National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR)

Project provider name: National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR)

Where research placements take place: National Institute for Medical Research, Mill Hill

Website: www.nimr.mrc.ac.uk/schools/nuffield/

Nikki Shah, North London Collegiate School

How many years has NIMR offered placements to Nuffield Science Bursary students?
Since the first year they were offered (approximately 1995).

How is the scheme run within NIMR?
We invite applications, seek projects in May/June, interview a selection of applicants. One person co-ordinates this process. Then we treat the successful applicants as part of a Summer School. This year we have had 22 students from 12 schools.

Most projects involve an element of molecular biology so the co-ordinator runs an induction course, introducing students to Molecular Biology, record keeping, pipetting and establishing a sense of collegiality. Students make a poster that they can show at school or any other event in addition to their report to Nuffield. This is useful in stimulating interest in school and among other staff. (ie it overcomes the feeling that a 17-18 year old is unlikely to do much).

The key to getting good students is to have a choice from large numbers. NIMR, in North London is surrounded by excellent schools of all kinds. For the last 2 years we have had 50 well qualified applicants. We run an essay competition that helps us identify individuals who are specially deserving of a place.

Tessa Montague, Camden School for Girls, Summer 2006What do you feel the main benefits of the scheme are?
Students receive first hand experience of how to do experimental work and how to present it.

Every year we have a few students who do something really useful. Another group do an important job collecting preliminary data for a new project. Our young post-docs are increasingly seeing it as an opportunity to hone their managerial skills.

If Nuffield students show their posters etc at school it can have a galvanic effect on the year below. Nuffield students make the claim credible, of being a “Science specialist school”.

Would you recommend the scheme to others?
I personally believe every university has an obligation to provide this kind of experience for the best science students. Almost every successful scientist will look back to a formative experience; a Nuffield placement could provide the spark that initiated a life time engagement with research and give students the maturity to pick the best post-graduate opportunities.