“An Institute of our size, with over 500 staff, already welcome dozens of young people every year to do work experience with our researchers” explains Dr Catarina Vicente, Communication and Public Engagement Officer “However there was a perception that many of these students had personal connections to our researchers or came from more affluent schools”.
The MRC WIMM therefore decided to partner with in2scienceUK, a London-based charity that specialises in organising STEM placements for year 12 students from under-represented backgrounds.
“Ensuring that all students, regardless of background and family connections, have the opportunity to gain experience working alongside researchers and other STEM professionals is key to helping youth from low-income communities realise their potential as future scientists.” said Danielle Thibodeau, Director of in2scienceUK “We are thrilled to have the chance to introduce the next generation of researchers to the great work being done at the MRC WIMM”
The partnership resulted in the establishment of the first MRC WIMM work experience programme. 19 young people spent two weeks with us at the beginning of August. During their time at our Institute, each student was assigned to a specific mentor and immersed themselves in lab life, having an opportunity to observe real science in action, as well as learn practical techniques and do their own experiments.
“This was a wonderful group of youngsters. I hope that their time in the MRC WIMM has given them the enthusiasm and confidence to realise that they can become the next generation of young scientists who will make the breakthroughs we hope for in the future.” - Prof Doug Higgs, MRC WIMM Director
In addition, students also participated as a class in a variety of sessions organised by researchers from across the Institute. They learnt about haematology, immunology and oncology, three important research topics at the MRC WIMM, discussed the ethics of genome editing and visited our state of the art flow cytometry and imaging facilities. The MRC WIMM Centre for Computational Biology provided a practical session on computational biology, an essential area for any budding biologist, and the students also visited some of the cardiovascular facilities at the John Radcliffe Hospital.
The two weeks concluded with presentations by the students and a celebration with mentors and others that participated throughout the programme.We wish all the best to our work experience students in their future endeavours!