Paige Stevenson is currently in the second year of a BSc Neuroscience degree at the University of Leeds. In her first year she secured a place on the Laidlaw Scholarship research programme, this allows first year undergraduates to pursue research on a topic they are interested in, develop leadership skills and improve their knowledge, skills and experience to increase their employability.
A year ago, I had no idea about the Laidlaw scholarship or any of the opportunities that it could offer me. Fast forward to now: I have learnt so much about my subject, published an article in an online newsletter and presented at an undergraduate conference.
Not once have I regretted my decision to apply – I hope this article will demonstrate the skills and opportunities that you too could gain.
How did you hear about the Laidlaw scholarship?
Two scholars came into our lectures and explained what the scholarship was and why they thought it was beneficial. You can find full details here on the Laidlaw Scholarship and how to apply
Have you got any advice for those considering taking part in the scheme?
Approach the academic you are interested in working with before submitting your application. This is vital if you want to propose a project idea of your own, but I would also stress its importance if you want to join an academic’s project. You can find out in-depth information about the project you will be working on from the person who is most knowledgeable about it.
If you have any concerns, these can be vocalised and you can usually come to an easy solution. Both of these factors will increase your confidence once you start the application process as you will have no doubts that this project is something you are passionate about and want to invest a lot of time into.
Make a few bullet points of things you would like to discuss, especially if there are concepts you do not understand. This will ensure you remember to address everything and demonstrate your commitment to learning more about the research you will be carrying out.
What skills have you developed as a result of conducting research?
Conducting research has impacted me in many more ways than I first envisaged: I am more aware of what is involved in research, I have widened my laboratory skill set and I have built connections with academics and peers.
I worked at an Education Outreach Day at a primary school with the aim of increasing the students’ awareness of higher education opportunities. As part of this day, I led an activity with the students called ‘Need, Want, Luxury’ with the aim of sparking discussion in a group.
The students often spoke over each other so it was vital that I learnt how to hold the attention of the room. This required explaining concepts in a way that a younger audience could understand to engage them in what I had to say- my leadership and communication skills were certainly developed as a result.
Have you had any opportunities as a result of conducting the scholarship?
The Laidlaw Scholarship has given me a metaphorical ‘foot in the door’ when it comes to new opportunities. Beyond those offered by the scholarship itself, such as the residentials and leadership workshops, there are numerous events that you can choose to attend.
I would highly recommend jumping at the chance as it is through these that I feel I have been pushed out of my comfort zone to see what I am capable of.
This summer, I attended the International Conference of Undergraduate Research to present my work and answer any questions during a scheduled Q&A session. Public speaking used to be something I actively avoided; if you’d told me a year ago that I would be not only attending a conference but speaking at one, I wouldn’t have believed you!
I have become much more confident at recognising the value of what I have done and conveying this to others in a professional way.
I have submitted an article written on the subject of my research to Bright Brains, an online and printed newsletter produced by the British Neuroscience Association. It will be published in the online section later this year and the condensed version is currently under review to be selected for the printed newsletter. I hope with this article to promote the benefits of microglia research to other students and postgraduates in order to increase its visibility within the neuroscience community.
If you are a first year undergraduate at the University of Leeds and want to pursue research whilst building your skills, developing personally and becoming a next generation leader, ready to solve the world’s intractable problems then find out more about the Laidlaw Scholarship I have benefitted hugely from the scheme, perhaps you could too!
The Laidlaw Research Scholarship applications open on 1st December 2019, read more about the Laidlaw Scholarship programme. For further insight you can read a Laidlaw Scholar blog post by Ghadir Ghasemi
If you need support finding opportunities or help with applications we are here to help.