Dr Farath Arshad
Head of the Centre for Health and Social Care Informatics (CHaSCI), Liverpool John Moores University
How do you select suitable projects?
Since I supervise the students myself, and I work part time, I generally offer two to three placements each year. This is to make sure I have enough time to dedicate to each student. I have been offering placements for around six years now. The students work in the School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, where I am based.
I give the students the freedom to select their own projects, but give them a helping hand if they cannot decide on a project. Generally the work that Nuffield students do contributes to streams of work already being done at CHaSCI.
What motivates you to provide placements?
I am a STEM ambassador, so I already had a strong interest in promoting science education, and this scheme was a good way to further that interest. I am particularly keen to promote female interest in the subject of computing, as historically this is a male-dominated subject area. My specialism of medical informatics is a growing subject area but not many students are aware of this as a career option, so this scheme is a great way of promoting the subject area.
The targeting of the Nuffield Research Placements scheme to a diverse range of students, particularly those who may not get an opportunity like this otherwise, is something I am very supportive of.
What benefits do you get from supporting the scheme?
It is important that we, as scientists, demonstrate how our work is applied in real life situations, and how our work interacts with a variety of subject areas, such as health and technology. This scheme offers a chance for us to show the relevance of our work.
The work done by the Nuffield students also contributes to the wider work of the Centre. We had one student who developed a website about teenage pregnancy, which gathered interest from Liverpool Community Health Trust; they liked the fact that it was a website designed by a young person, for young people.
LJMU is always keen to take part in a range of public engagement activities, and the Nuffield scheme is a great way to take part in outreach activities with local schools and colleges.
What do the students get from the placement experience?
The students get to experience university life. They get to experience the processes and routines that are involved when undertaking research, and get a feel for what a research environment is like. As part of this they also learn to work independently, and understand that these skills will be required at university and eventually within their career.
The placements we offer here at CHaSCI show students different areas of work that they may not have known about from school or previous experiences. It opens their eyes to a different subject area. We see many students wanting to go into Medicine, but these placements show them there are many other options available to them.