Each year the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) offers level 2 and 3 (and 4 in the case of integrated masters) undergraduate students the opportunity to do a paid summer placement working on a research project within the environmental sciences. Placements are 6-10 weeks long.

For a brief introduction to the NERC REPs scheme and QUADRAT DTP please view our panopto presentation. Please note: this presentation relates to the 2020 recruitment round which has now closed.


A salary of up to £2,700 is available at the National Living Wage for each placement. A further £500 will be available for project research and training expenses.


The REP scheme is open to undergraduate students from any science discipline. Applicants must meet all of the eligibility criteria below:

• You must be a current registered student at the University of Aberdeen or Queen’s University Belfast at the time of application and for the duration of the placement. First and final year undergraduate students are not eligible to apply (you cannot be graduating this year).
• You must be undertaking your first undergraduate degree studies (or integrated Masters).
• You must be applying for a placement in a different school/department or discipline to your undergraduate degree e.g. an Engineering student can apply for a project within Geography but a Geography student cannot apply for a project within Geography, even if it is at a different institution.
• You must be expected to obtain a first or upper second-class UK honours degree (you will need to providing your record card or provisional transcript which can be requested from your university).
• You must be eligible for subsequent NERC PhD funding (details of eligibility for PhD studentships can be found here). Passport confirmation will be required for successful candidates.

The application round for summer 2021 placements will open shortly. Please check back in April/May 2021 for updated information and a list of projects taking place in summer 2021.

Project Catalogue

Implementing a Machine Learning Approach for the understanding of social learning in honeybee foragers supervised by Fabio Manfredini and Juliano Morimoto, School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen

Modelling historical ice phenology data and implications for future environmental change supervised by Andrew Newton and Donal Mullan, School of Natural and Built Environment, Queen’s University Belfast

Assessing the long-term impact of climatic variables on coastal changes in Scotland using geospatial tools supervised by Anshuman Bhardwaj and Lydia Sam, School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen

Climate change and the future viability of Europe’s longest Ice Road supervised by Donal Mullan and Andrew Newton, School of Natural and Built Environment, Queen’s University Belfast

Geostatistical analysis of spatiotemporal trends of COVID-19 spread in UK supervised by Lydia Sam and Anshuman Bhardwaj, School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen


“I’m an MSci Mathematics student at Queen’s University, Belfast, entering into my third year of study. This placement was an invaluable opportunity for me to gain experience in research by working alongside an expert in the field in my project titled Climate change and the future viability of Europe’s longest Ice Road”.

During this project, I was able to work with large sets of data and perform various forms of regression analysis to model how the thickness of the ice roads in seven different locations vary with the temperature. I then compared a number of different models which predicted how the temperature patterns will change over the next 100 years and corrected them for bias. With the models and the future temperature data, I was able to produce predicted values for the thickness of the ice roads in the future for three different climate change scenarios – a temperature increase of 1.5°C, 2°C and 4°C globally.

I was finding it difficult to decide which area of maths I wanted to specialise in, but my work in this project opened my eyes to how much I enjoyed performing statistical analysis, and how rewarding it feels to come to the end of a research project and see what your work has achieved. I have been inspired to change my degree pathway to Mathematics with Statistics and Operational Research, and once I have finished my masters, I now hope to go on to complete a PhD in statistics and enter into the world of academia and research.”

Read more about Emily’s project on the QUADRAT blog.

“Hi! I am a Mathematics & Computing Science student at the University of Aberdeen. I am finishing my BSc this academic year, and my plan is to jump straight into a masters’ degree in Artificial Intelligence after that. I am already between two departments with this degree, but I was super excited to collaborate with researchers from School of Biological Sciences, further strengthening the bond between departments. My project in the NERC-QUADRAT scheme was called: Implementing a Machine Learning Approach for the understanding of social learning in honeybee foragers, which is quite a mouthful.

During the 10 weeks of this project, I worked closely with the researchers to identify the genes that play a key role in the waggle dance. We have used several machine learning algorithms, such as Support Vector Machines, in the programming language R. The pragmatic mindset of a programmer was a major benefit here as it allowed me to see the dataset unbiased. At the end of the project we have successfully compiled a list of possible genes that play a great role during the waggle dance of honeybee foragers. To summarise, this has easily been the most interesting project I have contributed to in my career so far.”

Read more about Marcell’s project on the QUADRAT blog.

“I am an Electrical and Electronics Engineering Student at the University of Aberdeen. A big reason why I decided to study engineering was the wide range of applications, so I was excited when I heard about the opportunity to put my skills to practice in the field of climate change research. I worked on a project called: “Modelling historical ice phenology data and implications for future environmental change”.

During my 10-week placement I processed numerous raw datasets from over 1500 sites capturing environmental data over ~500 years using Python. My background in programming allowed me to use algorithms to automate the statistical analysis, observing key trends in the data to gain a better insight into the changes in ice seasons of lakes and rivers in the Northern Hemisphere. I found it highly motivating, knowing that my work was going to contribute to future research. The placement not only strengthened my confidence in my own capabilities but also encouraged me in my decision to pursue a Data Science masters.”

“Hi, my name is Scott Angus and I am a Physics student at the University of Aberdeen and have just started my third year of studying. My summer research project was titled Geostatistical analysis of spatiotemporal trends of COVID-19 spread in UK”. I saw this placement advertised in an email from the NCS School office and it looked like something that would really interest me as it involved a very current and world-changing topic as well providing an opportunity to work with a new approach to statistical analysis using Geospatial data.

