Reader in Astrophysics, University of Central Lancashire
“The students have supported many ongoing research projects as well as helped the department to explore new areas of investigation. My postgrads have gained useful project supervision experience which enriches their PhD studies. I would strongly recommend the Nuffield programme to other academics – it helps bring the excitement of research to a new generation of highly-talented students.”
What type of research projects do you offer?
Our Nuffield students work on a variety of projects relating to computational galaxy evolution. Previous projects have involved measuring the rate of star formation in galaxies, the shapes of dark matter halos and the signature of a peanut-shaped bulge in the Milky Way. Usually, these projects contribute to larger pieces of work being carried out by research group. Sometimes we design a project in a completely new area, to determine the viability of exploring it further. We ensure that each research topic is clearly defined and that it is realistic for the student to gather the necessary data during a 4-6 week placement.
What motivates you to offer Nuffield Research Placements?
When I arrived at the university I realised that Nuffield placements were a great way of analysing some of my simulations while I was busy completing other research, which enabled me to switch to new projects more easily once ongoing ones were completed. Now that I have a more established research group, the Nuffield students continue to support our research output by extending our work and exploring new avenues of inquiry. I find it very exciting to open the door to the world of academic research to highly-talented young students.
What are the key benefits of hosting Nuffield students?
I actively encourage the students to take part in the academic life of the department through attending seminars and interacting with other members of the faculty, which gives them an insight into university culture. The experience they gain of a research environment helps prepare them for their higher-level studies as well as showing them what a career in academia is like.
Members of our department really enjoy working with the students; my PhD students, in particular, get the chance to talk to them about their research and gain useful skills in supervision and scientific communication. As I have been supporting the programme for several years, I was appointed the Outreach Coordinator for my department which is a great privilege. In the 2014 REF assessment, our department’s outreach work was judged very positively.