PARTNERing up for a great summer!

PARTNERs Student working in the lab

Another hugely successful PARTNERS project has just been completed within the School of Biomedical Sciences. Will our potential future Stars of Bioscience make the grade? We certainly hope so!

Each summer, we invite a select group of students to take part in a summer project designed to help them succeed in securing a place studying at Newcastle University. As part of the project, the participants work alongside academics (this year PARTNERS was lead by me, SJ Boulton and my colleague Damian Parry) and their team to undertake a piece of scientific research and communicate their findings through an ongoing scientific record.

PARTNERS 2017 participant Dora worked diligently to find potential antimicrobial agents

This year the topic was Antimicrobials and the Battle for the Planet – our budding scientists were pitted against the ever-present nemesis of good health, E. coli, and tasked with finding a potential antimicrobial compound from an array of common household goods.

All of the investigated products have been reported either anecdotally or scientifically as assisting in killing bacteria despite being commonly found in your food cupboard or makeup bag!

Over the two weeks, I was absolutely blown away by the enthusiasm and drive of the students taking part. From the first introductory session I was met with questions, curiosity and a whole array of suggestions on alternatives that could be included in the experimental design.

Students worked together to undertake research that they had designed themselves, supporting each other through the journey.

One of the most impressive parts of the project was the way that students supported each other in designing and completing their lab book. Such was the level of peer support that at times I felt like a bit of a spare part – seeing these driven young scientists grafting hard and working to their strengths while making time to both ask for help and provided it to others was a truly humbling sight. I couldn’t have asked for anything more from them.

Ultimately, the reward of successful completion of the PARTNERS academic summer school is a lowering of the entry grades required to study at degree level. The pastoral benefits of taking part (such as ensuring that the academic path is a good fit, tasting what university study is like, and meeting potential future colleagues) hopefully helps students affirm their choices and feel confident that they can succeed in a university environment.

One of our previous participants, Charlie, had this to say about his time on the project:

“By the time actual university came around, I felt that I had a certain edge over the other students because these were skills I now had previous experience of that others didn’t. I also had the chance to meet and talk to other students on the PARTNERS course, so there were a few familiar faces when the time came to start the course.”

Personally, I love that PARTNERS is part of my job here at Newcastle University, despite the challenge and exhaustion that goes hand in hand with running an intensive short-term research project. For me PARTNERS is the one opportunity where I feel I can help people from backgrounds like by own (I’m from the first generation in my family to go to university and was born a very low-income part of Sunderland) not only see themselves within higher education but to take ownership of it. The programme is an exciting, humbling and fast-paced experience and our team always ends up a little mad by the end!

Our post-grad student demonstrators were feeling the pressure by Day 5, but don’t worry, no PhD students were harmed as part of the programme!

If you’d like to learn more about the PARTNERS programme at Newcastle University be sure to check the the University’s dedicated pages. From here you can also learn more about eligibility, and read the full interview with Charlie about his Biomedical Sciences PARTNERS experience.

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