Aquarist, Brighton Sea Life Centre
What motivates you to host a student?
I think it's great that we can show students that scientific research doesn't just take place in universities and 'secret' laboratories. It is also nice to give students the chance to get some hands-on experience of science outside of the classroom. Hopefully, they see that a career in research is something which they can aspire to and that it is both an exciting and rewarding occupation.
How do go about devising a Nuffield Research Placement?
Normally we have a pilot study that we'd like to get of the ground or a problem which needs to be solved. As we house a huge variety of marine species, making the habitat as suitable as possible often requires lots of planning and research. Therefore all of our projects directly relate to the smooth running of the aquarium. We also encourage the students to discuss with us their particular subject interests and try to accommodate these where possible.
What do you feel are the main benefits to the students from taking part in the programme?
They definitely learn how to successfully plan and carry out a scientific investigation. I think that the experience teaches them about resilience as research has a lot of ‘bumps’ and dead ends along the way. Undoubtedly the students learn about problem solving and develop their critical thinking skills.
What benefits have you felt from the experience of hosting students?
On a practical level, we have been able to get answers to questions which we might not have otherwise discovered. Getting the chance to engage with enthusiastic students is a real plus, too. Another benefit is that the public get to see and speak with the students while they are working on their projects, which helps us highlight the fact that Sea Life Centres carry out genuine scientific research. As the students’ supervisor I have found that my own time management and communication skills have improved as well.