Nuffield Research Placement: Applying data science and machine learning

a portrait photo of Ifaz Ahmed, Nuffield Research Placement Student

Ifaz Ahmed, Nuffield Research Placement Student

Working with Nuffield Research Placement Scheme co-ordinators, Dr Pallavi Anand promoted the scheme across STEM to host nine ‘A’ level students during the summer of 2022. Students were placed in various academic schools in the STEM Faculty.

One of the placement students (Ifaz Ahmed) and his host (Dr Dhouha Kbaier), based in the School of Computing and Communication, have captured their experiences of the summer placement in this post.

Ifaz’s perspective

My placement was evaluating the application of data science and machine learning in different research areas (e.g. identifying transaction fraud in finance, or identifying patterns in lifestyle or medical records in patients with a specific disease or illness), and exploring it through Python.

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Reconstructing past ocean physical properties

During the summer holiday, I took part in a research placement with Dr Pallavi Anand in the School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences at the Open University, organised by the Nuffield Foundation. The placement involved coding a MATLAB toolkit to a more accessible program such as Python that would use paleoclimate data to solve for past seawater temperature, oxygen isotope and salinity.

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Supporting a Nuffield Research Student

Sophie Alexander, The Open University.

Sophie Alexander, The Open University.

Over the summer, I mentored a Nuffield Research Student.

I was originally interested in getting involved in the scheme to gain experience in teaching and mentorship.

The student, Zaibaa, worked to complete a pilot study, the results of which are now actively informing my PhD research direction.

My time mentoring Zaibaa was really valuable; it challenged me to teach the scientific method of hypothesis testing to someone else.

Further to this, I gained experience in project management and how to give feedback – which was harder than I thought!

I’d highly recommend other PhD students consider designing and mentoring a Nuffield student in the future, particularly if you’re interested in gaining experience of supervising projects.

Dr Pallavi Anand (project providers) supported my work as my PhD supervisor. I’m grateful for the the opportunity and funding from Nuffield Foundation.

Fishing in the Atlantic!

Zaibaa Mehmood, Luton Sixth Form College

Zaibaa Mehmood, Luton Sixth Form College.

During my summer holidays, after my first year at college, I took part in a Nuffield research placement at the School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences (EEES) at the Open University.

During this placement, I worked alongside a PhD student Sophie Alexander to analyse marine sediment (or mud in simple terms).

The main aim was to investigate surface ocean productivity in the Southern and Atlantic Ocean during the early Eocene. This was broken down for me into smaller aims as below:

  • Create smear slides of mud samples from different sites
  • Identify components on slides using a polarising microscope
  • Compare analysis of 3 different sites and decide what changes there are and how they were caused
  • Use the data gained to improve knowledge of ocean productivity during a warm greenhouse period.

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Searching for ‘diamonds’ in the rough

During the summer holidays I completed a five-week Nuffield Research Placement. This took place at the Open University in the School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences (EEES).

My project was to assist in exploring the nature of gypsum crystals found in deep-sea sediments from monsoon region.

A microscope view of gypsum crystals.

A microscope view of gypsum crystals.

My aims were to:

  • Investigate ocean sediments;
  • Identify crystals (quartz or something else?) and other marine, terrestrial and minerals formed during the sediment deposition, using a binocular microscope;
  • Determine the relative abundance of crystals with respect to other known fragments, such as pyrite and biogenic components;
  • Evaluate environmental changes related to physical weathering or any other processes operating during the sediment deposition.

This was all to help answer two related questions: 1) how were these crystals formed; and 2) what conditions were needed?

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