Science in society:

Nuffield Research Placements

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Nuffield Research Placements provide talented and highly motivated post-16 students with the opportunity to work with scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians over a 4-6 week period in the summer.

The students work alongside practising scientists and contribute to projects in research and development. Researchers funded by BBSRC host a large number of Nuffield Research Placement students each year often leading to publications and entry into the National Science and Engineering competition.

Anyone interested in applying for the scheme should contact their regional coordinator. Applications are encouraged from students who do not have a family history of higher education and those who are from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Travel costs are reimbursed for all students and an additional bursary is given to those who need it. For full information about the scheme and all contact details, visit the Nuffield Research Placements section of the Nuffield Foundation website (see external links).

Researchers say:

“I always find Nuffield students very useful, free pairs of hands! It works both ways. I choose projects that directly contribute to ongoing work and in return the students get experience in areas relevant to their coursework.” Rothamsted Research

Teachers say:

“The experience was excellent and has provided valuable motivation for our students.”

“The student found it very helpful and informative in relation to career choice and the world of work.”

Students say:

Shannon Brown: "I think this experience will help me a lot in the future. It's going to give me so much to talk about in my university interviews and prove my passion for science. It will also put me ahead of others as I have acquired skills and experiences that they may not have, such as writing a formal scientific report, giving a presentation and working in a research lab for several weeks." Learn more about Shannon's placement at JIC by reading her case study at: www.nuffieldfoundation.org/shannon-brown

Kate Champion: "The enthusiasm of brilliant scientists who were passionate about their research was inspiring. The first-hand experience of working in a laboratory setting has convinced me to pursue a career in biochemical research instead of medicine." Learn more about Kate’s placement at the Babraham Institute by reading the case study at: www.nuffieldfoundation.org/kate-champion.

Case study: Placement students in bumblebee discovery

Nuffield Research Placement students at the John Innes Centre have worked with researchers to help discover that red flowers and those with striped veins attract bees more regularly. Growing these types of plants could help maintain bumblebee populations benefitting agriculture and the environment.

Nuffield Research Placements students spent successive summers observing the foraging patterns of bumblebees on snapdragon plants grown on a plot near Norwich. The students compared the number of visits by bumblebees to various cultivars of the common snapdragon and the number of flowers visited per plant. Red flowers and those with venation patterning were visited significantly more frequently than white or pink. More flowers were visited per plant too.

Nuffield Science Bursary student Lucia Smallwood. Image credit: John Innes Centre
Nuffield Research Placement student Lucia Smallwood.
Image: John Innes Centre

“Stripes provide a visual guide for pollinators, directing them to the central landing platform and the entrance to the flower where the nectar and pollen can be found,” said Professor Martin.

“We examined the origin of this trait and found that it has been retained through snapdragon ancestry. The selection pressure for this trait is only relaxed when full red pigmentation evolves in a species.”

Reference

The molecular basis for venation patterning of pigmentation and its effect on pollinator attraction in flowers of Antirrhinum, Yongjin Shang, Julien Venail, Steve Mackay, Paul Bailey, Kathy Schwinn, Paula Jameson, Cathie Martin, Kevin Davies. New Phytologist, October 2010, doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2010.03498.x.