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Cambridge Institute for Medical Research


                          Inspiring Scientists at CIMR/MBU

                              Applications are now closed

If you have applied for this programme you will be notified by email whether your application has been successful by Monday 4th December 

A free, widening participation programme for 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.

Programme Dates: Tuesday 20th – Friday 23rd February 2024 (half term week)



ISAC/M is a four-day, non-residential work experience programme which will take place during school half term in February 2024. 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 16:00 every day from Tuesday, 20th February – Friday 23rd February. Students will take part in biomedical research and learn more about how that research can lead to new treatments. The final day of the programme (Friday 23rd 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 obtain advice and guidance on applying to Cambridge and other universities.  Lunch will be provided each day, and travel costs reimbursed for all 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 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, the 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 repeated it it in 2023, this time including the Mitochondrial Biology Unit and so renaming it ISAC/M

ISAC/M aims to open the world of university scientific research and inspire those in Year 12 (or equivalent). We target students who are curious about science and research as a future career, but who may have reduced opportunities, or 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 in Year 12 at a state-school in or around Cambridgeshire, and we are particularly interested in students who may be interested in studying Natural Sciences, Biomedical 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:

You must fit all the following criteria in order for your application to be considered: 

  • You must be attending a state-funded school 

  • You must be in year 12 

  • You must be studying: at least two STEM subjects at A level; or at least two STEM subjects at higher level as part of the International Baccalaureate; or the level 3 National Extended Diploma in Applied Science 

  • You must have at least grade 7 GCSE (or equivalent) in maths, biology and at least one other science 

  • You must be able to travel to Cambridge daily for the course of the programme (we will reimburse all reasonable travel costs) 

You must also fulfil at least one of the criteria in the list below. We will give preference to students who fulfil more than one, with the first two carrying the most weight: 

  • You are currently, or have been, in local authority care 

  • You are eligible for free school meals or pupil premium 

  • You are caring for a family member 

  • Your parents/ carers did not attend university 

  • You live in POLAR4 quintiles 1 or 2 (this is a measure of participation in higher education in the area you live, and we will deduce this from the home address you supply) 

  • You have experienced disruption in your education (eg through illness/ frequent moving/ significant relocation) 

  • Your ethnicity is under-represented at the University of Cambridge (currently this includes young people of Black African, Black Caribbean, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Gypsy, Roma or Traveller origin) 


Deadline for applications is 5pm on Friday 24th November

Please apply via this online form. Applications in any other format cannot be accepted.

For further information please contact .