Yesterday I attended an interesting 1 day meeting organized by SCI on New Frontiers in Crop Research http://bit.ly/2cQxOjd. During the discussion about how to engage business and academic communities, I made the point that Undergraduate Research Studentships can be useful here. Typically, these are carried out over the summer pre-final BSc year to help students see if research is for them, and for supervisors to identify emerging talent. The cost to a funder can be just £4K.
There are a good number of funding schemes from learned societies and other agencies and undergraduates are eager for these opportunities. I’m pleased to say that a new scheme is also being developed through the Royal Society of Biology for Defra-funded undergraduate studentships that meet Defra’s research priorities.
Interestingly, one member of the meeting spoke to me afterwards and felt a better way for undergraduates to be engaged with plant science research was by attending the Gatsby Summer School. Fortunately I could tell him that I recommended this as well but this comment prompted me to send these thoughts in this blog.
- First year undergraduates are interested in plants and plant science research – OK, not all of them, but certainly many more than 10 years ago. Expose your first years to the exciting stuff and you’ll easily identify those with ability and motivation for research. The Gatsby summer school does this, but it doesn’t need to be the only way to enthuse undergraduates about plant science research.
- Undergraduate research placements are an ideal next step for summer school students as well as other second years enthused by the opportunities plant science offers. The more there are, the more diverse the topics and the more widely distributed they are around the UK, the more likely students are to consider them. Relocating for a 10 week placement may not be financially possible for some very good undergraduates.
- Funders offering an undergraduate placement can be a good use of £4K, if we start to think about undergraduates as early career researchers. Think of the return if that student not only sees where their skills are needed, but has the chance to add specific skills they know are needed as they finish their University courses.