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Students complete national STEM programme at Alliance Manchester Business School

Nuffield Future Researchers 2020 programme saw students from The Blue Coat School paired with AMBS researchers for summer placement.

Alliance Manchester Business School has supported a new initiative offering young people from disadvantaged backgrounds the chance to build a career in data science and potentially play a part in a ground-breaking Covid-19 experiment.

Nuffield Future Researchers 2020 is a national initiative that provides more than 1,000 students across the UK with the chance to work alongside professional scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians as they take their next steps towards their careers. It aims to give young people from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to gain skills and confidence in science and research.

This year Alliance Manchester Business School was one of the first business schools to support the programme. Its team, which was led by business engagement lead Dr Richard Allmendinger, provided students with one-to-one guidance throughout their placement and included PhD researchers Chris Rhodes and Andreea Avramescu.

Sixth-form students from The Blue Coat School in Oldham have thanked the team for an “intellectually stimulating and insightful” placement and Nahian Ahmed, aged 17, described the experience as “a valuable and unique way of exploring subjects of interest in detail.”

Nahian, who is set to take A-Levels in biology, chemistry and maths next summer, explored the implications of using age to predict patients' prognoses in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic as part of his placement. He said: “The project provided a unique insight into the implications of a prevalent global pandemic and allowed me to contribute to an area of research which has the potential to transform modern medicine.

“I would definitely recommend younger students to apply for a placement as it is a valuable and unique way of exploring your subjects of interest in detail. With the support of your supervisor you are able to critically think about your area of research to produce a report which demonstrates the independence and investigative skills you learn throughout the placement.”

Andreea, who supported Nahian throughout his placement, added: “Nahian is hoping to study medicine at university and was really keen for a project that would support his university application. It’s been a pleasure to work with him over the summer and the programme has also proved really beneficial for my own PhD studies – as mentors our role is to make sure that we’re communicating clearly and providing the guidance that our students need, both of which are two key skills for any PhD researcher.”

The second placement, which focused on the use of wearable sensor technologies to analyse performance gestures in music, looked at the emerging role of machine learning in modern music composition and was led by Chris Rhodes. Chris has previously been recognised for his research into music composition at the international conference on Intelligent Data Engineering and Automated Learning (IDEAL), and he supported Samina Bibi, aged 17, on her placement.

For Samina, who is hoping to go to university to study computer science and maths, the placement provided some valuable new skills: “I’d definitely recommend the programme to anyone looking to go to university – its provided me with some really helpful context on machine learning that has made me certain in my chosen career path and the report writing element was a complete learning curve for me as it’s not something I’ve had experience with before. It was good fun, too!”

The programme, which is supported by organisations including the British Science Association, BP-Business in the Community and UKRI, is proven to have a positive impact on participants’ access to STEM higher education courses. In 2019 an independent evaluation of the programme found that almost a third of students (32%) enrolled in a STEM course in a Russell Group university and many reported the placement had enhanced their motivation and confidence, as well as helping them to improve transferable skills such as presenting, writing and time management.

Alliance Manchester Business School will continue to support the scheme and intends to expand its intake of placement students in 2021.