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Cambridge Institute for Medical Research




The ISAC/M programme:
Inspiring Scientists at the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research and the MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit.

A free, widening participation programme for CAMBRIDGESHIRE-BASED Year 12 students (16+) at the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research (CIMR) and MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit (MBU), in association with St Catharine's College, Cambridge.

NOW CLOSED TO NEW APPLICATIONS: the deadline was on Monday, January 16th 2023

Programme Dates: Tuesday 14th – Friday 17th February 2023 (half term week)


ISAC/M is a four-day, non-residential work experience programme which will take place during school half term in February 2023. The first three days will be held at two University of Cambridge research Institutes (The Cambridge Institute for Medical Research; CIMR and the MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit; MBU) which share the same building on the Cambridge Biomedical (Addenbrookes) campus.  The ISAC/M programme will start at 10:00 and end at 15:00 every day from Tuesday, 14th February – Thursday 16th February. Students will take part in biomedical research and learn more about how biomedical research can lead to new treatments. The final day of the programme (Friday 17th February) will take place at St Catharine's College in central Cambridge, where ISAC/M students will make short presentations on the research they took part in and their obtain advice and guidance on applying to Cambridge and similar universities.  There will be a daily allowance for lunch and travel for students taking part in the programme.

What will students taking part in ISAC/M do?

  • Spend time in a research lab at either CIMR or MBU, ‘shadow’ researchers, learn about how research is carried out, and run an experiment
  • Prepare a scientific presentation about the experiment they ran
  • Attend three, thirty-minute, interactive seminars to help develop scientific knowledge and skills
  • Attend guided tours and demonstrations of scientific core facilities and see some of the different technologies used such as cutting-edge microscopes
  • Spend an interactive day run in partnership with St Catharine’s College, Cambridge with workshops on how to apply to Cambridge and similar universities, and getting guidance on personal statements
  • Network with other placement students, admissions staff, postgraduate students, and scientists as well as attend optional mentoring slots about studying and working in research

Background to the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research (CIMR) and MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit (MBU)
CIMR is a biomedical research Institute that is part of the School of Clinical Medicine at the University of Cambridge. CIMR’s mission is to determine the molecular mechanisms of disease to advance human health. We focus on translation between biological research and clinical applications. The Institute has 24 research teams studying how normal biological processes inside cells can go wrong during infections, or because of rare genetic changes. By understanding these processes and the molecules involved (particularly proteins) we aim to discover better treatments for diseases and enable better outcomes for patients.

The MRC MBU is also a department of the School of Clinical Medicine. The strategic mission of the MBU is to understand mitochondrial biology in health and disease, and to exploit this understanding to develop new therapies and improve human health.  Research at the MBU aims to understand the fundamental biochemical and biological processes taking place in mitochondria, and the roles and integration of mitochondria within the cell. We aim to learn about the involvement of mitochondria and mitochondrial dysfunction in human diseases, and to exploit our understanding and knowledge to develop new therapies to treat them. There are nine Principal Investigators in the Unit, each leading an independent research group that focusses on a particular area of the Unit’s research. The Unit’s environment encourages cross-disciplinary interactions between the groups, who also collaborate extensively with other leading research groups on the local, national and international stage.

Background to ISAC/M
As well as carrying out world-class research, both CIMR and MBU are committed to engaging with, and having research informed by public across wider society. One of their public engagement aims is to widen participation and increase social mobility.
The first ISAC programme took place in February 2022 at CIMR and St Catharine’s College. The programme went so well that we are repeating it in 2023, but this time including the Mitochondrial Biology Unit as well.
ISAC/M aims to open the world of university scientific research and inspire those in Year 12 (or equivalent) students who are curious about science and research as a future career, but who may have reduced opportunities, or for those with perceived barriers to application and entry to Cambridge and similar Universities which may be more limiting than their potential and actual abilities. Students must be attending Year 12 in state-schools in Cambridgeshire, and we are particularly interested in Cambridgeshire based students who may be interested in studying Natural Sciences or Medicine at degree level. Unfortunately, with limited time, capacity and budget, there are only a small number of places available for ISAC/M, and because it is a 'widening participation' initiative, these places will be allocated on the basis of how many specific criteria are met by applicants:


Detailed eligibility criteria for ISAC/M
Places are limited and therefore will be allocated using the following criteria and process:


Minimum eligibility criteria (#1 - 5). You will need to fulfil ALL of these



How information will be provided


Year 12 or equivalent



With minimum Grade 7 in GCSE Biology or equivalent qualification



Currently studying for at least two STEM subjects



An interest in biomedical research



Attending Cambridgeshire state schools / Colleges / 6th Forms Colleges / Academies



Priority 'widening participation' eligibility criteria (#6 - 12)
At least one of these priority criteria should be met. You do not need to fulfil all of these, but the more that are fulfilled, the higher the application will score in selection



How information will be provided


Currently or previously in local authority care (joint highest priority)



Eligible for Free School Meals or Pupil Premium in the prior six years (joint highest priority)



Currently caring for a family member or friend



Applicant’s parent(s) / carers(s) did not attend university



Living in POLAR4 quintiles 1/2

From applicant-provided home address and Office for Students database


Those who have experienced educational disruption




Underrepresented ethnicity at University of Cambridge






The deadline for applications to ISAC/M passed on 16/01/2023 and we cannot accept any new applications. 

For further information please contact .