Chantal Goulder

Chantal Goulder completed her Nuffield Research Placement in 2016 at Durham University. She went on to win in the Senior Science and Maths category at The Big Bang Fair.

Why did you apply for a Nuffield Research Placement?

I applied for a Nuffield Research Placement in order to get a better insight into the world of scientific research. To have the opportunity to work with a scientist for an extended period of time of the summer seemed like an amazing way to get first-hand experience of a research environment.

What was your project about and did you know anything about the area before you started the placement?

My project, Investigating Charge-Transfer States in Organic Donor-Acceptor Molecules, was about a specific type of excited state, called a charge-transfer state that occurs in certain molecules. This excited state plays an important role in a process called Thermally Activated Delayed Fluorescence (TADF), which could potentially help create more efficient OLED devices (alternatives to LEDs and LCDs). I knew basically nothing about this area of research before my placement, so to learn about a whole new branch of science was incredibly rewarding.

Was the placement what you expected it to be?

As I had never met anyone who had done a Nuffield Placement, I didn’t really know what to expect, but one thing that quite surprised me was the level of detail that you go into during your project. My placement allowed me to immerse myself into a whole new subject area, something that you just don’t really get the opportunity to do at school or college. From talking to other students and from my own experience, I can honestly say that it almost feels like you become an expert in one tiny part of a whole subject area.

Did you gain any new skills, both scientific and general work skills, from undertaking your placement?

I gained many new skills undertaking my placement, such as: operation of a spectrometer and fluorometer, preparing samples in a lab, collecting data efficiently and effectively, learning to code so I could graph my data, writing a scientific report and producing a scientific poster. I also feel like I developed a lot as a communicator, as doing a Nuffield Placement often means talking to people about your work and your research.

What was it like presenting your work at The Big Bang Competition?

Having the chance to showcase my work alongside other students was an incredible privilege, and it was a great way to talk to likeminded people about our Nuffield placement experience. I honestly didn’t expect to win an award in the senior science category, so that on top of the experience itself was really amazing.