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Sixth-form students become cancer-research STARS

A-level students are gaining first-hand experience in cutting-edge cancer research, thanks to a new programme created at Queen Mary University of London’s Barts Cancer Institute (BCI).

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2013 STARS at Barts Cancer Institute
2013 STARS at Barts Cancer Institute

BCI – part of Queen Mary’s medical school - has partnered with the charity Access Work Placements to create a course for 17 and 18-year-old aspiring scientists. The course enables them to perform experiments, learn techniques and experience working in a research laboratory.

The four-day Science Training for Aspiring Research Scientists ( STARS) programme is aimed at pupils considering studying medicine or dentistry at university, and those generally curious about lab work. 

Pupils will meet cancer researchers, receive advice on applying to university, and explore a diverse range of skills, including; DNA extraction, how to accurately prepare solutions and dilutions, using microscopes to study cancer cells, gene cloning, detecting specific proteins and comparing normal and cancer tissues using microscopy.

Dr John Marshall, Reader in Tumour Biology and BCI Stars coordinator comments: “The feedback from the students and their headteachers has been incredibly positive. The pupils really enjoy the programme which seems to have enhanced their applications to university.

“BCI STARS also benefits Queen Mary’s postgraduate students and senior researchers. Working as STARS Facilitators, their engagement with the younger students helps reinforce both science communication and teaching skills.”

The first course took place in September 2013, with a second set to begin on Monday 17 February 2014. Schools taking part this year include The Harefield Academy, The Bushey Academy, The Lilian Baylis Technology School, Highbury Grove School and The London Academy. 

The pilot course was made possible through funding from the Centre for Public Engagement at Queen Mary.

For more information about BCI Stars, visit

For more information about Barts Cancer Institute, visit

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