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Developing young people in science through a nationwide placement scheme

As part of our Community for Change initiative, the National Centre for Atmospheric Science is delighted to be partnering with Nuffield Research Placements for another year.

While also offering a unique development opportunity for our staff, the placement scheme provides important opportunities for Year 12 students across the UK. It prioritises finding placements for young people, particularly those who will be the first in their immediate family to attend university and who are from low-income backgrounds. 

From instrument calibration to making a training module

In summer 2022, staff at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science provided three research placements for students in York and Leeds.

Supported by the Community for Change and Nuffield Research Placements, these atmospheric science-related projects covered a range of topics and skills-development. Students were involved in characterising and calibrating instruments measuring nitrogen dioxide, creating a module for future PhD student training courses, and analysing environmental data from the Arctic and Greenland.

When organising these placements in early 2022, the Community for Change supported staff to ensure well-rounded and varied experiences were offered to students – and encouraged staff to seek ways to enhance the students’ experience beyond the tasks of the set project.

Let’s hear from the students

The types of specialist research projects offered by our staff and the Nuffield Research Placements scheme are rewarding and meaningful opportunities for Year 12 students.

We asked our most recent placement students to share their experiences, with a focus on the benefits and expectations of the scheme.

It has been even better than I thought it would be. I thought it was going to be a very rigid work experience, that would put you in an office with people telling you what to do. I didn’t know there’d be so much collaboration and seeing so many different people.

Nuffield Research Placement student

Often the first in their immediate family to attend university, Nuffield Research Placements students value the opportunity to speak with staff and PhD students who have had experience of higher education and STEM careers. Interactions like those provide crucial first-hand knowledge.

A York-based student shares what they gained: “I have learnt what a career in research looks like, as well as what a degree in chemistry involves.”

As well as gaining education and career information, the placement students make clear improvements in time management, problem solving and presentation skills – with 96% of teachers also reporting an improvement in placement students’ communication competence.

The placement student who worked with us in Leeds explained: “It’s been good to have a rigid timetable, waking up on time and commuting, which has helped me with time management.”

Empowering staff through engagement activities

Staff members who provided placements last year found the experience really positive and rewarding, as projects were designed to create useful and lasting outcomes beyond the placement period.

Louise Whitehouse who hosted a placement at Leeds told us: “It was exciting to be able to set up a project that will provide us with a valuable resource in the future, and which also allowed our student Asniette to develop new skills.”

Hosting a placement also enabled our staff to learn and develop new skills. Laurents Marker explains: “I supported the placement in Leeds, which helped me to develop my skills in outreach, leadership and communication”.

The year ahead with Nuffield Research Placements

By continuing to partner with Nuffield Research Placements this year, we hope to support even more students on their journey towards higher education and science-related work.

We look forward to establishing a series of projects across the UK, and encouraging our staff to learn new teaching and mentoring skills as part of their personal development goals.

If you would like to hear more about the National Centre for Atmospheric Science’s Community for Change initiative, and our ongoing partnership with Nuffield Research Placements, please contact communityforchange@ncas.ac.uk.