College of Human and Health Sciences support summer psychology research interns

Swansea University’s College of Human and Health Sciences has welcomed four budding psychologists to work alongside established researchers as part of a scheme that provides young people the opportunity to work in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) field.

Nuffield Placements‌Image: Dr Laura Wilkinson, Dr Michelle Lee and Dr Ruth Horry with students from the Nuffield Foundation Research Placement scheme.

Ellie James, Cariad O’Brien, Emily Huntley and Shannon Treadwell, all Year 12 students from South Wales, spent six weeks with the College’s Psychology Department as part of the Nuffield Foundation scheme.

The Nuffield Foundation is a charitable trust that aims to improve social well-being by funding research and innovation in education and social policy and building research capacity in science and social science. Nuffield Research Placements provide over 1,000 students each year with the opportunity to work alongside professional scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians.

Shannon Treadwell, who studies at Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Llangynwyd in Maesteg, worked alongside fellow pupil Emily Huntley and Dr Laura Wilkinson and Dr Michelle Lee of the college’s Psychology Department, as part of the SNAC  (The Swansea Nutrition, Appetite, and Cognition group) on a project on eating behaviour.

Shannon said: “I heard of the Nuffield Research Placement through an e-mail my head of sixth form had received. I decided to get involved in order to gain more experience with the university type of life, and also to have more experience with the subject of Psychology.

“Our group worked on an experiment for ‘Sensory-Specific Satiety’, which is the automatic process inside the human body when the appetite will grow, and humans will continue to consume an amount of food (even if they are already feel full), if the variety of food on offer is increased or a new type of food or flavour is presented to an individual.

“My favourite thing about the project was reading all of the old articles on the subject that have already been published.  I also enjoyed holding an experiment, because it’s interesting and a lot of fun.

“I hope to continue studying A Level Psychology in school and I hope to study the subject later on in university. The Nuffield Research Placement at Swansea University was an amazing experience.”   

Ellie James, who studies at Brynteg Comprehensive School worked on a project with fellow pupil Cariad O’Brien and Dr Ruth Horry and Dr Jeremy Tree from the college’s Psychology Department.  Their project researched our ability to detect face-like patterns in trees, clouds, and objects.

Ellie said: “I was asked by my teacher to apply to Nuffield because of my keen interest and love for the subject of psychology.

“The project I was part of in the summer was about pareidolia. This is the phenomenon of seeing a face or pattern where it doesn't usually exist. Think of trees or clouds for an example. Most people have probably had the experience of thinking they could see a face in them when in actual fact, there's not one there at all. My project aimed to find out why people experienced this and if individual differences affected pareidolia.

“I really enjoyed the experience as I love to do independent research on the various topics surrounding pareidolia. I most enjoyed creating and carrying out the experiment on participants as it was exciting to see the physical data afterwards. I also enjoyed being able to experience a part of "university life" throughout my placement, it definitely confirmed my choice of wanting to go to university.”

Ellie added: “I would like to say thank you to the Department of Psychology in Swansea University for allowing me to have my Nuffield placement there, and thank you to my supervisor, Ruth Horry, for all of her help and guidance throughout the project.  Also, if any year 12 students are thinking about applying for a Nuffield placement, I would advise them to do so!”

Ruth Horry, a Psychology lecturer who worked alongside the students on one of the projects said: “The Department of Psychology hosted four Summer Research Internship students over the summer, who received bursaries from the Nuffield Foundation. These students were involved in various research projects, putting together materials, designing experiments, and even collecting data. All of the students involved thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and learnt a lot from it – about the process of science, about thinking critically and solving problems, and about the world of work”