Lab-based work experience helps kids from low-income families

This is a guest blog by Angela Barret from in2scienceUK

in2scienceUK was set up in 2010 by Rebecca McKelvey, a Neuroscience PhD student at University College London.  During her PhD studies, she met many work experience students, but none of them were from low-income backgrounds.

Her previous work as a TeachFirst science teacher in a challenging London school inspired her to set up in2scienceUK, a work placement scheme specifically for A-level students on free school meals or with no family history of higher education. Sutton Trust statistics show that whilst 96% of students from independent schools go to university, this drops to only 16% of students eligible for free school meals.

In 2014, Rebecca and I (a fellow UCL PhD student) are expanding the scheme. We are hoping to provide 100 placements for talented future scientists who may otherwise miss out on lab-based work experience.

How in2scienceUK works

Being a scientist herself, Rebecca ensured meticulous and important information was recorded each year on the background of the participants:

  • 90% were studying two or more sciences at A-level
  • 13% studying all three sciences plus Maths
  • 33% of participants lived in the most deprived 10% of the UK.

The data gathered each year shows that this scheme really works in aiding and inspiring young people from challenging backgrounds to succeed in applying for science at university:

  • participants have gained places at top UK universities including UCL, Imperial, King’s, Bath, Oxford, and Cambridge
  • 73% of the 2013 cohort agreed that doing a placement helped them decide which degree to pursue
  • 93% stated that they will stay in contact with their host supervisor.

Students described highlights of the scheme as being able to carry out hands-on practical work in the lab, meeting new people and discussing their research, and seeing what “real scientists” do. I must also mention that when I have met former in2scienceUK students, I have been so incredibly impressed by their maturity and enthusiasm.

You can find out more on our website and here is a short video:


2014 – more host scientists needed for placements

in2scienceUK cannot succeed without the generosity in time and effort of the host scientists, many of whom I recently met at a “thank you” soiree hosted by UCL Provost Professor Michael Arthur.  Common themes regarding their experiences as hosts were that placement students were engaged, enthusiastic and interested.  Hosts often saw a real change in the students’ confidence in an academic environment by the end of the placement.

Many of the previous hosts will once again take in2science students this year, with this being a fantastic opportunity to make a tangible positive impact – and all within normal working hours!

Now in its fifth year, in2scienceUK is looking to expand the number of placements we can offer.  Currently, we place students at UCL, King’s College and the Natural History Museum, but we are also keen to build links with more institutions.  We are now recruiting enthusiastic scientists from all disciplines to host gifted A-level students for two-week placements this summer.

If you are interested in hosting a student or to discuss working with us, please contact me at by 14th May.

Dr Griangreco from UCL, with two 2013 students who are now studying at Cambridge and Kings College London.

Dr Griangreco from UCL, with two 2013 placement students who are now studying at Cambridge and Kings College London.

Angela Barrett @in2scienceUK