It was really exciting to be working on current research which could really make a difference to the field

A profile photo of Jessica Williams with an umbrella.
Jessica Williams
SURE scheme summer placement
BSc Psychology
Jessica joined the Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) scheme this summer to complete a paid 6-week research project in our department. During her placement, Jessica worked with academics to investigate whether children’s early maths skills were related to their executive function skills, socioeconomic status or home maths activities.

During the summer of my second year, I had the opportunity to take part in the university SURE scheme within the department of Psychology. I worked with Dr Emma Blakey and Ella James-Brabham from the cognitive development lab, to investigate whether children’s early maths skills were related to their executive function skills, socioeconomic status or home maths activities.

I became interested in this topic area during my level two developmental psychology module, when we had a lecture about socioeconomic status and maths ability.

I wanted to know more about children’s early maths skills and what might influence them, and the SURE scheme was the perfect way to dedicate some time to exploring the research area in more depth.


My SURE project was extremely varied, and it gave me many valuable transferable skills which I know I will use throughout the rest of my degree and my future career

Jessica Williams

BSc Psychology


My SURE project was extremely varied, and it gave me many valuable transferable skills which I know I will use throughout the rest of my degree and my future career. I had the chance to carry out a systematic review, looking at all of the articles that have been published about the home environment and children’s early maths ability.

This is not something that I would usually have done during my undergraduate degree, so it was an amazing opportunity. Working on the systematic review gave me skills in searching for literature, using databases, thinking critically about research, and evaluating the relevance of papers. It also gave me a much wider knowledge of the subject area, as well as general skills in organisation and time management.

As well as the systematic review, I also helped with Ella’s PhD research into the impact of executive function and socioeconomic status on children’s early maths skills, which is being supervised by Emma. This involved testing in nurseries, which is something I thoroughly enjoyed doing.

Testing in nurseries not only gave me the opportunity to work with children in a research setting, but it also taught me a lot about the process of carrying out research studies. We were pilot testing measures which are going to be used in a longitudinal study, so I was able to see how the measures were developed and refined based on the data we collected.

Working with children was really rewarding and fun, and I loved being able to go back into the nurseries at the end of testing to tell the teachers and parents what we had found.

Both Emma and Ella gave me a lot of support during my project, and I learnt so much about my topic, as well as what it might be like to have a career in research. My SURE placement has inspired me to apply for a masters in Psychology, and to hopefully continue on to a PhD and possibly a research career.

I thought it was really exciting to be working on current research, which will contribute to our understanding of children’s early maths ability and could really make a difference to the field. I enjoyed working on this project so much that I decided to continue working on it for my level three research project.

I am looking forward to continuing my work, and also to presenting the findings from my SURE project at the showcase early next year


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