Record number of college students complete STEM placements at DMU


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More college students than ever before in the East Midlands have been given the opportunity to work alongside leading STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) researchers at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU), thanks to The Nuffield Foundation’s Research Placement Programme.

This summer, a record 23 students from across the region came to the university to work alongside professional scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians in their respective fields of research.

Ruta and students
DMU's Dr Ruta Furmonaviciene with some of her placement students 

DMU has worked with The Nuffield Foundation for the last 10 years, offering post-16 students the chance to partner with its experts to advance their educational opportunities and get hands-on experience in a research setting.

The collaboration is organised through the LEBC (Leicester Education Business Company), an independent charity that helps prepare young people for working life.

“The Nuffield Research Placement Programme is an amazing opportunity for young students to gain experience in a diverse range of active research while also receiving a well-recognised award to advance their employability,” said Professor Angela O’Sullivan, Faculty Head of Widening Participation for DMU’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences.

Professor O’Sullivan is also a STEM Ambassador, actively inspiring young people to pursue education and careers in STEM subjects by raising the profile of the opportunities available.

“The commitment and talents of these students is always a pleasure to see,” she added. “It’s brilliant to know we’ve offered more placements than ever before this year.”

Nuffield Research Placements, which last 4-6 weeks, see students receive one-to-one guidance from their supervisors at DMU.

This year’s projects varied from reviewing the lives of theatrical workers in Elizabethan England and creating cyber defence capabilities, to exploring experimental approaches to identity and investigating the effect that cancer cells have on the process that causes tumour growth.

Nuffield Placement group pic
Nuffield Research Placement students receive their certificates 

Dr Ruta Furmonaviciene, a Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Science and Immunology at DMU, is a placement supervisor for the programme. She said the scheme also helped the university attract some of the region’s most talented young people.

“I think it says a lot that as academics we are happy to take on the additional workload to supervise these students because they are so driven and hardworking,” she said.

Every year, more than 1,000 places are provided across the Nuffield Foundation’s 17 regions. This year, there were 62 placements offered in the East Midlands, of which DMU provided more than a third.

One of the students, 17-year-old Patrick Kilgannon from Brookvale Groby Learning Campus, worked alongside DMU’s Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research, Professor Rusi Jaspal, looking at sexual risk behaviours in undergraduate students.

Patrick
Patrick Kilgannon - one of the 23 students awarded a Nuffield Research Placement at DMU

“I was worried that the research would be really high level but with Professor Jaspal’s support and guidance I was able to work independently and carry out the work myself,” he said. “I would definitely encourage anyone thinking about doing a Nuffield Research Placement to apply.”

Two of this year’s cohort from DMU have also received prestigious CREST awards for their work – the British Science Association’s scheme for STEM project work that inspires young people to think and behave like scientists and engineers.

Last year, Adiba Ahamed – who at the time had just completed her A-levels at Regent College, Leicester – did a placement at DMU through the Nuffield Research Placement Programme. She enjoyed it so much she decided to apply to study there and is now a second-year Biomedical Science student.

“Doing the placement really helped me transition from college to university because I felt mentally prepared,” said Adiba (22). “I knew where the labs were, I’d already met a lot of the tutors and I was familiar with the equipment. When it came to doing practical experiments in my first year I felt confident in what I was doing.”

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Nuffield Research Placements (previously Nuffield Science Bursaries) are open to students in the first year of a post-16 science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) course studying at a state-maintained school or college in the UK.

The majority of the placements go to students from low-income households and the Nuffield Foundation also provides placements to students who do not have a family history of going to university.

Stacy Munday, Nuffield Research Coordinator for the East Midlands region at LEBC said: “Not only do these placements offer students a chance to gain new skills in STEM subjects, they also help boost young people’s career opportunities.”

Stacy and Angela
Stacy Munday and Professor Angela O'Sullivan at the celebration event at DMU

Projects take place in the summer holidays and must have broadly scientific or technical content, but they do not have to be based in a laboratory. They might be office-based or include fieldwork, or they might focus on engineering, data science or computer science.

As the leading placement provider for the Nuffield Foundation, DMU hosted the Nuffield Summer Research Placement celebration event for the East Midlands on Monday 30 September, enabling students to present their research to their peers and receive certificates for their work.

Supervisors from all 12 placement providers in the region, including DMU, were at the event – including Nottingham Trent University, Loughborough University, University of Leicester, University of Derby, University of Northampton and University of Nottingham, as well as industry providers PepsiCo International, Boots Alliance, Leicester General Hospital, Cavendish Nuclear and Twycross Zoo.

For more information about Nuffield Research Placements, visit: www.nuffieldfoundation.org/nuffield-research-placements

Posted on Tuesday 1st October 2019

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