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My experience of UCL’s 2020 Summer Schools

By Lauren Sandhu, on 15 October 2020

At the end of July we ran 13 summer schools for students in Year 12 (S5 in Scotland/Year 13 in Northern Ireland) online. Some of the students who attended kindly blogged about their experience. Today we hear from Sarah who took part in our Natural Sciences Summer School. 

My name is Sarah and I am a current sixth form student, I started Year 13 in September. I am taking biology, chemistry and geography with my main interest being the sciences.

I was part of the UCL Natural Sciences summer school, which gave me a taster of a variety of different science subjects including astrophysics, molecular biology and coding. Over the course of the week I attended a series of virtual lectures with top academics, current Natural Sciences students and other Year 12 students.

One of my favourite parts of the week was the molecular biology session, where I explored the 3d structure of a protein using Pymol software. I followed a series of instructions that enabled me to observe the complex tertiary/quaternary structure of proteins. I also learned that using softwares like Pymol are common in biology, and that there are various other programmes used across the sciences, as technology becomes more integrated with the field. I also liked the ‘virtual café’ sessions, where I was able to talk to current university students. They were all extremely friendly and helpful and made me feel more confident in applying to University and clearing up any questions I had.

Finally, I really enjoyed the independent project work we had to complete. I spent several hours across the week learning about current scientific advancements and then consolidating the information onto a scientific poster. This experience allowed me to explore science outside of the curriculum and also gave me an insight into key university skills like researching and referencing.

I think other year 12 students should sign up for this summer school because it provides an insight on whether university is right for you on all accounts. The taster lectures give you an idea of what the subject you’re interested in is like at degree level, whilst the virtual cafes allow you to ask more specific questions, and the research project allows you to see whether you would enjoy the independent aspect of university.

Despite it being held online this year, I still felt extremely welcomed by all the UCL staff and students and enjoyed the social activities. For a first-generation student, the week was extremely beneficial and cleared up many doubts/worries I had in a manner that was fun and engaging.

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