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Biomedical Vacation Scholarships

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Purpose

These awards provide promising undergraduates with hands-on experience of research during the summer vacation, with the aim of encouraging them to consider a career in research.

Scholarship holders in the past have included students of biological sciences (including biology, sports science and pharmacy) and medics, vets, dentists and optometrists.

Students focusing on natural sciences or computing degrees are welcome to use this scheme as a taster for research in the biomedical sciences; however, a suitably focused biomedical research report project would be required.

A report [Word 380KB] is available containing some statistical information about the Biomedical Vacation Scholarship scheme and its history, plus abstracts from a selection of projects funded in 2013.

What's included

Scholarships are available for between six and eight weeks and currently provide a stipend for the student of £180 (£190 in London) per week (currently under review). Research expenses are not provided.

Eligibility

Students

Applicants must be at a university within the UK or the Republic of Ireland and must meet the following criteria:

BSc, BA, MPharm, MEng or MSci (or equivalent) students:

  • applicants should be undergraduates in the middle year of a first degree (i.e. not the first or last year at the time of submission) and registered for a basic science, dentistry or veterinary degree
  • students on MSci courses can apply only during their second year.

MBBS, MBBCh, MBChB or BMBCh (or equivalent) students:

  • applicants should be medical students between the end of the second year and the end of the penultimate year.

Please note:

  • students who have already completed or are currently undertaking an intercalated year are not eligible to apply, as they will have completed a BSc before the scholarship period
  • graduate-entry medical students who have completed a previous undergraduate degree in a science-related subject are not eligible to apply.

Scholarships are not available for the completion of student projects that are part of the normal degree course or for students wishing to undertake research in laboratories outside the UK or the Republic of Ireland.

Previous holders of Vacation Scholarships from the Wellcome Trust or any other agency are not eligible to apply.

Supervisors

The project supervisor must hold an established academic position within the university or research unit. They must be able to guarantee that the student can have space in their laboratory and fulfil any necessary legal requirements that the student’s presence requires. Postdoctoral researchers, PhD students and technicians are unable to be project supervisors; however, they can provide day-to-day supervision of the student and be named on the application form.

There may be only one application per candidate or supervisor. Awards are not transferable.

For more detailed information regarding eligibility, please see ‘frequently asked questions’.

Application process

Identifying a project

The Trust does not assist in the organisation of project placements; students should contact prospective supervisors themselves.

Students and supervisors should develop the project and application together. The application should be a project that can be realistically undertaken within a maximum of eight weeks. The student should not be viewed as an extra pair of hands in the host laboratory.

Preference will be given to undergraduates with no previous research experience.

Students are encouraged to arrange their scholarship away from their usual place of study, to broaden their experience.

Submitting an application

Application forms [Word 325KB] should be completed and submitted in hard copy by the published deadline.

Applications must be submitted by the project supervisor on behalf of the student, and all signatures required for the application must be present. Signatures on the application must be hand-signed; we will not accept electronic signatures. Any applications containing electronic signatures will not be considered.

Post-submission

Applications will not be opened until after the submission deadline. If you would like an acknowledgement of your application, please enclose a self-addressed postcard (no stamp necessary).

Acknowledgement of receipt of your application will not be given over the telephone or by email.

Applications will be assessed internally, and we will release decisions on the applications submitted for summer 2014 by the end of April 2014. The Wellcome Trust considers a combination of factors when assessing applications and owing to the high number of applications we receive, we do not provide feedback on individual applications under any circumstances.

Award letters listing all awarded students will be issued to the Vice Chancellor (or equivalent) of each successful institute. These will be issued by the end of May 2014.

For more information on the post-submission procedures, please see ‘frequently asked questions’.

Awarded scholarships

An award letter, accompanied by supporting documentation, will be sent to the Vice Chancellor (or equivalent) of each successful institute listing all awarded students.

Reimbursement of the awards is made as a single payment after all students at each institute have completed their studentships. Detailed instructions will be contained within the award letter.

We do not pay invoices for the Vacation Scholarship scheme.

It is an expectation of the Wellcome Trust that students will receive their stipend from the institute at regular intervals during their scholarship period and not as a lump sum at the end.

The Trust must receive brief reports from students at the end of their scholarship.

For more information on awarded scholarships, please see ‘frequently asked questions’.

Deadlines and Contacts

This is an annual competition. The 2013/14 competition is now closed and decision letters have been emailed to the project supervisors. Details of next year’s competition will be announced in autumn 2014.

The Trust would like to receive brief reports from students at the end of their scholarship. Students will need to complete a report form [Word 284KB] and submit one hard copy to the Trust by 5pm on Monday 29 September 2014. Completed forms should be addressed to:

Dr Helen Thompson
Vacation Scholarships
Wellcome Trust
Gibbs Building
215 Euston Road
London NW1 2BE

We are unable to accept forms submitted by email and/or fax.

General enquiries should be directed to vacschol@wellcome.ac.uk.

