Each year the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) offers level 1, 2 and 3 (and 4 in the case of integrated masters) undergraduate students from any science background, 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.

This recruitment round is now closed. Please check back in March/April 2022.

The Research Experience Placement (REP) are intended to encourage these students to consider a career in environmental science. During a REP, an undergraduate student joins the hosting organisation for 6-10 weeks to complete a short-term research project within the environmental sciences.

NERC has repurposed the 2021 Research Experience Placement (REP) scheme, broadening its scope to address both the quantitative skills gap (e.g. mathematics, statistics, computing, engineering) as well as demographic and diversity-related challenges in the environmental sciences. As such, we particularly welcome applications from candidates within these two groups.

FUNDING
A maximum of £3,200 is available per placement. This includes a salary of up to £2,700 available at the National Living Wage for each placement. A further £500 will be available for project research and training expenses if required.

ELIGIBILITY

The REP placement 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. Final year undergraduate students are not eligible to apply (you cannot be graduating this year).
• You must be undertaking your first undergraduate degree (or integrated Masters).
• You must be applying for a placement in a different department (or discipline) to your undergraduate degree (see below)

    • E.g. Biological Sciences students (of all degree titles: marine biology, zoology, environmental science, ecology etc) cannot apply for a project based within either of our biological sciences schools
    • Discipline applies specifically to applicants from the School of Natural and Built Environment which encompasses multiple disciplines such as Geology, Geography, Engineering, Planning etc. In this case, an Engineering student could apply for a Geography project because it is a different discipline to their degree.
  • 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.

We are now accepting applications for summer 2021!

Applicants should complete the below application form, as well as sending a 2-page CV (please include any placements/internships indicating whether these were paid/unpaid) and your record card / provisional transcript (as evidence of grades achieved to date) to sbsinternships@abdn.ac.uk in time for the deadline.

  • University of Aberdeen students can request provisional transcripts from studentrecords@abdn.ac.uk or you can download this from the student portal
  • Queen’s University Belfast students can request provisional transcripts from the school administrator or you can download this from the student portal

Candidates may apply for a maximum of ONE placement project. Multiple applications will not be considered.

Please be advised that you cannot apply for a project within the school or discipline you currently study within e.g. a biological sciences student cannot apply to do a biological sciences REPs placement.

Please apply here: APPLICATION FORM

Deadline: 5pm on Tuesday 1st June 2021

Applications will be reviewed by the project supervisory team after the deadline. Supervisors will identify the most suitable candidate. This candidate will be invited to participate in a brief 15-20 minute interview via Microsoft Teams.

Interviews will be held by a panel of QUADRAT Board members plus an Equality & Diversity representative. The project supervisor will not be present.

You will be assessed on a variety of aspects of your application, not only your academic qualifications. Your potential to successfully deliver the project is critical, however we recognise that everyone’s circumstances are different and opportunities are not always evenly distributed. The application form allows you to identify any circumstances, past or present, that you feel might have influenced the opportunities you had/have to develop skills related to this application. Such circumstances may be directly or indirectly related to education per se. Should you choose to disclose any such information (this is entirely optional), this will allow the panel to assess, from your point of view, your skills relative to opportunities. Information of this type is confidential and will only be read by individuals who are integral to the interview and selection process.

Participation in the REPs scheme comes with a few stipulations, everything you need to know is below:

  • The placement must take place for 6-10 weeks
  • Placements should take place between June and September 2021
  • The successful students will be required to complete temporary employment contracts at the University of Aberdeen in order for payment to be processed. These contracts restrict you to 189 hours of paid work – any work over an above this cannot be paid.
  • You must keep a detailed and accurate record of all hours worked. This will have to be signed off by your project supervisor monthly.
  • Your record of hours worked (dates & hours) must be submitted alongside monthly timesheets detailing your weekly hours in order for payment to be processed.
  • At the end of your placement you will be required to complete an online report for NERC
  • We will also ask you to write a brief testimonial for the website (see others on this page) and a blog post about your experience as part of this placement scheme.
  • You will be asked to present some of your findings to our current students up on completion of the project.

You will be allocated a QUADRAT PhD student as a mentor for the duration of your summer placement. This will be a student who works in a similar or related area of research and may even be within the same research group.

In addition to this there will be opportunities to engage with our QUADRAT PhD students if you wish to learn more about their research and what it is like to undertake a PhD at either the University of Aberdeen or Queen’s University Belfast.

