September 2, 2014
by Ruth Allen
Erin Warner, a 6th year pupil from South Uist, has become the latest pupil to enjoy a six week placement with Marine Scotland Science (MMS), through the Nuffield Science Bursary Programme. The six-week Nuffield Foundation Science Bursaries allow pupils to spend a summer working alongside practicing scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians.
Erin, who was 17 when she took part in the project, said:
“I hope to study all three sciences and go on to study Marine Science when I leave. Near the end of my 5th year, I was made conscious of the Nuffield scheme and applied for a Nuffield Bursary and the opportunity to complete a project at Marine Scotland’s Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen. I was thrilled to be given my own project, where I would attempt to discover whether there is enough food for sandeels in the Firth of Forth.
I have always had a keen interest in biology and chemistry, and have been fascinated by the sea and what it could contain for many years – much helped by the fact that I live on South Uist and am constantly surround by the vast Atlantic Ocean. The project was rather daunting at first; there were a lot of things that I didn’t have a clue about. However, over the six week period, I became aware of a lot of the issues surrounding sandeels and their food, and learning why this part of the food web is so important. After much sorting of samples, and collecting data, I finally had the knowledge to produce a report and poster on the subject!
Right the way through the project I learned a huge deal about the subject and gained a priceless insight into scientific research and techniques used in real life. It has definitely lead to encourage me to study marine science in the future, and maybe even make it back to the lab someday.
Although my mentors, Dr Kathryn Cook and John Dunn, were very busy themselves, they helped immensely with explaining every step of the process, giving me the encouragement and confidence I needed to complete this project and produce a useful piece of work.”
Over the last eight years, MSS has collaborated with the Nuffield foundation to provide projects which can be undertaken by a capable school student with supervision from MSS scientists. The projects are all jobs that MSS needs to have done, so the student has to produce a scientific report and a poster on the project , to the satisfaction of both Nuffield and MSS.
The posters and reports are showcased in a celebration event held by Nuffield at Surgeon’s hall in Edinburgh, where successful students are presented with certificates, and hear presentations from former Nuffield students and a prestigious scientific guest speaker.
Erin has now entered her successful Nuffield project for a Crest award, and later on this year she will enter the Big Bang competition which will be held in Manchester next year. The Big Bang is the largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths for young people in the UK and is by invitation only, drawing on pupils who have achieved scientific excellence from all over the United Kingdom, to have their work judged by a committee of experts in each scientific discipline and age group.
Crest awards and the British Association for Science awards are scrutinised by professional scientists in the particular field that the student has worked in , and are not awarded lightly. Colleges and Universities now use these awards to help them choose potential students.
Previous MSS students have featured both in Nuffield literature and on their website, and that they have also gone on to win the Big Bang out right, and the tomorrow’s water competition, as well as representing the United Kingdom at international events.