Formulation Technician, Alliance Boots Technical Centre, Nottingham
"A Nuffield Research Placement is a great opportunity for us to be able to engage with students interested in scientific and technical subjects. The students gain a valuable insight into the world of commercial R&D and they come away from the experience with an enthusiasm for product development work."
What motivates you to host a student and what sort of projects do you offer?
I have been supporting the Nuffield Research Placements programme for two years now and find it a very rewarding experience. It is a great opportunity to connect with students interested in science and technology and see them develop a passion for industrial research and development work.
The research projects that we provide are highly practical and directly relate to the commercial aims of the company. At the same time, we make sure that the research problem is something that will be both interesting and beneficial to the student. Students look at issues relating to the formulation of existing product lines as well as investigating the development of new products.
What are the main benefits of supporting a Nuffield student?
From our perspective, we are able to devote time to projects which would otherwise be shelved due to a lack of human resource. The students are bright, keen and enthusiastic and they often provide us with a new perspective on results which we had previously missed. A fresh pair of eyes is always helpful!
The students gain a valuable experience into the world of research and get to see what a science-based occupation is really like. They always come away from the placement with a better understanding of the industrial/manufacturing sector which helps them make informed career decisions on their return to school or college.
The Nuffield programme is recognised as an annual event within our department and the cosmetics team has certainly benefited from the work that the students have carried out.
Do you feel the experience of supervising a student has aided your own professional development?
Supervising a Nuffield student is a great opportunity to expand my workplace coaching and training skills. You really do have to go back to the basics and think about how to get across a highly technical subject to someone without any prior knowledge of the area. The process makes you think carefully about your communication style and how to vary your approach to suit the circumstances. Furthermore, my organisational skills have definitely improved as a result of supporting the students as I have to balance my own workload with the student's timetable.
Has this activity helped you to communicate your area of work to a wider audience?
The programme has given us the perfect vehicle to engage with the next generation of R&D specialists and help them consider a career in the field. Our department is relatively small so hosting a student gives us the chance to showcase what we do at Boots Alliance. Being able to share our expertise and highlight how varied and interesting a job in industry can be is a real positive for us.