Steve Brown

"I've learned a great deal about the wide range of applications which statistics has to real world problems. I never realised what a demand there is for statisticians and the work they do. I always assumed that doing a maths degree would lead solely to a career in finance, investments or banking but I now appreciate the true scope of the subject."

Why did you decide to apply for a Nuffield Research Placement?

I’d always thought I’d end up doing a maths degree at university but I got involved in the engineering education scheme at school and that opened up the possibility of studying this subject, too.  I was undecided about what to study at a higher level, so I thought that undertaking a research placement in one area would give me some experience of the field and enable me to make a more informed choice.

What have you been doing on your placement?

I am working with NewRail at Newcastle University.  They run a free, week-long programme in the summer called 'Rail Newcastle' which gives overseas students the chance to study in the UK.  At the end of the programme, the organisers give each student two questionnaires to complete and I have been evaluating their responses.  I am running a comparison with last year's results which were analysed by a previous Nuffield student.  Throughout the project, I have been using the specialist 'Statistical Package for Social Sciences' (SSPS) software which has been very interesting.

What did you know about this area before you started the project?

I had studied a module in statistics as part of my core maths A-level but I obviously hadn't used the SSPS software before.  I never really had the opportunity to experience working in an environment which used maths in a professional way; maths, for me, had always been very much a classroom-based activity.  I can honestly say that it's been a great experience to see what it's like to actually 'do maths' in the real world.

How did you feel on your first day?

I felt really good. Anna, my project supervisor, was very good with making me feel relaxed and welcome. We went for lunch with Chandra, another supervisor, and his two Nuffield students so I got to meet other people my own age.  After a few days of finding my feet, I really enjoy getting into work each day.   Everyone's friendly and they've gone out of their way to help me understand the project as well as making sure that I feel able to cope with the work I'm doing.

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

Definitely go for it: if you think that the scheme might benefit you then don’t hesitate.  It’s a fantastic opportunity and everyone involved in my placement has been very welcoming.  The experience has been very useful in helping me decide what I’d like to study at university. If you are at all unsure about the direction you want to go in after finishing school or college then I can wholeheartedly recommend the scheme to you.