Dumfries Academy pupil completes prestigious summer posting on Nuffield Research programme

By Jackie Grant

A Dumfries Academy pupil has successfully completed a summer posting as part of one of the most prestigious science, technology, engineering and maths placement schemes in the country.

Rebecca Scott, 17, had been accepted onto the Nuffield Research programme which is available to senior pupils and provides “engaging, hands-on research projects” where students have the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution towards the work of a host organisation.

The scheme has pupils go through a well supervised but independent research collaboration relating to an area of science, quantitative social science, computing, technology, engineering or maths.

Rebecca’s biology teacher, Dr Berry, recommended her for the placement and after certain criteria was met.

And she was accepted onto a nine-week collaboration, working on a real-life scientific project alongside Dr Shoko Sugasawa from the School of Biology at St Andrews University.

Her topic for research was Practice Makes Perfect, an investigation into how zebra finches learn physical skills involved in the most essential step of nest building – nest material collection.

Ninety-two students from all over Scotland were accepted onto the programme, which concluded with each of them producing a 20-page report on their findings as well as a poster reflecting their work.

These were then entered into an overall competition judged by Frank T Murray, former treasurer of the Royal Society of
Chemistry.

After selecting Rebecca as the winner, he said he felt her poster was well-presented and told the story of her research project well, as well as using useful images to help the person viewing the poster understand her
project.

Frank said the immense time and care Rebecca had put into her project was apparent and presented her with £250 Amazon vouchers.

The teenager was also presented with a silver CREST award for the high quality of work she produced.

CREST is the British Science Association’s scheme for STEM project work that inspires young people to think and behave like scientists and engineers. This award was signed by Professor Alice Roberts, president of the British Science Association.

Rebecca, from Islesteps, managed to complete her Nuffield project in her own time while also undertaking various volunteering placements and work experience including farms, a vet’s practice, the Highland Wildlife Park and a course at Edinburgh Zoo.

Her mum, Rosie, said: “The family are immensely proud of Rebecca’s achievements. She has worked tirelessly through the pandemic on her studies in order to pursue her lifelong passion of studying veterinary medicine at university.”


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