Solomon's Story: Nuffield Placement
Following a careers talk from CSES, Solomon Malih (Year 12/13) completed a successful Nuffield Research Placement over the 2021 summer holidays. He has kindly told us his story here...
Over the summer, I had the privilege of completing a Nuffield Research Placement. The Nuffield Research Placements are an excellent opportunity to spend two weeks with a subject specialist or industry expert working on a live research topic. As for what you do on this two-week placement, that can vary. I know one placement which was centred around artificial intelligence, whilst another was more practical and involved designing a solution to a real-world engineering problem. Some will be more research-based than others, but they will all likely involve reading academic literature, collecting primary and secondary data, and working with the software used in academia and industry.
I spent two weeks investigating the use of quantum computation for particle physics with a research fellow at the University of Cambridge. Some of the theory and mathematics involved was at an undergraduate or even post-graduate standard, but my supervisor was very patient with me and willing to explain things multiple times if needed. My supervisor's work involved testing a quantum physics concept known as a gauge theory using quantum computation. The particles involved in testing the gauge theory can be modelled as quantum gates, which I implemented in a quantum circuit and simulated using Qiskit, an open-source SDK (software development kit) that provides tools for working with quantum machines.
At the end of the placement, I had to produce a 10-20 page research report outlining my project's aim, findings, methodology, and more.
I'll be honest, the placement is a big-time commitment and demands hard work. Still, if you are willing to try something new, learn from others and challenge yourself, then the placement is something you should seriously consider. Through writing the report, I familiarised myself with software such as Jupyter notebooks and the LaTeX typesetting system, which will undoubtedly aid me in my higher education studies; this was a high point for me. The Nuffield Foundation will set compulsory and optional modules which will prepare you for both doing the placement and producing the report, and they will be there from beginning to end to support you. As a bonus, upon completion of the placement, and if you meet the eligibility criteria, you will receive a £200 bursary to spend on whatever you want. This served as a nice incentive that kept me going at times; I used the money to reward myself with a new phone and some clothes.
If you are thinking of going down the university route, a placement like this on your personal statement will impress any university, including Oxford and Cambridge. With minimal additional effort, you will likely also be able to submit your project work for a CREST award and possibly even the Big Bang Competition.
I want to end with a few words of advice. To anyone hesitant about applying, just go for it! You have nothing to lose and so much to gain! And you may end up regretting it later if you don't. To anyone about to start their placement, make sure to have fun and enjoy it! You have been given the opportunity to work with an actual academic / industry expert!
Finally, I would also like to thank the Nuffield staff at STEMPOINT East and my supervisor, Dr Bipasha Chakraborty, without whom all of this would not have been possible. Thank you!