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

Addressing food security through data and innovation: analysing the effectiveness of a novel fruit fly trap for small farmers in a developing country supervised by Juliano Morimoto & David Fisher, School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen

Quantitative methods for authentication of Scottish tea supervised by David Burslem & Tassos Koidis, School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen

Behaviour and growth in fallow deer fawns supervised by Isabella Capellini & Domhnall Jennings, School of Biological Sciences, Queen’s University Belfast

ARCZero: Accelerating the pathway to carbon zero farming by measuring and managing carbon flows at the individual farm level and empowering farmers to make positive change supervised by Paul Williams & Nigel Scollan, School of Biological Sciences, Queen’s University Belfast

Investigation of inter-annual, seasonal and diurnal variability in pollen rain supervised by Gill Plunkett & Lisa Coyle McClung, School of Natural & Built Environment, Queen’s University Belfast

Discovery of interactions between river properties and bridges within built infrastructure supervised by Myra Lydon & Jenny McKinley, School of Natural & Built Environment, Queen’s University Belfast

Investigating the relationship between climatological variables and the timing of lake and river ice phenology supervised by Andrew Newton & Donal Mullan, School of Natural & Built Environment, Queen’s University Belfast

Understanding the distribution of thermokarst lakes across the Himalaya supervised by Anshuman Bhardwaj & Lydia Sam, School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen

Testimonials

“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.”

FAQ's

All science and quantitative disciplines are eligible however you must apply to a project based in a different school/department to that of your degree. How does this work in practice?

  • For example, Biological Sciences students (of any subject are: marine biology, zoology, environmental science, ecology etc) cannot apply for a project based within either of our biological sciences schools, even outwith their immediate degree title e.g. a marine biology student is NOT eligible to apply for an ecology based project. The disciplines are too similar.
  • The School of Natural and Built Environment (QUB) encompasses multiple disciplines such as Geology, Geography, Engineering, Planning etc. In this case, you must apply for a project in a different discipline. For example, an Engineering student could apply for a Geography project because it is a different discipline to their degree, even though it is within the same school.

Please email sbsinternships@abdn.ac.uk if you have any questions.

All science disciplines are eligible however NERC are particularly interested in 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 £2,700 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.

Table 1 UK national minimum wage across age-groups (as of April 2021):

Length of REP 18 – 20 years old 21 – 22 years old 23+
6 weeks £1,456.32  £1,855.92 £1,978.02
8 weeks  £1,941.76 £2,474.56 £2,637.36
10 weeks  £2,427.20 £3,093.20 £3,296.7

This table is based on 2021 National minimum wage; NERC will provide £3200 per REP including £500 for research costs

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.

You will need to keep an accurate record of hours worked, week by week on the project. 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. 

Unfortunately not. If you are completing your honours project and will graduate this year then you are not eligible to apply.

No, the REPs placement is an extra-curricular activity 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 own discipline) as well as to projects in other schools. For example, a civil engineering student based in SNBE could apply for a project within the discipline of Geography, but a Geography student could not. If you are at all unsure please email quadrat@abdn.ac.uk for clarification.

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 and funded 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 it may be beneficial to 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 5 candidates will be awarded the project and funding. We will notify you of the outcome of your application as quickly as possible.

Students should submit a record card (University of Aberdeen) or a provisional transcript (Queen’s). University of Aberdeen students can download this from their student portal or contact infohub@abdn.ac.uk for this.

There will be some paperwork to set up your temporary contract at the University of Aberdeen. This is necessary in order for us to pay you on a monthly basis.

It is a NERC requirement that both the candidate and the supervisor complete a brief final report form upon completion of the placement. This online form will be circulated towards the end of the placement. We also ask that you write a brief testimonial for the QUADRAT website and a short blog post about your placement experience. These resources are useful for future applicants. 

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).

We especially welcome applications from underrepresented demographic groups. ‘Underrepresented demographic groups’ is a very broad and inclusive term which may include but is not limited to the following:

– candidates with a disability
– candidates from ethnic minorities
– first generation university attendees
– candidates from low income / widening participation backgrounds
– candidate who identify as LGBTQ+
– candidates with caring responsibilities
– candidates who, for whatever reason, have had fewer development opportunities

We understand that everyone’s circumstances are different and this cannot always be easily defined. The application form has space for you to write an optional statement for you to include any other information you would like us to consider alongside your application. The above give an indication but is not an exhaustive list.

Yes, you are still eligible to apply but preference will be given to candidates from a quantitative discipline or an underrepresented demographic group.