In the summer of 2022, the EPSRC CDT in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (NanoDTC) welcomed its first cohort of NanoFutures Scholars, undergraduate students the NanoDTC identified as the future of nanoscience and nanotechnology research—a future which we are striving to make more inclusive and diverse. Through the NanoFutures Scholars internship programme, one of the first of its kind in the University, the NanoDTC is leading the Physical Sciences and Engineering at Cambridge in pioneering new approaches to postgraduate widening participation. By exposing students with only limited prior research experience to the cutting-edge interdisciplinary research within the NanoDTC community, together with its extracurricular programming, NanoFutures Scholars provides interns with the knowledge, experience, and confidence to make successful applications for postgraduate study.

“Prior to my internship, I didn't really know what exactly postgraduate study entailed—it seemed to be something which was intangible, complex and inaccessible. My time in Cambridge taught me a lot about the day-to-day life and routine of a PhD student, which helped to demystify postgrad study and helped me to understand that it was right for me”
“Prior to the internship I didn't really know where I would apply for my PhD—however, I gained a lot of confidence over the summer, which has now encouraged me to consider some of the top UK universities… which I may not have been interested in otherwise.”
“I got a full taste for the breadth of opportunity that can be offered in postgraduate study. I saw how researchers work and live and understood a completely different side of studying that I had never experienced before. This all made me feel much more comfortable applying and also understanding that this could be something I was interested in pursuing further!”
NanoFutures Scholars reflecting on their experiences of summer 2022

Thanks to the generosity of a college donor, scholars were accommodated free of charge at Selywn College. The scholars, all second- and third-year undergraduates from universities across the UK, spent eight weeks in Cambridge spread across the Departments of Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, and Materials Science & Metallurgy supervised and mentored by early-career researchers in the NanoDTC. These members of the NanoDTC, many of whom themselves come from underrepresented backgrounds, helped co-design the NanoFutures Scholars programme, ensuring the support and participation of the whole NanoDTC community. Interns tackled a range of challenging projects including the manufacture of luminous polymer waveguides, the mechanical study of microalgae hydrogels, and the analysis of fluorescent polymer nanoparticles for cancer therapy. Scholars integrated into the NanoDTC community by joining the weekly NanoDTC journal club, broadening their academic networks and gaining confidence discussing and presenting on technical research-level topics. Interns sponsored by the School of Physical Sciences (SPS) also joined the NanoFutures Scholars extracurricular programme. The carefully curated research culture of the NanoDTC—widely recognised around the University as welcoming, inclusive, and supportive, and replicated within NanoFutures Scholars for the benefit of all participating interns—is an invaluable vehicle to help support the University’s postgraduate widening participation aims.

NanoFutures Scholars will run again in 2023 with applications opening October 2022. For further information, please visit: