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.
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: https://www.nanodtc.cam.ac.uk/nanofutures-scholars/