Supporting local STEM students into higher education

After a successful 4th year running, the grass-roots, EDI seed-funded mentoring program welcomes a new round (and record number!) of sixth form students in 2023/2024. Partnered with the Ark Academy in Wembley, the mentoring scheme provides support to Year 12 students studying STEM subjects. The initiative aims to foster a nurturing environment for scientific exploration, and to equip students with a diverse set of skills to strengthen university applications.

The programme involves:

  • 1:1 sessions: students are paired with a scientific mentor. These sessions are designed to give students exciting insight into their STEM subject of interest and to inform career aspirations. Since it’s inception, the scheme has involved over 120 mentor-mentee pairs, interested in biology, maths, physics, engineering, chemistry and medicine. 
  • Scientific posters: with expert guidance from the team of Imperial researchers, students create a scientific poster on their chosen topic, to be displayed at an in-person event. Previous poster sessions have garnered support from corporate sponsors like Merck and Proteintech, offering special prizes.
  • Dedicated support for University applications and interviews: students receive assistance crafting compelling personal statements for UCAS applications and support in honing interview skills in a mock panel interview.

Student quotes from previous cohorts

“Making the poster and finding out about my mentors' field of research was exciting and interesting.”

“The mentoring programme gave me confidence.”

“[The mentoring scheme] gave me a chance to explore a topic of my choice independently with little to no boundaries on what I read and included in the poster.”


Natalie Ness

PhD student, UK DRI at Imperial

It has been an inspiring journey witnessing the exceptional work the mentees put into their research and crafting scientific posters that showcase their findings. The feedback we have received from mentees has been overwhelmingly positive, with many expressing how the programme has deepened their interest in science and enhanced their ability to articulate scientific concepts. Delving into the research conducted by these students has been an enlightening experience, as we have witnessed firsthand the innovative ideas and fresh perspectives they bring to the table. I am excited to see where our exceptional mentors and mentees take this programme in the future.

Headshot of Ravinash smiling in outdoors

Dr Ravinash Kirshna Kumar

Lecturer in Synthetic Biology, Dept of Infectious Disease

I helped co-found the scheme in 2020. In particular I am now looking to expand research internships to the scheme as well as taking mentees yearly.

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Alan Murphy

PhD student, UK DRI at Imperial

The most rewarding aspect of the programme for me is seeing the initial sparks of curiosity and excitement ignite as the students discover more about their research topic - whether that be potential new treatments of neurodegenerative diseases or computational models to give better insight into the development of cancer types. These are the same sparks that drive our work as researchers.

Headshot of Nieves smiling in a beret

Nieves Derqui

PhD student, Public School of Health

¡Hola! My name is Nieves and I am a PhD student at the School of Public Health, where I study the evolution of vaccination inequalities. I am also very passionate about education, so no surprise I found this programme super exciting! I loved the opportunity to interact with the students at Ark and discuss their aspirations.

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Dr Sebastian Guenneau

Reader in Physics

I am the Senior Tutor for undergraduate students in the Department of Physics of the Blackett Laboratory at Imperial College London, with a main focus on Student Wellbeing and Mental-Health. I have a keen interest in Widening Participation, Research Informed Teaching and Innovation and Enterprise. I have extensive experience working with mathematics and physics students, as well as students with learning differences, including dyslexia and dysgraphia. My main research interests lie in the physics of metamaterials for an enhanced control of wave and diffusion phenomena (including designing invisibility cloaks to protect buildings from earthquake and heat waves).

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Emma Mattin

Education and Equality Coordinator, Faculty of Natural Sciences

I’m the Faculty of Natural Sciences Education & EDI Coordinator and have been involved with the programme since 2023. It’s been absolutely fantastic to work with young people that are so passionate and articulate about science, and supporting this programme has been one of the most enjoyable parts of my job!

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Dr Marieke Hoekstra


There are many outreach programmes but often they target pupils that are already likely to interact with scientists (e.g. scientists are family members of the pupils). What was very important for me was to widen the horizon with this mentoring scheme, creating an opportunity for pupils who, otherwise, might not meet scientists this early in their career. I am proud of what the mentors and mentees have achieved already, and I'm excited to see the impact of the program on the pupils' careers.