In our second feature exploring the experiences of Churchill students pursuing a summer project outside their academic course, meet third year medic Emily Chong. Emily spent last summer gaining invaluable experience as part of the Applied Social Science Group at Cambridge thanks to funding received through a Churchill College ‘Summer Opportunities Bursary’.

The Applied Social Science Group at Cambridge researches the social context of patient experiences and health behaviours. The paper she worked on for her summer project was a quantitative meta-analysis looking into the effect of poverty on suicidal ideation, suicide and self-harm in young people. Emily was involved in the extraction of data from papers related to this topic as part of the meta-analysis, so they could then be analysed to look further into the effect of poverty. This role provided Emily with an opportunity to build on knowledge that was only touched in her first year, when one of her modules was an introduction into the social context of medicine. As Emily recalls, ‘reading through many different papers as part of the data extraction gave me a deeper insight into this and the importance of understanding a patient’s background in treatment. This opportunity to further knowledge in this area and even impact the field was invaluable.’

Emily also attended meetings with the wider research group throughout her placement, allowing her to experience life as a clinical researcher and gain an understanding of the various stages that go into publishing a paper. In fact, Emily’s whole summer experience was invaluable on many levels, and she is hugely grateful for the funding which made it possible;

Overall, this project meant that I could go far beyond the scope of my course and understand the field of clinical research, something which I am interested in doing alongside medicine in the future. Receiving the Summer Opportunities Bursary meant that I could fully enjoy and explore the process without needing to dedicate my time to a summer job as well. I am incredibly grateful to have received this bursary.

As a medical student, Emily plans on becoming a doctor but this experience in the world of research, has encouraged her to consider doing some research in the future as well. ‘I’d like to explore research further to find out more about the different types and how doctors balance research alongside other work!’

Emily is also clear about the importance of providing funding of this kind to support Churchill students hoping to undertake summer projects. Remarking how expensive it is to live in Cambridge, she notes that many students tend to get summer jobs to help fund their next year in College and they can’t balance this need with funding a summer research project.

Without this funding, I would never have been able to do this research project. Getting the funding to take part in this opportunity has been invaluable in furthering my future plans, and I am very grateful.

Summer Opportunities Bursaries at Churchill

Churchill College funds a number of ‘Summer Opportunities Bursaries’ to support Churchill undergraduates pursuing a summer project outside of their academic course. These sought-after bursaries cover a period of up to 8 weeks, during which bursary holders are also entitled to subsidised College Accommodation.

The scheme is open to any Churchill College student who is not a finalist. Project ideas can span any area of interest, from working in a historical archive or exploring an artist’s catalogue to developing robotics in an engineering lab or working on comparative bioinformatics in a research group. The only requirements are projects must be unconnected to the applicant’s academic course, no other funding source should be available and students must be supported by an appropriate supervisor throughout the project.

The Summer Opportunities fund enables students to take up internships and placements over the long vacation and has already had a significant impact. For the programme to continue, we ask for your help so that more undergraduate students like Emily can be supported this summer and beyond. Thank you for your support!