Student in a laboratory with the Wellcome logo
A student working in a laboratory. (Image credit: Phil Brooks)

Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarships at Oxford

About

As a Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholar (BVS), you’ll work on a self-contained piece of research over six weeks.

We are fully committed to delivering our graduate access programmes as planned, however, it is too early to say exactly what the situation will be in the summer of 2021. If you receive an offer of a Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarship, changes may need to be made to ensure that the programme can be delivered safely. These may include delivering the projects remotely. We hope that up to six Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarships will be available based in labs around Oxford.

What happens during a Wellcome BVS project at Oxford?

Your Wellcome BVS project will last six weeks from Monday 5 July to Friday 13 August. At the start of your Wellcome BVS project you’ll receive an induction, which will introduce you to the University and the research group in which you’ll be based for the duration of your project. As well as being supervised by Oxford academics, you will have the opportunity to meet with our DPhil (our name for PhD) students and learn more about what it’s like to be a postgraduate research student at Oxford.

Over the course of your project you’ll have many opportunities to improve your research skills. Depending on your research topic, this might involve improving your programming skills, or learning some new laboratory or data analysis skills.

Depending on the situation in July and August 2021, the programme will conclude with a mini conference in Oxford taking place on Thursday 12 and Friday 13 August which will bring together Wellcome scholars and UNIQ+ interns. You will write a report on your project and give a short presentation at the conference. If it is not possible to hold the mini conference in Oxford, it will be held remotely.

What's on offer?

A Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarship will give you the opportunity to carry out a research project under the supervision of Oxford academics and researchers.

You’ll gain an insight into studying at postgraduate level, as well as the chance to gain real-life research experience and develop your academic skills. You’ll also receive guidance on how to improve your CV and career prospects. You’ll learn new and develop existing academic and research skills, which will help you when preparing an application for a postgraduate course.

Opportunities and benefits of a Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarship at Oxford

A Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarship will provide you with sufficient financial support to ensure that a research experience at Oxford is a viable alternative to other summer employment.

You will receive:

  • a basic salary at real Living Wage plus holiday pay and National Insurance contributions (estimated to be in the region of £2,532 before tax and employee National Insurance); and
  • an application fee waiver for applying to a postgraduate course at Oxford (currently the application fee is £75 per application).

Depending on the situation in July and August 2021, if we're able to offer the programme in Oxford you will also receive:

  • free-of-charge accommodation provided by one of our colleges (see our FAQ: What is a college?);
  • up to £250 for your travel expenses to and from Oxford at the start and end of your research project.

Carrying out a summer research project will:

  • enhance your research skills;
  • enhance your ability to make a competitive application to postgraduate courses;
  • introduce you to leading researchers and staff at the University of Oxford; and
  • offer you information about opportunities for postgraduate study and research careers.

Projects

Wellcome BVS projects are designed to offer tangible benefits in terms of confidence, skills and experience that will enhance any future postgraduate or job application.

As part of the application you will be asked to enter at least one and up to three preferred projects. If you are successful, we will try to match your interests with available projects, but please note that we may not be able to meet your preferences. Please see the Eligibility criteria section of this page for full details of the criteria you will need to meet to be considered for Wellcome BVS at Oxford, including the subject areas you should currently be studying as an undergraduate student.

Depending on the situation in July and August 2021, changes may need to be made to ensure that the programme can be delivered safely. These may include delivering the projects remotely. Please  be aware that it may not be possible to deliver all projects remotely/online.

Available projects include:

BVS project 1: Department of Biochemistry

Supervisor

Matthew Higgins

Description

The project involves using structural biology to understand host-parasite interactions essential for the survival and growth of the malaria parasite, and to see how these interactions are blocked by antibodies.

BVS project 2: Big Data Institute

Supervisor

Aiden Doherty

Description

The project will be based around wearable sensors and reproducible machine learning in large population health studies.

BVS project 3: Big Data Institute

Supervisor

Bartlomiej Papiez

Description

Projects will look at biomedical image analysis at BDI/NDPH using machine learning for detection of various diseases/abnormalities in medical imaging. Find out more about previous work undertaken by interns.