During this project I worked with my two supervisors to gather the daily data regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and compile this into various datasets before working with this in both ArcGIS and R Studio. We analysed the spatiotemporal trends in the spread of the disease and created statistical models to evaluate the effectiveness of various non-pharmaceutical interventions put in place by the Government.

I found it really exciting and rewarding to work on such a topical and rapidly developing area of research, the results of which could help combat future pandemics more effectively and save lives. It also inspired me to do further research in this area for my final year project and beyond.”

Read more about Scott’s project on the QUADRAT blog.

“My name is Milena Zagulak and I’m a 4th-year Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Aberdeen and I was fortunate enough to work on a very exciting project this summer called “Assessing the long-term impact of climatic variables on coastal changes in Scotland using geospatial tools”.  Before starting the project I already had some background in working within the coastal science environment, however, I wanted to experience the real, cutting-edge research. 

During my placement, I composed a library of Landsat images of Scotland between 1970s-2010s, which were used to map out the changes in the Scottish coast in that period and quantify them using ArcGIS Software. Later on, I performed statistical analysis of the meteorological data from various stations around Scotland and how climatic variables such as precipitation and temperature might be linked to the changes within the coast.

I found it very exciting to contribute to such an important project as such a detailed assessment of the whole Scottish Coast has not been done before. The placement helped me to understand what real research entails and encouraged me to further pursue environmental science, hopefully in a form of a PhD or research work.”


NERC is the Natural Environment Research Council and as such the NERC subjects are the environmental sciences such as biology, biological sciences, ecology, marine biology, soil science, geography and geology, archaeology, atmospheric and polar sciences. For the full description please visit the NERC website.

NERC are explicitly looking for candidates with quantitative skills developed outside of the usual NERC subjects. These disciplines include but are not limited to: mathematics, statistics, computing, engineering, physics and chemistry.

Please apply for a maximum of one project. Multiple applications will not be considered.

Yes, you must currently be studying for a non-NERC science undergraduate degree at either the University of Aberdeen or at Queen’s University Belfast. You must be a registered student at the time of the placement taking place and therefore final year undergraduates, recent graduates and alumni are not eligible to apply.

A salary of up to £2,000 is available at the National Living Wage. The successful candidates will be set up as employees and paid a salary at the university’s current living wage of £9.30. The salary will be paid monthly in arrears following submission of a monthly timesheet. A further £500 will be available for project research and training expenses, the costs of which must be itemised and justified in the final report.

Placements will be on a part-time basis, likely 2-3 days per week (max. 189 working hours over the duration of the project). This equates to approximately 18 hours (c. 2.5 days) per week for 10 weeks. You will need to agree a suitable working pattern with the project supervisor – hours can vary from week to week but must not exceed 189 hours in total. REPs placements must be 6-10 weeks long, therefore you cannot complete all 189 hours in fewer than 6 weeks. Monthly timesheets will be required.

No, unfortunately final year students are not eligible to apply because they will no longer be a registered student with the institution at the time the placement takes place. Only 2nd and 3rd year students are eligible, and 4th year students in the case of a 5 year programme such as MEng.

Unfortunately, the answer is no. If you are completing your honours project and will graduate this year then you are not eligible to apply.

No, the REPs placement is extra-curricular and does not contribute towards your degree but is a valuable experience and opportunity to develop new skills.

In this case (amalgamated schools such as SNBE at QUB), students within the non-NERC disciplines are eligible to apply both to the projects within their school/department (but out with their discipline) and to projects in other schools. For example, an engineering student based in SNBE could apply for a project within the discipline of Geography, but a Geography student could not.

No prior knowledge or education in the environmental sciences is required. Projects do not assume knowledge in these areas but instead put value on the quantitative skills you can bring to the environmental sciences. Training will be provided where necessary.

This depends on the project and the work that is required. Some projects require a candidate with a specific background (such as a computer science student) or a specific skill set (such as coding), but others are more general. You are asked to demonstrate how you meet the needs of the project in the application form. Supervisors will select candidates with the most appropriate skills for the project.

Some projects will require you to already have specific skill sets such as coding (specified in project description), however additional training will be provided in the areas required for you to complete the project. Training will vary from project to project – some details are given in the project overview, but supervisors can provide more information if required.

It is expected that applicants will have the capacity and computing infrastructure (internet connection and laptop / desktop computer) to work from home, however some supervisors make specific mention of the availability of a laptop (please see project descriptions). It may also be possible to borrow a laptop from the central university. Please speak to the supervisor in the first instance. Supervisors will provide access to any specialist software.

You are not required to contact the supervisor before applying, but you may do so if you have questions about the project content or skills required.

After the deadline has passed, supervisors will assess the applications they have received and identify the most suitable candidate. One candidate for each project will be asked to attend a brief interview (10-15 minutes) via Microsoft Teams. Once the interviews have been completed, the top 3 candidates will be awarded the project and funding.

Please ask your personal tutor to email sbsinternships@abdn.ac.uk with this information, from their institutional email address. Students can forward this information on if necessary, provided the original sender details are clear. Alternatively, you can submit a record card or provisional transcript. University of Aberdeen students can download this from their student portal or contact infohub@abdn.ac.uk for this.

It is a NERC requirement that both the candidate and the supervisor complete a brief final report form upon completion of the placement. This form will be provided towards the end of the placement. We also ask that you write a short blog post about your placement experience.

A passport check will be undertaken to confirm successful candidates’ eligibility to work in the UK. This process will vary depending on which institution you are registered at, and which project you will be undertaking (whether it is at Aberdeen University or Queen’s).