Centre for Inflammation Research

Mentoring scheme for Castlebrae High School students

May 2018: A mentoring scheme between pupils and researchers from across Edinburgh BioQuarter has been set up at Castlebrae Community High School

The mentoring scheme for students at the Castlebrae Community High School is an initiative originally designed by public engagement officers and researchers at the Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine. It has now grown to include researchers across Edinburgh BioQuarter including members of the Medical Research Council Centre for Inflammation Research’s Public Engagement & Communications committee. The idea is to bridge the gap between Edinburgh BioQuarter and the local community and aims to engage the students with people working in science through direct interaction with researchers.

The volunteer mentors visit the school on a regular basis and spend time with the students, discussing science and career related topics. We give support on their coursework, preparation for exams and on general study strategies. The major part of the discussions, though, are on potential professional paths in science and higher education. The message to be delivered is that what they are being taught in school can be translated into a real job in a related topic, and it particularly helps to boost their self-esteem in considering future options. They have the chance to talk about science beyond that taught in school, get a glance of what everyday life in research looks like, and learn that there are often failures which are constructive rather than discouraging. Pairing students with a mentor gradually helps them to build their confidence in the discussions and it is observed that the students feel a lot more prepared to ask more questions in each session, maximising the benefits they get. It can also relieve any prejudice about academia.

The feedback has been encouraging and the students seem to benefit from the discussions and realise that they can pursue their passion for science. As a general statement, the students would welcome a larger team of mentors, more frequent sessions, and more opportunities to become involved in the scheme. 

From the mentor’s perspective, it is an excellent opportunity to develop engagement and communication skills through this long-term interaction, and it is surprising how much the mentors learn from the students, too! Personally, I found these sessions not only helpful with my interpersonal skills, but also an enjoyable break from the everyday lab life, just nearby. This experience definitely reminded all of us how stressful it is to be asked to pick a career choice already form school, and we are confident we can help relieving most of the bias about life after school. I am looking forward to the next school year to continue with the students and find out how they have succeeded in their STEM classes. 

You can watch a video about the mentoring scheme, chatting to both the researchers and the pupils involved, by clicking the link at the bottom of the page.

If you would like to get involved with the Castlebrae project and/or become a mentor, please contact Cathy Southworth at cathy.southworth@ed.ac.uk .


Article written by:

Maria Panagopoulou,

Member of the Castlebrae mentorship team

OPTIMA CDT PhD Student, member of MRC Centre for Inflammation Research Public Engagement & Communications Committee



Mentorship video (YouTube)

MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine 

Castlebrae Community High School (external website)

Edinburgh BioQuarter (external website)