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Department of Biosciences Summer Studentships

Each year, the Department of Biosciences offers several paid undergraduate summer studentships to help students gain experience and skills in Biology. Successful applicants spend six weeks gaining valuable, hands-on research experience in their supervisor's lab. Students will receive further information about the application process sometime in the Epiphany term, with final applications due around the beginning of Easter term.


Summer Studentship Awardees

Rugha Maniam, Awardee Summer 2021, Supervisor: Dr Akis Karakesisoglou

Silvia Smith, Awardee Summer 2021, Supervisor: Prof Martin Cann

Zara Orange, Awardee Summer 2021, Supervisor: Prof Paul Chazot

Viktorija Uksaite, Awardee Summer 2021, Supervisor: Dr Elaine Fitches

Lydia Chevins, Awardee Summer 2021, Supervisor: Dr Wayne Dawson

Beth Mullier, Awardee Summer 2021, Supervisor: Dr Andreanna Welch

Catherine Whittle, Awardee Summer 2020, Supervisor: Dr Lena Riabinina

Harry Peachment, Awardee Summer 2020, Supervisor: Dr Rus Hoelzel

Callum Bennett, Awardee Summer 2020, Supervisor: Dr Wayne Dawson

Aenea Brugman, Awardee Summer 2019, Supervisor: Dr David Doupe

Lizzie English, Awardee Summer 2019, Supervisor: Dr Paul Chazot



"It was brilliant to have the opportunity to collaborate with other placement students as well as post-graduates – we learnt so much and had a lot of fun too.” Lizzie English

“The summer studentship provided me with the opportunity to engage with life in a professional research setting and to learn a large variety of molecular techniques. This will put me in good stead for my MBiol research project next year and beyond. The experience allowed me to gain a greater understanding of what a career in research might look like, enabling me to make more informed decisions about my own future in the Biosciences. I am very grateful to have had this experience and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in research!” Beth Molloy

“This placement showed me how much I like working in a laboratory, as well as learning about the theory underlying biological processes. It gave me the chance to gain invaluable practical experience and gave me excellent insight into biological research. I can definitely recommend undertaking a summer research internship, as it will complement the modules offered by Durham University, deepen your understanding in the subject, and it will be an exciting way to spend your summer.” Aenea Brugman

“Despite the pandemic, my experience undertaking the studentship this summer has been truly enriching; more than insight into mosquito neurobiology, it has given me greater proficiency in the reading and analysis of academic texts, and in the writing and presentation of findings.” Catherine Whittle

"I spent most of my summer holidays working on extracting and amplifying the DNA from faecal samples that had been taken from birds and bats in Cameroon. The sequence data collected from the DNA will then be used to determine whether the birds and bats are providing farmers beneficial ecosystem services in the form of pest control. This will also be crucial to giving farmers advice on how to manage their crops in a way that both benefits them and the biodiversity of the area. It is amazing to think that the brief 6 weeks I spent in the lab this summer could have contributed to such important research.

Being able to work on a project in the exact field of research I would like to go into has helped me develop many skills and has given me a broad knowledge of lab techniques. I now have a sound understanding of a widely used molecular technique, DNA metabarcoding. However, many of the skills I have acquired from this technique are extremely useful for any lab work. It was great to be able to practice skills I'd been taught in first year but were unable to develop further due to COVID-19. It has also given me so much confidence going into my third-year research project where, since I enjoyed the lab work so much, I'll be working in the same lab on a very similar project. The insight I gained into what a career in lab-based work could look like has been invaluable to me. This experience has given me the motivation to pursue lab work after I finish my degree and continues to inspire me in my studies." Beth Mullier, Summer 2021

"During my studentship I worked alongside Dr Wayne Dawson and Ph.D. student Katy Ivison, to investigate the enemy-release hypothesis with Durham botanical gardens. This hypothesis posits that non-native plant species thrive in a non-native setting due to the fact they are 'released' from their native enemies such as parasites and herbivores. To test this, we mapped and documented the plant species within the gardens and looked at herbivory rates/types on them and whether there was a significant difference between the herbivory rates on native and non-native species.

During my first few weeks, Katy and I mapped and identified the plant species within the gardens and documented their native/non-native status, as well as other relevant details. In the following weeks, I was provided with the opportunity to work independently to sample herbivory rates and types on each species, while Katy did the same process in Aberdeen Botanical gardens. This was a great experience as it gave me the chance to feel in charge of a project and gave me a flavour of what a research job in ecology would be like after University. I learnt about different types of herbivory damage that I'd previously been unaware of and the project itself reaffirmed my love of ecology and how fascinating it could be in a real-life setting, rather than just looking in a textbook. I was also introduced to coding in R which I feel has readied me to face it at further points in my degree and not be thrown in at the deep end. I was able to improve my knowledge, scientific research skills and empower my love of ecology." Lydia Chevins, Summer 2021

"This summer studentship was a great opportunity to see what a career in research looks like. It gave me a chance to learn a lot of new laboratory techniques and refresh my memory on the techniques learnt prior the pandemic. The studentship made me more confident at the start of my 4th year as a big research project awaits me. Moreover, I met a lot of lovely people who were happy to share their journeys to academia with me which gave me more insight and confidence to try and pursue this path myself." Viktorija Uksaite, Summer 2021

"This summer, I completed a 6-week studentship in Professor Martin Cann's lab. I was assigned a small project that utilised my existing knowledge of biochemistry and microbiology. I investigated how dead cell lysates affected E.coli growth. This involved adding dead cells to live cells after various treatments.

In my first week, I quickly became familiar with the correct experimental preparations and procedures required when working with live cultures, including their growth, storage, and correct disposal. I also learned how to prepare media, sonicate cells and use a plate reader. I worked closely with a helpful Postdoc; they taught me all the required skills. We would also discuss the theory behind the experiments and come up with novel hypotheses. These hypotheses allowed us to plan the next set of experiments. I found this intellectually stimulating and exciting as each new data set revealed more information about what we were observing.

I was given the freedom to tailor the project slightly to test my own ideas; for example, growing the E.coli cells that would be subsequently lysed, in minimal media. This explored whether there was a difference between the effect on culture growth of stressed dead cell lysates and non-stressed cell lysates. I was given the support to do this and thoroughly enjoyed carrying out my own research.

I met with Prof. Cann daily to discuss findings. He showed me how to organise, process and present the data clearly, using PRISM and other new softwares. Together, we discussed what the data suggested, helping develop my communication and critical thinking skills. This studentship has motivated me to apply for PhDs and further a career in biological research. I am very grateful for this experience, especially after undergoing a disrupted final year due to Covid restrictions." Silvia Smith, Summer 2021

"As a final year student who had to persevere through a year of online learning, this summer studentship provided me with research training that I was longing for. Here, not only did I have the opportunity to carry out exciting experiments, but I also got to sharpen my skills in experimental planning, organisation in the laboratory and strengthen my presentation skills. It was also a great opportunity to network and learn from other postgraduate students in the lab. Collectively, this experience gave me important skills to bring forward and apply in my Master of Research course next year. I would highly recommend pursuing this summer studentship for anyone interested in research and wanting to begin their journey as a young scientist!" Rugha Maniam, Summer 2021