Biomedical Sciences

Fertility conference win for Cara and Scarlett

Congratulation to Cara and Scarlett, final year Reproductive Biology BSc and Biomedical Sciences BSc students, who came joint first in the SRF Reproduction and Fertility early career prize! Read their top tips for getting a summer placement and how to get the most out of it.

Happy International Day of Women and Girls in Science!

Cara and Scarlett holding their certificates at the fertility conference

We are Cara and Scarlett, final year Reproductive Biology BSc and Biomedical Sciences BSc students. We both undertook laboratory research projects in summer 2022 and presented our work at the Fertility Conference in January 2023 – where we came joint first in winning the SRF Reproduction and Fertility early career prize!

Attending the Fertility Conference was such an amazing experience – especially as undergrads – that winning a prize was simply the icing on the cake. Both of us attribute our success to the support we had from our supervisors and the teams in both of our labs who were absolutely fantastic and encouraging. It definitely helped that we were able to practice our presentations several times before presenting at the conference.

A bit about our projects

Cara’s project was a pilot study examining ovarian hormones in women with Long COVID across the menstrual cycle. My work mostly involved measuring ovarian hormone levels in blood serum samples using ELISA, performing immunohistochemistry on endometrial biopsy samples to localise endometrial hormone receptors, and quantifying the mRNA levels of these receptors using qRT-PCR. A fellow BSc student carried out a similar project alongside me, so it was very fun to have a friend in the lab!

Scarlett’s project involved investigating the effect of chemotherapy drug cisplatin on the fetal mouse ovary in vitro. This project was a continuation of the previous work done in the lab and it was really interesting seeing significant results and patterns in the data! The research involved performing immunohistochemistry analysis on ovarian tissue and subsequent imaging using a fluorescent microscope. It was extremely valuable being a part of this project and learning experimental skills and procedures to help me both currently and in the future!

We think it is so important that women and girls get involved in science, especially in these projects outside of your degree where you can get hands-on lab experience and see what the world of research really involves. We’ve put together some top tips for how to get a summer placement and how to get the most out of it!

Top tips for getting a summer placement:

  • Plan ahead!

If you’re considering a summer project, it’s best to start thinking about this in semester 1 of the year before the summer. This is vital not only so you can plan your time accordingly and so you know where you will be over the summer, but also so you have plenty time to explore your options and potentially apply for funding…

  • Email everyone!

We both contacted a lot of people before we found our supervisors! It can be frustrating but unfortunately you won’t hear back from everyone you email or meet, so it’s best to keep your options open. We advise you send a simple email explaining you are interested in a specific field/research project in their lab and ask if there is space in the lab for you to come in and do a summer project.

It is definitely a good idea to contact a lab and have a plan in place before applying for funding, especially as your supervisor will most likely help you apply as they will know what funding bodies like to hear on applications etc.

  • Check funding deadlines!

You don’t need funding to do a summer project, however it can be helpful to cover living costs outside of term-time, and often funding bodies will provide your lab with a stipend as well which could cover some costs of your project – very helpful for everyone!

There are various deadlines to apply for funding, usually between January and April. So not to panic if you only find a supervisor/lab in semester 2 as you should still have time to apply for some of the later deadlines.

  • Keep a diary!

You won’t remember everything you did day-to-day in the lab, how you felt about those experiences, and what you learnt from them. A good way to get the most out of your learning experience is to keep track of everything you do and try to reflect on these experiences.


Finally, good luck with all of your future summer projects – we look forward to hearing you present your work at the next conference!