Department of Biochemistry University of Oxford Department of Biochemistry
University of Oxford
South Parks Road
Oxford OX1 3QU

Tel: +44 (0)1865 613200
Fax: +44 (0)1865 613201
Image showing the global movement of lipids in a model planar membrane
Matthieu Chavent, Sansom lab
Anaphase bridges in fission yeast cells
Whitby lab
Lactose permease represented using bending cylinders in Bendix software
Caroline Dahl, Sansom lab
Epithelial cells in C. elegans showing a seam cell that failed to undergo cytokinesis
Serena Ding, Woollard lab
Collage of Drosophila third instar larva optic lobe
Lu Yang, Davis lab
First year Biochemistry students at a practical class
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How to organise an internship

The best undergraduate courses provide solid foundations for careers in Science and other sectors, as well as high quality research experience through course requirements for research projects and/or placements in external research centres.

Some of the best Postgraduate Schools and Programmes prefer candidates who have an excellent academic record (typically 2:1 or 1st Class Honours BSc or MSc degree) as well as internship experience in one or more laboratories.

  • Internships provide important insights into how research is done and whether the internee has the necessary qualities, intellectrual curiosity and ability, enthusiasm, initiative, independence and ability to work in a team, self motivation, energy and ability to design and carry out experiments to be a successful researcher.
  • Most undergraduates find their research project one of their most enjoyable parts of their course, and this leads many to choose a PhD career.  The most successful PhD candidates tend to be those who have had prior research experience through project and preferably interships as well, although academically strong candidates with only undergraduate project experience are also very good candidates.  Those who have done internships might be preferred for some PhD Studentships for various reasons, e.g. potentially better understanding of research, increased maturity,  experience of a variety of research methods and experimental approaches, more opportunities to solve problems, increased confidence, etc. 
  • Most importantly internships will enable you to decide whether you feel passionate about and able to succeed in research for at least the next 3-4 years of your career.
  • You should  try to organise an internship ideally in the summer vacation at the end of your 2nd or 3rd year.  A good idea might be to volunteer for 4-6 weeks at the end of 1st and/or 2nd year and to apply for a vacation studentship for the summer of the 3rd year.
  • Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford, because this is a high quality research training environment, and you can easily access research labs for information
  • Other research departments in Oxford or in your Home city or elsewhere in the UK where vacation studentships are advertised (see back pages of New Scientist and Nature)
  • Industrial research laboratories in the UK/abroad
  • Abroad, in internationally recognized research universities and research institutes
  • From your courses you will be attracted to some areas of  Molecular Biochemistry.
  • Review the department's  research groups pages and make a shortlist of Principal Investigators (PI's) whose research topics interest you most
  • Arrange to meet the PI's of highest interest to you, and find out whether they can accommodate a internee in their groups.  Be prepared to give them a copy of your academic CV, which should list the name and contact details of your tutor(s), who can act as your referee(s) if necessary.  You should find out whether there is any project that the group needs to investigate, the aims of the research, the experimental approaches, what research methods you might expect to learn, and whether there would be direct supevision in the summer.
  • When you find a PI who can accommodate an internee, you will also need to identify a funding source that will support your living costs.  You will need about 180-200 per week to pay for your rent and other costs in Oxford.
  • Ideally, your supervisor (PI) will apply for a Vacation Studentship to various funding bodies, naming you on the application (the link leads to further information). Funding is a competitive process, so you will need a good academic CV (usually predicted M.Biochem. with Honours Class 2:1 or higher), and may need to apply to more than one funding body.  From time to time a PI might have small funds that could be used to support an internee.
  • Alternatively you may be able to organise a part-time internship, where your income for living costs comes from part-time work in College or in town and an accommodation grant from college (ask your college if they offer any opportunities for the summer, e.g. accommodation in return for help with conferences or office work to support your internship)
  • You may volunteer to do research in a lab while living at home, if you don't have to work all summer for income.
Sources of Information
  • Internet (e.g. websites of  Univeristies, Research Centres, Industrial Companies, Research Funding Organisations, Professional Societies)
  • Scientific Press
  • Your Tutors
  • Careers Service
  • Direct contact



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