Hashim's research 'challenge'

S6 pupil Hashim Rafiq has just completed a placement on the Nuffield Research scheme and found the experience challenging but extremely enjoyable. Here he reveals how the placement came about and what research he did.

"To apply, I wrote a personal statement explaining why I wanted to do mathematical research and how I would benefit from one place – I was awarded a place and I was 1 of 110 people to be offered the experience.

I then contacted the University of Glasgow to explore the available projects and I chose to do my research on ‘modelling the spread of distemper in Galapagos sea lions’. My modelling was theoretical and so, even though there has not been an outbreak of distemper in the Galapagos sea lion population, my goal was to find out its potential of spreading and to find out what would be the most efficient way of suppressing it before it persists within the population.

Through my placement, I learnt how to:

  • Develop differential equations to represent the spread of disease in a population.

  • Model disease using different types of mathematical models.

  • Input these models into the programming language, R so that I could learn about the dynamics of the disease.

In order to find the best methods to suppress distemper in the Galapagos sea lion population, I carried out social network analysis which allowed me to determine which sea lions had the highest risk of being infected.

Once my research was complete, I presented my poster on ‘modelling the spread of distemper in Galapagos sea lions’ in front of business, engineers and STEM representatives.
Overall, I found the placement challenging but enjoyable as I had a great deal of independent learning to do before and during the project as well as time restrictions. This was also my first experience with computer coding and as a result of my placement, I have decided to continue learning to code.

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