Head of Immunology, Animal Health Trust
“For me, the principal motivation for hosting Nuffield students is to share my passion for research and inspire talented and highly-motivated young students to pursue scientific careers.”
What type of research projects do you offer?
The Animal Health Trust has a range of ongoing research programmes which aim to improve our understanding of animal diseases and utilise this knowledge to improve animal welfare. My research group is primarily interested in equine respiratory pathogens and the immune response to these infective agents. Our work focuses on developing our understanding of the immunity which arises as a result of infection or vaccination. All of the projects that we offer are directly connected to these areas, so the students’ work makes a genuine contribution to the team’s research output.
How do you design a suitable project for a Nuffield student?
A suitable Nuffield project should have well-defined objectives which relate to the overall research themes of the immunology unit. These objectives should be realistic given the 4-6 week duration of the placement. It is vital that the technical difficulty of the project is suitable for an A-level student, but the placement should enable them to build on their existing knowledge and enrich their understanding of the discipline. This usually means that the students work with well-established experimental methods that have been shown to produce reliable data.
What are the key benefits of hosting Nuffield students?
As project hosts, the key benefit for us is having enthusiastic young students who are eager to learn about professional science working as part of our research team. All of our Nuffield students have generated very useful, high-quality data which have fed directly into the wider research programmes of the unit. For example, data generated by a recent student was incorporated into a published journal article.
Supervising Nuffield students allows members of the research team to gain skills in teaching a different type of student. Normally, we have students who are partway through their undergraduate or postgraduate studies, but hosting younger students means that the underlying science has to be taught in a different way. This enables a supervisor to improve his or her technical communication and teaching skills.
The students gain valuable experience of a professional research environment – something unmatched in other, more general work experience schemes – which adds significant weight to their university applications. In addition, it is fair to say that their Nuffield experience will really make them stand out from the crowd when it comes to making job applications in the future.