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UCLan’s leading academics seek out stars of the future

16 May 2013

Chris Theobald

University launches new initiative for high achieving students

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has unveiled a new initiative, believed to be the first in the UK, aimed at building long-term relationships with high achieving students and staff from regional schools and colleges.

The UCLan Young Researchers Scheme, launched on Wednesday, 15 May, will enable Year 12 (lower sixth) students to play an active role in current research programmes taking place at the University. The project will be piloted during the summer months and is an extension of UCLan’s hugely successful undergraduate research internship programme which was established in 2008.

The Government’s announcement that English universities will be able to take unlimited numbers of students who achieve ABB in their A levels in 2013 means that universities need to redouble their efforts to attract larger numbers of high achieving students.

“We believe that the spirit of enquiry should be at the heart of higher education and that research gives students the opportunity to go beyond their formal learning and helps to forge new knowledge."

UCLan’s Young Researchers Scheme takes a long-term view: it is designed to help change perceptions of modern universities by enabling sixth-formers to actively participate in world-leading research projects which have real-world applications. For UCLan, cultivating lasting relationships is the aim, the spin-off for the students is they gain a distinctive experience that strengthens their university application or makes them attractive to potential employers.

Over 20 students from 10 schools and colleges have signed up to the research internships to take place over the summer months for a period of between one and two weeks. They will join UCLan’s own undergraduate research interns to work on projects ranging from the nutrient analysis of fast food, the link between sun spots and solar flares involving UCLan’s work with NASA, to an analysis of archaeological drawings and a project involving human robotic interaction.

Professor Stuart Hampton-Reeves, Director of UCLan’s Centre for Research-informed Teaching, said UCLan’s undergraduate research internship scheme was a powerful learning tool in that it promotes originality, creativity and rigor among students who opt to participate.

“We believe that the spirit of enquiry should be at the heart of higher education and that research gives students the opportunity to go beyond their formal learning and helps to forge new knowledge,” he said.

young researchers

“It was thought provoking and gave a real insight into what research opportunities are available. I didn’t realise UCLan has so much science based world-leading research; today’s event has really opened my eyes.”

Stuart continued: “We are delighted to extend this scheme to Year 12 pupils and look forward to welcoming them to our launch event where they will gain a flavour of the projects available and learn how their involvement could make a real difference to their university applications in the autumn of 2013.

“Like UCLan’s own undergraduate research interns I am sure they will benefit hugely from the experience.”

Lancaster Royal Grammar School pupil 17-year-old Dominic Gardiner attended the launch event. He commented: “It was thought provoking and gave a real insight into what research opportunities are available. I am particularly interested in a current student’s work in developing antifungal smart bandages and it’s been useful to talk to both academics and undergraduates about the importance of research.

“I didn’t realise UCLan has so much science based world-leading research; today’s event has really opened my eyes.”

Many of the UCLan students involved in the scheme have gone on to see their work published in prestigious academic journals, present at conferences both nationally and internationally, and even show their work in the Houses of Parliament.