A placement scheme, organised by the Department of Chemistry, allows Black-heritage sixth form students to do research at White City.
The Department of Chemistry wrapped up its 2023 summer research placement scheme in August, a program designed to support sixth form students of Black heritage who are looking to pursue careers in Chemistry.
Following a successful pilot in 2022, this year's initiative saw seven students immerse themselves in cutting-edge research at the Molecular Sciences and Research Hub (MSRH).
The scheme provided students with a unique opportunity to apply their classroom knowledge and practical skills to real-world scientific challenges.
Under the guidance of PhD students at the MSRH, the participants delved into advanced research projects, broadening their understanding of chemistry and its practical applications.
Providing a perspective of Chemistry at Imperial
The scheme was established last year by Chemistry PhD students, Faysal Farah and Sean McCarthy, and supported by Professor James Wilton-Ely, the Department’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee Co-Director.
“One thing we noticed is that we don’t get that many applications from students from London, especially from Black and mixed heritage students,” Professor Wilton-Ely said.
“We wanted to use our presence at White City, which is surrounded by diverse communities from different demographics, to help us address that,” he said.
Faysal, Sean and fellow students from the Department helped to organise the scheme and mentored the Year 12 students throughout the summer.
Organiser and mentor, Hodan Warsame, said: “A lot of the questions they asked me were about what it was like to study at Imperial as a Black student or as an ethnic minority.”
Many of the students expressed uneasiness about applying to Imperial previously, she said: “Now that I spoke to them, a lot of them are applying to Imperial!”
Sean commented that many of the students benefitted from being able to put theory they learned in school into the context of research.
“You might learn about using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy in school but now they can actually see how those skills are useful as part of a real role,” he said, “That is something they could use at some point in their lives, not only as a PhD student, but as a chemist working for a company.”
Ending with a promise to the future
The placement scheme culminated with a Black-heritage UCAS Open Day, where students showcased their research findings and networked with chemists of Black heritage from industry.
The event featured a talk about the Department's activities and its plans for addressing the under-representation of Black students in Chemistry.
Undergraduate Admissions Tutor, Dr Simon Gerrard, offered insights into the UCAS application process and provided practical advice for those considering applying to study Chemistry at Imperial.
The Open Day also hosted guest speakers Dr Fahima Idris, an associate principal scientist at Pharmaron, and Daniel Similaki who founded the Afro-Caribbean Commercial Science Network (ACCSN).
Plans are underway to partner with the ACCSN for future programmes. “By working with the ACCSN and other networks, we’re hoping to get the name of Imperial out there as a place that wants to increase its student diversity,” said Professor Wilton-Ely.
We also want it make it clear that we have lots of Master’s and PhD programmes and we are very keen to bring people in at all levels Professor James Wilton-Ely Department of Chemistry
“We also want it make it clear that we have lots of Master’s and PhD programmes and we are very keen to bring people in at all levels,” he said.
"Even when students don’t necessarily have the greatest school experience, they still have a chance to show what they can do as undergraduates at other universities, and we hope that they then consider applying to Imperial," he said.
Special thanks to the PhD students who mentored this year’s cohort of students, as well as Dr Mike Ray, Professor James Wilton-Ely and Professor Oscar Ces for their unwavering support of the scheme.
Article text (excluding photos or graphics) © Imperial College London.
Photos and graphics subject to third party copyright used with permission or © Imperial College London.
Faculty of Natural Sciences