To become a full research scientist , what you really need is experience in experimentation – but getting laboratory experience if you’re an undergraduate can be extremely problematic, especially in Nigeria.
Most bioscience,chemistry and physics students in the UK,US,NG, get around 3-9 hours of lab time per week, but that’s not enough. If you’re considering a career in academia, or a job in a lab, previous lab experience is considered crucial.
There are a few places out there that offer paid internships in labs, but getting a placement is tough. I’m a biochemistry student and applied to several placements, but despite my decent grades, I was rejected by all of them.
When I asked for personal feedback, a range of reasons were given such as: “irrelevant lab experience”. Like many internships you need experience in order to get that experience – so how do you get your break?
One institution rejected me because my application was lacking “an adverse event or life challenge” that inspired me to become a scientist.
If you miss out on organized schemes you can apply to individual labs requesting a summer placement. But this isn’t easier either.
Most labs don’t reply. If you’re particularly lucky, a couple of academics get back to you to say either that they do not accept undergraduates, or that their lab has no more available spaces.
The few lucky science students who do manage to pin down lab experience may not get paid – meaning opportunities are available to an even smaller few.
Louis Freeland-Haynes, a Cambridge University biology student, was able to find a summer placement at a molecular biology lab at Edinburgh University says: “The experience gave me motivation and enthusiasm for the subject as most teaching labs restrict the amount of equipment you work with.”
But most of us are not as lucky. Things need to change. Science internships need to be accessible to a wide range of students, including those that do not have experience and do not have the perfect grades.
Several science students needs to be given the privilege to succeed in sciences – not just for the benefit of those students, but to progress scientific work and the benefits science has on us all.
Science students should be encouraged to experiment and learn through experiments. This can only be done if researchers and the scientific community can make lab placements more accessible.
• Are you a science student? How hard is it to find lab experience? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.