by MEGAN LAWRENCE | Nuffield Research Placements Project Officer at STEM Learning


Nuffield Research Placements (NRP), formerly known as Nuffield Science Bursaries, has supported approximately 20,000 post-16 students over the last 25 years to engage in real-life research working alongside STEM professionals.

The collaborative nature of NRP has seen young people work on a range of cutting-edge projects, from machine learning for obstacle detection and collision avoidance in robot boats, to investigating the onset of cognitive deficits in rat models for Alzheimer’s disease and exploring the environment of supernova remnants. In summer 2020 alone, students were at the forefront of pandemic research.

For example, some students worked on computing projects using agent-based modelling to simulate and visualise how COVID-19 spreads in a crowd. Others had environmental projects that explored the impact of COVID-19 on air quality in Edinburgh or the growth rate of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Bioinformatic projects had students analysing different sequences of COVID-19 to work out amino acid changes whilst others engaged in relevant aspects, such as the impact of social distancing on young carers and analysis of coverage in US and UK print media.

All this inspiring work not only has a hugely positive effect on each student, but it also leads to fantastic opportunities. Nuffield students’ work is regularly published in peer-reviewed journals, as well as presented in UK and international competitions. Former Nuffield students have gone on to become Deputy Editor at the New Scientist, founder of the Youth STEM Summit and CEO of the Journal of Young Investigators to name but a few. One former student, now a professor of clinical and bioanalytical chemistry, hosts current students and has done since 2010, saying: “Inspiring the future generation into the field of research and developing their transferable skills was something I felt would be of great benefit to the students. It would also give them the glow and joy of what research can bring and hopefully spark their interest in a subject area”.

We are excited that STEM Learning has now taken over the delivery of this highly regarded and prestigious programme, which puts students at the centre of innovative research and design, providing them with insights into future STEM or STEM-related education and career pathways. We do this at no financial cost to the school or host organisation thanks to ongoing funding from the Nuffield Foundation and support from UK Research and Innovation.

NRP is available to Year 12 (or equivalent) students from across the UK and from low socio-economic or first in family backgrounds. The NRP team focuses on supporting these students with a range of activities designed to equip and develop their STEM research, communication, data and digital skills. These activities sit alongside real-world collaboration with a knowledge expert and optional supplementary workshops and webinars that are geared towards careers guidance and training on key topics, eg Python.

We are proud to say that NRP has been shown to successfully target disadvantaged students and:

  • increase their likelihood of enrolling in a STEM course at a Russell Group higher education institution
  • increase the number and quality of STEM A levels achieved
  • improve student understanding of what STEM researchers do on a day-to-day basis
  • enhance transferable skills, such as communication, time management and data skills

The programme runs on an annual cycle: 

  • autumn/winter: applications open and students approach one teacher to provide a reference alongside parents or guardians providing relevant eligibility information
  • spring: application deadline closes, eligibility checks take place, placement matches are confirmed and students begin an independent study support package to be completed at their own pace
  • summer: placements take place across the UK with all activities followed by celebration events to mark students’ incredible achievements 

“I have gained irreplaceable knowledge, I have made connections with multiple academics in a top Russell Group university. It has been a journey in independence, in expanding my ability to learn new things. I was unsure about doing the placement before but I am glad I did it because it has changed my life for the better.”
Student – Neale-Wade Academy, Cambridgeshire

“I think it is brilliant. Both of my students have difficult backgrounds and I think it has really helped them with life skills as well as giving them a career focus.” 
Teacher – Our Lady’s Catholic College, Lancaster

“This is an excellent accolade to discuss in their personal statements and pushed them to complete work outside of their comfort zone. [The students] have both shown increased confidence and resilience.”
Teacher – Camborne Science and International Academy, Cornwall


Support your students

We hope to widen our reach to more students every year so if you would like to find out more about how you can support your students to apply, please visit our Nuffield Research Placements web page