“When I first applied for a placement, I thought I’d be wearing a white coat and carrying out experiments all day. However, when I realised that I’d be doing a data science project, I was really happy.”
Why did you apply for a Nuffield Research Placement?
I like maths and economics and am keen on going to study at university after finishing my A-levels. I didn’t have any plans for the summer holidays, so the opportunity to learn about research in the real world, while doing something useful, was very exciting!
What was your project about and how did you prepare for the placement?
During my placement I worked on identifying patterns in the annual fluctuation of the UK’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). I used a range of statistical techniques to analyse economic data which I obtained from journal articles and online databases. Although I had studied a little of the economic theory behind GDP and knew the basics of data analysis and modelling, most of the subject matter was new to me. To prepare myself for the placement, my supervisor gave me some suggested reading which was extremely useful. Having read around the topic before getting started, I felt much more confident about what I would be doing.
How did your supervisor help you with your research project?
Before getting started, my supervisor explained the purpose of the project and showed me how to use Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) to create modelling programmes in Excel. He went through the purpose of the research project and gave me lots of advice about how to plan and carry out my investigation. Towards the end of the placement, he advised me on how to write up my findings into a formal project report. Throughout my placement I had regular meetings with my supervisor to check how things were going so I always felt supported.
What new skills did you gain as a result of your Nuffield placement?
I have learned a lot about web- and library-based literature research and my formal writing skills have definitely improved as a direct result of carrying out the project. One of the best outcomes was being able to apply the concepts and theories that I’d learnt about from AS-level maths and economics. This really helped me see the value of continuing with my mathematical studies at a higher level. Before I started the project, I was thinking about studying either pure economics or accountancy at university. However, my placement has inspired me to follow a mathematical sciences pathway with emphasis on real-world applications. I feel this will put me in much better stead for the future.