Frequently asked questions

Eligibility - students

1. I am a student who is enrolled on a course outside of the UK or the Republic of Ireland - can I apply for a Vacation Scholarship?
No. Applicants must be registered as a student at a university in the UK or the Republic of Ireland. Furthermore, the research project must be undertaken in a UK or Republic of Ireland laboratory.

2. I am a student in my first year of university - why can’t I apply for a Vacation Scholarship?
We base our assessments of the applications on the input a student has had into the design of the project. In the Trust’s experience, if a first-year student were to apply they would have completed approximately four months of study by the time the full application is submitted in February. This may not be sufficient time for students to identify an area of science that interests them, make contact with a potential supervisor and develop a novel project.

3. I am a medical student who has previously undertaken an intercalated year - am I eligible for a Vacation Scholarship?
No. Students who have completed the BSc period of their course are not eligible to apply, as they should have already had the opportunity to undertake a period of research.

4. I am a graduate-entry medical student who has completed a degree in a science-related topic - am I eligible for a Vacation Scholarship?
No, as you will have been eligible during your undergraduate years.

5. I am currently undertaking a degree that is not a ‘traditional’ biological science course - can I apply?
Yes. Scholarship holders in the past have included students of biological sciences(including biology, sports science and pharmacy) and medics, vets, dentists and optometrists. In addition, students focusing on natural sciences or undertaking computing degrees are welcome to use this scheme as a taster for research in the biomedical sciences; however, a suitably focused biomedical research project would be required.

6. I have previously been awarded a Vacation Scholarship from the Wellcome Trust or another funding body, or have had significant previous research experience (such as an industrial placement)- am I eligible for a Vacation Scholarship?
No. These awards are intended to provide students with new experiences with the aim of encouraging them to consider a career in research, and we therefore give preference to undergraduates with no previous research experience.

7. Can my supervisor be a postdoctoral researcher, PhD student or technician?
No. The project supervisor must hold an established academic position within the university or research unit. They must be able to guarantee that the student can have space in their laboratory and fulfil any necessary legal requirements that the student’s presence requires. Postdoctoral researchers, PhD students and technicians are unable to make the above guarantees; however, they can provide day-to-day supervision of the student and be named on the application form.

8. Can I apply to more than one funder for a Vacation Scholarship?
Yes. Owing to the highly competitive nature of the scheme, we encourage all students to apply to multiple funding bodies to maximise their chances of success. However, we ask you to inform us immediately should you accept another offer.

Eligibility - supervisors

9. Can I apply for multiple awards with different students?
No. These awards are personal awards for the student. Supervisors are expected to provide the student with the necessary scientific guidance to ensure that they gain the most from the scholarship experience.

10. We have been awarded a Vacation Scholarship but the student has had to withdraw - can I offer it to a different student?
No. These awards are personal awards for the student. Please inform the Trust immediately if this is the case.

Application process - identifying a project

11. Are Vacation Scholarships carried out at the Wellcome Trust headquarters at Euston Road, London?
No. The Wellcome Trust does not offer Vacation Scholarship placements at its headquarters. It provides financial support for students wishing to gain research experience in a UK or Republic of Ireland laboratory.

12. Does the Wellcome Trust help students organise placements?
The Trust does not assist in the organisation of project placements. Students are expected to identify a project supervisor and liaise with them to set up a suitable project. Preference will be given to students who have clearly been involved in the design and planning of the project.

13. Can a Vacation Scholarship be used to support a student who wants to be assimilated into a laboratory for the duration of the summer?
No. The Vacation Scholarship should be used to support a self-contained piece of research; the student should not be an extra pair of hands in the laboratory.

14. Can I apply for a Vacation Scholarship for less than six weeks?
No. The application should be for a project which can be realistically undertaken within a timeframe of six to eight weeks.

15. Can I undertake the Vacation Scholarship at an institution where I am not enrolled on my degree?
Absolutely. Students are encouraged to arrange their scholarship away from their usual place of study, to broaden their experience.

16. Can you recommend someone who can help me organise a project?
Some universities have scholarship coordinators who can assist applicants in identifying a researcher in the area that interests them; however, this kind of assistance varies by university. Your tutor may know the local procedure for scholarships, or - if you wish to take a scholarship away from your current university - you could discuss your ideas with them and see whether they can assist you in identifying a suitable academic in that area.

17. Can I use the Vacation Scholarship to support a clinical audit or trial?
No. The projects should usually be laboratory based and be hypothesis driven.

18. Am I expected to give the supervisor money for consumables?
Absolutely not. The stipend is solely for personal support of the student throughout the scholarship period. The Trust expects all research costs to be provided by the supervisor.

Application process - other questions on the form

19. Does the Wellcome Trust only support students who have obtained a minimum score in their courses or modules to date?
No. There is no specific requirement for a particular level of achievement to apply for a scholarship.

