For many of us, the thing we most look forward to during the long summer break is the opportunity to get as far away from university as possible and clear our minds of anything Imperial-related. However, for anyone considering a career in scientific research, it may well be worth putting this daydream aside and instead getting involved in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP).
UROP placements are organised within Imperial College, with the aim that the student involved gains experience within the field of research being undertaken by a particular member of staff or research group. A placement typically lasts for 6-10 weeks during the summer vacation and may involve carrying out a project of your own. There is a list of available opportunities on Imperial’s UROP page. However, if nothing there interests you, it is probably worth contacting any lecturers you know who specialise in topics which you do want to get involved with – some may never have heard of UROP but may still be keen to have extra research help over the summer months. Once you have organised a placement with a suitable supervisor, this can be registered with UROP.
Now to tackle the ever important question – are the placements paid? There is no straightforward answer to this, as it largely depends upon the amount of funding available to your UROP supervisor’s department. However, even if the department is unable to provide a bursary, it may be possible to apply for one from a “third party sponsor” such as Imperial College UROP Bursaries. The value of bursaries awarded will vary and may be given in different forms. For instance, when I carried out a UROP placement in 2011, I was not paid directly but did receive free accommodation in halls.
Carrying out a UROP placement is a great stepping-stone into the world of scientific research. The experience I gained during my 6 weeks working at Silwood Park definitely helped me to secure the Year in Industry placement which I am now carrying out with the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. And even if you have never considered life as a scientist, UROP may be a good option if you are yet to secure a summer internship – doing work related to your subject could help you in the context of your degree, and of course any experience to add to your CV can only be a good thing!
- UROP: Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme
- Placement length: 6-10 weeks
- Payment: can range from nothing to bursaries of up to £300/week
- Website: www.imperial.ac.uk/urop
- Ideal if you’re thinking of doing a PhD