at the University of York

Andy Frazer, Kathryn Turner, Daniel Cook and Michael James, all aged 17 are currently on placement in the Department of Physics at the University of York

Andy Frazer, from St Peter’s School, York, is working on the Department’s observational astronomy and Astrocampus projects. A keen astronomer, Andy is collecting and analysing solar data and using this information to create an educational poster for outreach purposes. He is also helping set up astronomy activities for the astronomy centre, Astrocampus, which is currently under construction at the University. Andy is receiving hands-on training, which includes setting up telescopes and planning technical and manual astronomy activities.

He said: “It’s been really enjoyable, even though the weather has been a bit too cloudy to do much astronomy! But I have done lots of stuff to do with software. It’s a great thing to do and I would recommend it to anyone. The time has just flown by.

“It’s not just a project, it’s real work”

Kathryn Turner, from Fulford School, York and Daniel Cook from Boston Spa Sixth Form, are involved in a project which uses computer simulations to study magnetic nanoparticles that will be used for new types of cancer treatments, while Michael James from North Halifax Grammar School is analysing the structure of vermiculite crystals – beautiful, shiny layer minerals whose properties could reveal important information about the origins of life. 

Kathryn said: “It’s opened my eyes to research. It’s not just a project, it’s real work. You’re working with people who are doing a real job. To do that at the age of 17 is a fantastic opportunity.”

Daniel said: “I have had a general interest in Physics for quite a while but the opportunity to learn more about it and experience it is really good.”

Michael added: “I have always been interested in science but this has really opened my eyes to it. If you like Physics or science, you should do something like this.”

All the students are taking part in practical and computational scientific experiments, working within a physics research group alongside University academics and graduate researchers.

This is a fantastic scheme which really opens young people’s minds to the full spectrum of physics and offers mentoring from top academics. Facilities that are offered by The University of York, such as the JEOL Nanocentre and the York Plasma Institute, are far beyond anything that the students have seen or experienced before, providing them with new and exciting insights into the directions that science is taking us.” Dr Yvette Hancock, Scheme Co-ordinator – Department of Physics, University of York
Nuffield Science Bursary students (photo courtesy of Alice Jenkins, University of York).

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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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