20. Why do you require a letter of support from the student’s current tutor?
This section acts like a reference for the student and is used as part of the assessment of an application. It helps enable the Trust to assess the potential of the candidate and any experience they already have.

21. Does the 700 word limit in the application form include figure legends and references?
The word limit for question 8 does not include references or figure legends. However, the number of references used should be kept to a minimum.

Submitting an application

22. Where do I send my application?
Dr Helen Thompson
Biomedical Vacation Scholarships
Wellcome Trust
Gibbs Building
215 Euston Road
London NW1 2BE, UK

23. Will you accept applications received after the deadline?
No. Owing to the extremely competitive nature of this award, we do not accept any late applications.

24. Why do you require hand-signed/wet-ink signatures on the Undertakings page?
This is a legal requirement and confirmation that the signees have agreed to abide by the Wellcome Trust Grant Conditions.

25. Will you accept electronic signatures or applications received by email or fax?
No. For the reasons outlined above, we must receive original, hand-signed/wet-ink signatures.

26. Do both copies of the application have to be hand-signed?
Ideally, yes. However, if it is not possible for both copies to contain hand-signed/wet-ink signatures throughout, then scanned or photocopied signatures will be accepted on the second form. Please clearly mark the original, hand-signed form on the first page as ‘ORIGINAL’.

27. Can different parts of the application form be submitted separately?
No. Owing to the large number of applications we receive, only complete applications will be considered.

28. Do I need to send my application by courier or registered post?
There is no requirement for you to do this, but you may wish to for your own peace of mind.

29. Can I submit my application by hand?
Yes. You can hand in a sealed envelope to Reception at the Trust’s headquarters between 08.00 and 17.00. You can find a map of our location here.

30. Will you send me an email to confirm you have received my application?
No. Acknowledgements will only be sent if a self-addressed envelope is received with the application, even where the application was hand delivered.

31. When will I receive my acknowledgement?
You should expect to receive confirmation of receipt of your application within two to three weeks of the closing date of the competition.

32. I submitted my application three weeks before the deadline and have not yet received an acknowledgment.
No applications will be opened or acknowledged until after the submission deadline.

Assessment

33. Are applications assessed by an external committee or peer reviewed?
No. All applications are considered by scientifically qualified members of Wellcome Trust staff.

34. Do you provide feedback on individual applications?
Owing to the number of applications we receive, we are unable to provide feedback under any circumstances.

35. How are applications assessed?
We take into account the applicant’s results to date, whether they have any previous research experience, their personal statement and desire to undertake a research project, and the reference from their personal tutor.

36. I have yet to find out the result from the Trust but have been offered funding from another source, what should I do?
Please inform the Trust immediately if you have been offered support from elsewhere so we can redistribute the funds.

37. When will I find out whether I have been successful?
We aim to release decisions on all applications by the end of April 2014.

38. How will I find out the outcome?
An email, with an attached letter, will be sent to the supervisor and student with the outcome of their application.

Successful applicants - before the award is activated

39. When will I receive an award letter?
Award letters are issued to the Vice Chancellor of each successful institute and list all students who received awards from that institute. These letters will be cc’d to the named administrator of the award. They are not sent to the student or supervisor.

40. What is required of the institute after they have received the award letter?
All the named administrators should liaise to arrange for a single Grant Start Certificate per institute to be submitted to the Trust, to activate the award.

41. Can separate departments from an institution submit different Grant Start Certificates?
No. As a single award was made, the institute we will only accept one Grant Start Certificate for all students.

42. Since submitting my proposal the project has changed - do I need to inform the Trust?
There is no need to inform us, but please ensure you mention this in the End of Grant Report form you submit in September 2014.

43. If a student has withdrawn, what should the institute do?
Please inform the Trust immediately and liaise with your named administrator or finance team (where appropriate) to ensure that no claims are made on the End of Grant Spend Report for the student.

44. I want to start my award later than the date requested on the application - is this possible?
Yes. The award letter is for a five-month period; once the award is activated, students can undertake their scholarship at any time.

Successful applicants - during the scholarship period

45. Do students receive funds directly from the Wellcome Trust?
No. It is an expectation of the Wellcome Trust that students receive their stipend from the institute at regular intervals during their scholarship period and not as a lump sum at the end. We expect that students are paid promptly for the duration of their studentship to provide personal support for the students over the summer period.

46. How does the institute receive funds from the Wellcome Trust?
Reimbursement of the awards is made as a single payment after all students at each institute have completed their studentships. This is done by completing a Vacation Scholarship-specific End of Grant Spend Report. Detailed instructions will be contained within the award letter.

Successful applicants – post-scholarship period

47. Is the student required to submit a report to the Trust?
Yes. A template form is available on the Vacation Scholarship webpage.

48. How does the institute claim the studentship funds from the Trust?
Reimbursement of the awards is made as a single payment after all students at each institute have completed their studentships. This is done by completing a Vacation Scholarship-specific End of Grant Spend Report. Detailed instructions will be contained within the award letter.

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