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Future researchers shine at UCLan

09 October 2015

University invites young people to develop research skills  

Some of the region’s most promising young researchers have showcased their talents at an innovative research exhibition at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

The Year 12 students presented their findings from a summer research project run by the University called the Future Researchers programme. The week-long initiative allowed them to play an active role in current UCLan research programmes and work alongside academics and undergraduates to learn about the exciting world of research.

Following successful projects on a variety of subjects from developing a physiotherapy app to designing more effective drugs for type two diabetes, some of the young researchers returned to UCLan to present research posters and share their findings alongside current undergraduate students who have spent the summer developing their own research projects.

"We were able to spend a full week in a lab to develop our research and conduct experiments; by the end of it I felt much more confident being in this environment.”

Girinath Nandakumar, a 17-year-old pupil at Bolton School Boys’ Division, worked with Lancaster Girls’ Grammar School pupil Ruth Swallow, 17, to develop new ways of helping chemistry students determine the structure of organic compounds using a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) machine. They were supervised by chemistry lecturers Rob Smith and Will Stockburn from UCLan’s School of Physical Sciences and Computing and the School of Forensic and Applied Sciences whom both hope that this research can be implemented into the undergraduate chemistry curriculum.

Girinath, who has applied to study medicine at university, commented: “It was great to have access to an NMR machine as it’s rare that we would ever be able to work on one before attending university. We were able to spend a full week in a lab to develop our research and conduct experiments; by the end of it I felt much more confident being in this environment.”

Project partner Ruth is hoping to begin a degree in biochemistry next year. She said: “In just a week we came up with two teaching methods that we feel will help students analyse a compound sample more easily once it has been in an NMR machine which produces a graph to be analysed. This is the first time I have worked in a proper research environment and I’d recommend the programme to anyone looking to develop their skills and confidence.”

"It’s been really interesting and has given me a fresh perspective. Being in a university environment and pushing myself academically has definitely boosted my confidence."

The week-long programme, held on the Preston Campus, attracted 23 students from Preston’s Cardinal Newman College; Lancaster Girls’ Grammar School; Kirkham Grammar School; Carr Hill High School, in Kirkham; Baines School, in Poulton-le-Fylde; St Mary’s Catholic Academy, in Blackpool; Blackpool Sixth Form; St Mary’s College, in Blackburn; Wigan UTC; St John Rigby College, in Wigan; Lancashire UTC, in Burnley; Bolton School; Ormskirk School and Priestley College, in Warrington.

Wigan University Technical College pupil Jason Turner used the project to explore his interest in how the media portrays organic and non-organic food.

The 17-year-old who is applying to UCLan to study games development said: “It’s been really interesting and has given me a fresh perspective. Being in a university environment and pushing myself academically has definitely boosted my confidence and I’m sure that working with UCLan academics on research will be a great asset to my CV.”

The Future Researchers project is an extension of UCLan’s hugely successful undergraduate research internship programme which was established in 2008.

Professor of Research-Informed Teaching Stuart Hampton-Reeves said: “We are very proud of this scheme because it inspires students from a young age to become the researchers of the future.

“It is an extension of our already popular and successful undergraduate research programme and encourages these ambitious and intelligent young people to be creative and really develop the skills they need to go on and be successful in their chosen fields.”