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URSS Diary: an insight into a potential career in a research lab

The Undergraduate Research Support Scheme (URSS) provides Warwick undergraduate students from all departments to partake in their own research over the summer months. This summer, I completed my URSS placement in one of the School of Life Sciences labs and can honestly say it was such a rewarding experience.

I applied for URSS because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after uni. My thinking was that if I did URSS I could decide whether I wanted to work in academic research, and maybe apply for a PhD after my degree. Or if I wanted to do something totally different.

My thinking was that if I did URSS I could decide whether I wanted to work in academic research, and maybe apply for a PhD after my degree

The application process was relatively straightforward. In order to find a supervisor I looked through the department’s staff list and read what work different research groups were doing. To the ones that I was interested in I sent an email explaining that I would like to do a placement there. Many academics did not reply to my email, and whilst this was at first disheartening, you have to remember that these are very busy people, and they may not have the time to take on a URSS student. After several emails, I got a reply from my supervisor and I could start on my URSS application.

In order to receive the bursary for your research, you and your supervisor have to complete a joint application explaining what the student will get out of the experience. Whilst this is a rather long process, it was actually very useful as it allowed me to discuss what I was going to be doing in my project in detail with my supervisor.

Many academics did not reply to my email, and whilst this was at first disheartening, you have to remember that these are very busy people, and they may not have the time to take on a URSS student

The time I spent in the lab was really hard work, but I learnt so much in those six weeks. Even basic lab skills are so different in a research lab compared to an undergraduate one, which was something I wasn’t expecting. I wasn’t just left on my own, I worked with one of the postdocs in my lab and was also helped by PhD students.

Overall, URSS has been an invaluable experience. Not only did I develop my lab skills, which will help me if I want to do a PhD later on, I also developed more transferable skills such as time management (turns out six weeks is a very short amount of time!). Most importantly, it has given me a snapshot of what academic research is like, allowing me to make informed decisions about my future career path. I would tell anyone who is considering a career in research to apply for URSS, it was a rewarding experience!

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