In2ScienceUK Programme Officer Saffron Hill on our first virtual panel discussion

For the previous two months, I have been working solidly on creating a series of skills workshops for nearly 600 students. Thursday marked the first session, on our new online platform, and the first opportunity to see the results of our team’s hard work.

The UCL Biomedical Academia Panel did not disappoint. A selection of researchers from the Department for Neuromuscular Diseases at UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology introduced our students to life as a Biomedical academic. The Department is a regular and committed supporter of the In2scienceUK programme, often hosting students in their lab. You could tell this from their excellent communication with our students. They expertly answered a range of questions; from how Stephen Hawking lived for so long with motor neuron disease, to their motivations for entering their field.

Charlotte Spicer, a PhD student speaking on the webinar, acknowledged the benefits of being able to offer a work placement opportunity in these trying times. “Despite not being able to give the students the normal taster of the lab, the webinar was a fantastic opportunity to be able to share our experiences with them, give an insight into what a career in academic research involves and discuss the different paths we followed to get where we are.”

The talk was not even devoid of humour. When one of the researchers unmuted themselves to talk at a cafe, the sounds of happy birthday could be heard loudly from the table across. I was glad my mic was on mute and my laughter didn’t disturb the conference. The other researchers on the panel joined in laughing. This demonstrated one of the most significant lessons of the In2scienceUK Programme to our students, many of whom have never met a scientist before. That scientists are ordinary people. With our students coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, helping them to understand that people like them are in science, is an important part of our message.

I will end this blog with a piece of advice to students from Bernadett Kalmar, a Senior Research and Teaching Fellow at UCL: “It is all about motivation, drive and your interest that should guide you, dare to ask and express yourself, so that you gain as much experience as possible during your undergrad years.” 

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