Rory Back completed his Nuffield Research Placement in 2010 at the Halton & St. Helen's NHS Primary Care Trust. He went on to study Chemistry at Durham University and now works as a Technologist at Pilkington Technology Management Limited.
What was your project about?
The title was 'Report on the provision of sexual health services and information to young people in Halton & St Helens.' It was quite different to many of the projects that the other participants exhibited in the poster session. I was based at the Halton & St Helens NHS PCT which was the body that locally coordinated healthcare provision (alongside Strategic Health Authorities) before the establishment Clinical Commissioning Groups and the NHS Trust Development Authority. The aim was to use data from the PCT, including surveys of young people from the area, to analyse the availability and effects of the dissemination of sexual health information and services to young people. The main tasks were data collection, input, statistical analysis, and presentation.
The team at the PCT included doctors, dentists, statisticians, administrators, and other public health professionals. I worked alongside them to produce the report, which not only served as my final report for the Nuffield scheme, but a useful piece of work used by the PCT themselves.
What was the highlight/best bit of your placement?
Knowing that my work and that of the team could help to improve the lives and futures of young people in one of the most impoverished regions in the UK, rather than just sit in some obscure journal.
What was your least favourite part of the placement?
What is your current role?
For myself and my role, there is no such thing as a typical day. My activities vary from planning and carrying out laboratory work, completing reports and paperwork, attending meetings and discussions, and administrating the department. Key skills required are chemistry expertise, time management, technological proficiency, teamwork.
My favourite part of the role is travelling around the world developing new processes for the company, as well as attending scientific and industrial conferences. I couldn’t say that there is anything I dislike about the role, although one downside of working in such for R&D in industry means you can’t tell anyone about all the amazing things you are working on, for trade secrets purposes.
The work differs a lot from undergraduate level. I have the resources to plan my own experiments. The inherent level of danger is a lot higher so there is an understandably large amount of work focused on health and safety. The field is very competitive, both breaking into it, and competing against rival businesses.
If you could give one piece of advice to Nuffield students about to start a placement what would it be?
Enjoy yourself, don’t get too stressed out, and try to learn as much as you can from the supervisors, mentors, and colleagues around you. Keep in mind that one placement may not be representative of an institution, subject, or industry as a whole. Of course, remember to put it in your C.V afterwards!