Nisha Begum

“My placement made me eager to pursue a career as a research scientist and I am definitely more aware of the rich opportunities available in the field of STEM.”

Why did you apply for a Nuffield Research Placement?

I applied after hearing about the scheme from my chemistry teacher and I felt that a placement was the perfect opportunity to research a career in the field of human biology. My summer couldn't have been better spent, getting to work alongside biological research experts in a real research environment.

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

My project was based on Hereditary Haemorrhagic Telangiectasia (HHT), a genetic disorder characterised by abnormal blood vessels that results in frequent internal bleeding. As part of the survey team I analysed responses and recorded patterns between HHT and non-HHT participants, using data collated from international surveys carried out between 2012 and 2013. I was not previously aware of this particular genetic illness so the research placement opened my eyes to a wealth of new biological and medical information.

Was the placement what you expected it to be?

The placement was definitely more than I expected it to be and I was able to develop my knowledge and skills, whilst also having a great time by doing something new and exciting. It was challenging at times but it enabled me to really understand the work of a research scientist. My findings were published in the ‘Direct Connections’ local newsletter and the combined analysis can be used for further research into HHT, hopefully to find improved ways of using existing medicines to treat the condition.

How did your supervisor help you with your project?

My supervisor had regular discussions with me to make sure that I was on the right track, so I always felt at ease when raising queries or asking for advice on presenting my findings.

Did you gain any new skills from undertaking your placement?

The research placement was useful in allowing me to adapt to various situations; for example, using scientific journals for research purposes, thinking critically about the design of my study and discussing the data analysis with my supervisors. Working under pressure and managing my time effectively were other key skills which I developed on my placement. Furthermore, I gained an appreciation of the importance of precision and accuracy when carrying out statistical analysis.

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

Nuffield Research Placements are useful to anyone interested in STEM, especially if your project is in an area that is completely new to you – this only encourages you to find out about other areas and expand your horizons. The experience of working with experts allows you to develop and learn key skills that will be useful in the future, regardless of what job you end up doing. Most of all, it’s fun and challenging as well as a great way of showing your interest in STEM.

See also

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.