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Students from across Oxfordshire and beyond spent a week in the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences (NDS) this summer being introduced to our cutting-edge research and the different career paths in science and medicine.

Three female students carrying out microscope lab experiments

Our successful and competitive work experience programme has been running for six years and gives 16-year-olds or over the opportunity observe the hospital in action and take part in hands-on activities within our different research groups.

20 students took part in this year’s programme, which is run separately over two weeks and is delivered by members of staff from across the John Radcliffe and Churchill hospitals, and the Botnar Research Centre.

The placement helped the students to broaden their horizons, raise their aspirations and understand the reality of being a doctor and a researcher, as well as other professions within science and medicine.


Safety induction - Jessica Doondeea provided a tour of NDS on Level 6 in the John Radcliffe Hospital, including the Liquid Nitrogen facility, and explained safety in the lab. 

Quality in Organ Donation (QUOD) - an afternoon learning about organ transplantation research through demonstrations and hands-on practical work with the QUOD team (Dr Hannah McGivern, Dr Letizia Lo Faro, Corinna Snashall, Azita Mellati, Alexender Sagar, Mohamed Elzawahry and Dr John Mulvey), including biopsy retrieval, the methods used to analyse the biopsy samples and organ perfusion. 

Oncology clinics - the opportunity to speak with clinicians (including Associate Professor Richard Bryant and Mr Alastair Lamb), sit in on patient consultations and observe MRI scans, organised by the Surgical Research team (Clare Dunstan, Jane Niederer and Martin Pirkl) at the Churchill Hospital. 

High Intensity Focussed Ultrasound (HIFU) - presentations followed by a HIFU device demonstration and experiment with Professor Feng Wu, Professor David Cranston and Dr Paul Lyon.

Transplantation Research Immunology Group (TRIG) - learning about the use of T cells as potential therapy post-transplant to reduce the need for immunosuppressants and then helping to design an experiment to test the effects of T cells on the suppression of white blood cells in the TRIG labs with Sarah Short and Hisashi Hashimoto.

Global Surgery - Professor Chris Lavy discussed some of the challenges for patients, healthcare workers and health systems in resource-limited settings when building a hospital.  

Neurosurgery - presentation and careers chat with Mr Martin Gillies.

Science Communication - Dr McGivern ran a session on the different ways of communicating scientific ideas. 

Introduction to Clinical Trials - Hannah Rome-Hall, Odette Dawkins, Jessica Scaife and Amy Taylor provided an introduction to the Surgical Intervention Trials Unit (SITU) and clinical trials, the role of the Trial Manager, and the development and running of clinical trials.  

Picture a Scientist - Picture a Scientist is a film which raises visibility around the critical issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in science. Conversations about these issues were facilitated by Emily Hotine, Associate Professor Claire Edwards, Louise KingNatalie Ford and Maria Granell Moreno

Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) - this session with Selena Ryan-Vig and Rebecca Gould from Cochrane UK included an introduction to EBM, discussions about why it is important when making decisions about our health, how we can find out if a treatment is effective and safe, and why it is important to look behind the headlines. 

EQUATOR: Researching the Researchers - with Dr Patricia Logullo.

And finally, the week ended with a feedback session, where the student gave a presentation about their time at NDS, followed by a celebration lunch. 

Students discussing the differences between an academic paper and a science article in pairs.

What the students said about their work experience placement 

‘Prior to this programme, I thought I wouldn’t really enjoy a career in science and that if I did have a career in science, I couldn’t be a doctor. However, this programme has shown me that not only can you do both, but in fact doctors are encouraged to take time out to do research and PhDs. Also, the programme has shown me that there is such a wide range of areas you can do research in and that there will be something that interests everyone.’

‘Through the placement, my interest in experimental and lab-based science as well as clinical science has increased greatly. I was really fascinated by many of the concepts and technology we were introduced to and welcomed the challenge of asking my own questions about the research we were doing.’

‘I found it most useful when we were able to observe and learn about ongoing research. Not only was it the most interesting aspect, but also it was really motivating for me to learn more about those researches. It opened up a window for me to explore and learn.’

‘I found the work with QUOD and TRIG fascinating, as they had a short introduction to their work giving us an overview and basic understanding of what it is that they do, before allowing us to go into the labs for ourselves and study from the scientists. I also enjoyed the variation within the department from observations under microscopy to the understanding of artificial machine kidney perfusion and studying PCR testing.’

‘I loved watching how the HIFU machine worked, because in the past I have been very interested in cancer research and it was amazing to see a new cancer treatment method being used.’

‘I found that talking to many doctors and researchers was very insightful as it showed the paths that can lead to their role. In addition, I was able to also receive honest opinions from the doctors on what a career in medicine is like. I also found the global surgery talk very interesting as its highlighted an area I might want to go into which I didn’t know about before.’

‘Going to the oncology clinic gave me an insight into the job of a consultant and I think it made me more certain that this is something I want to do in the future.’ 

‘Before this placement, I was not sure if research would be interesting to me, but after seeing actual lab work and talking to so many scientists, research sounds very exciting, and I hope to do research in the future. I have become especially fascinated with research because of the range of research topics that you could specialise in. Every scientist I have listened to and talked to was so passionate about their specialty, and I think their devotion to their work has been motivating and has inspired me to hopefully do research when I am older.’ 

‘Thank you so much for providing me with such an amazing and informative experience!’

‘I don’t think I can stress how much I enjoyed this work experience! It was eye-opening and I loved seeing so much and hearing the massively different experiences from so many doctors and scientists! Thank you so much!’