Rachel Caines

I learnt more during my 4 week placement than you could ever imagine and I loved every minute of it!

Rachel Caines, from Ballyclare High School, spent the summer working on a Biomedical Engineering project in the Nanotechnology and Integrated Bioengineering Centre at the University of Ulster.  Working with Dr Adrian Boyd, Rachel investigated and studied bioceramic coatings for orthopaedic implants.

Why did you apply for the placement?
I was very interested in the possibility of a career in scientific research and wanted to know more about it. The placement was also an opportunity for some of the best work experience possible with leading researchers in the field which may not be possible otherwise and as university places are becoming more and more competitive, it would be a great addition to my UCAS application.

Rachel CainesHow did you feel on the first day of your placement?
I was very nervous at first, but as I had been to visit NIBEC and to meet my supervisor a few weeks before, it made it a lot easier as I knew where I had to go and who to talk to. The nerves soon disappeared as all the students and doctors made me feel very welcome and I got stuck into my project straight away.

How did you spend your time?
I spent my time using advanced surface analytical techniques to analyse bioceramic coatings, powders and bone. I spent some time in the cell biology laboratory culturing cells, in the library carrying out a literature review for my project and gaining some of the best careers advice from my supervisor as he is the course director of the degree I wish to apply to.

What did you learn?
I learnt many skills and techniques that will be invaluable. I learnt a lot about the career of an academic/research scientist and what university life entails.  I also learnt how to produce scientific papers and posters correctly which will come in useful in whatever career I pursue.

What do you want to do next? 
I would love to go back to the University of Ulster to carry out a degree in biomedical engineering at NIBEC. The placement has given me the drive and inspiration to continue to work hard to achieve the best grades to pursue a career in something that really interests me and that I will truly enjoy.  I hope to carry on with my studies to complete a PhD and become a scientific researcher. Since completing my placement I am now fascinated by the area of biomaterials and tissue engineering and I hope I will be able to base my research career around that.

What advice would you give to others like you thinking of taking part in a summer research placement?
I would advise anyone interested in science to apply and give it a go. The placement provides you with the best experience possible and gives you a real insight into the subject that no open day or university prospectus can tell you. The hands on experience will give you invaluable skills and also helps you to see what university life is like along with what a career as a researcher entails. I learnt more during my 4 week placement than you could ever imagine and I loved every minute of it.