BVS project 4: Sir William Dunn School of Pathology

Supervisor

William James

Description

Alongside existing researchers, projects will relate to work on macromolecular antagonists of cellular infection by SARS-CoV-2. You might help with the CL2 set-up (cell culture, dilution robot, etc) and analysis (immunostaining and ELIspot enumeration) of the CL3 work, undertake pseudotype virus assays and qRT pCR (both CL2), together with data analysis and molecular modelling.

BVS project 5: Department of Experimental Psychology

Supervisor

Manuel Spitschan

Description

Actigraphy and light measurement data sets: This project will look at large-scale data sets to understand the relationship of light exposure, circadian rhythms, sleep and mental health.

BVS project 6: Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics

Supervisor

Duncan Sparrow

Description

The lab investigates the causes of the most common type of birth defect - congenital heart disease - using mouse models. The project would involve analysing the effects of a teratogenic drug on embryonic heart development using both 3D imaging techniques and molecular analysis of gene and protein expression.

BVS project 7: Chemistry in Cells (Wellcome Trust Programme)

Supervisor

Stuart Conway / Chemistry in Cells leadership team

Description

Advanced research in chemical and physical sciences at the interface with biomedicine, exploring biology, biochemistry, drug discovery and introducing practical and theoretical research skills in computer programming, statistics and quantitative chemical biology.

BVS project 8: Genomic Medicine and Statistics (Wellcome Trust Programme)

Supervisor

Julian Knight / Genomic Medicine and Statistics leadership team

Description

Projects exploring the application of genomics to advance human health, providing introduction to skill sets spanning experimental and analytical genomic science.

BVS project 9: Cellular Structural Biology (Wellcome Trust Programme)

Supervisor

Matthew Higgins / Cellular Structural Biology leadership team

Description

Projects introducing structural biology methodology and the application to the study of cellular systems.

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible for Wellcome BVS, you will need to ensure that you meet the criteria listed below.

You don’t have to be studying at the University of Oxford to be eligible. You may apply to all three programmes (UNIQ+ internships, UNIQ+ Digital and Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarships) if you wish and you only need to submit one application. However, your application will only be considered for programmes where you meet the eligibility criteria.

Eligibility criteria for UNIQ+ and UNIQ+ Digital can be found on the UNIQ+ programme page. 

To be eligible for Wellcome BVS you must:

  1. be ordinarily resident in the UK without any restrictions on how long you can stay. Your UK residence should not have been wholly or mainly for the purpose of receiving full-time education, eg you moved to the UK for educational purposes at the start of your course; and
  2. be currently undertaking an undergraduate degree at a UK or Irish university; and
  3. be in the middle year of your course (not the first or final year) when you have not yet undertaken a substantial period of research; and
  4. not have undertaken or be currently undertaking an intercalated year; and
  5. not have completed or be currently undertaking a one-year placement in research as part of your degree (eg a sandwich year); and
  6. not have previously undertaken a vacation scholarship from Wellcome or another funding body, or have had significant research experience; and
  7. not be a graduate-entry medical student who has previously completed an undergraduate degree in a science-related subject; and
  8. be studying an undergraduate degree in a relevant subject area, for example:
    • science (including biomedical, natural, computing or physical sciences)
    • medicine
    • dentistry
    • veterinary medicine
    • engineering
    • mathematics
  9. meet at least one of the following criteria:
    • be in the first generation of your family to go to university;
    • have been in care for at least three months;
    • have been a young carer;
    • belong to an ethnic group under-represented at Oxford (Black or Mixed Black, Bangladeshi or Mixed Bangladeshi, and Pakistani or Mixed Pakistani);
    • are from a low-income background and in receipt of more than the minimum levels of support detailed from your regional funding body (find out how to check); or
    • come from a neighbourhood which is classed as ACORN 4 or 5 or POLAR (4) Quintile 1 or 2 (find out how to check) in the final calendar year of your secondary school education when you sat your exams, for example, A-Levels (this would normally be at age 18). 

Academic expectations: We are looking for proven and potential academic excellence. Applicants would usually be on track to achieve or have achieved a final undergraduate degree grade of a strong 2:1 or First. If your transcript shows year on year grade progression towards the upper range of a 2:1 or above, then we’d encourage you to apply for the programme. 

We particularly encourage students at non-Russell Group institutions to apply. You can check if your institution is a member of the Russell Group on their website. All other things being equal, candidates from institutions outside of the Russell Group may be given preference.  

Checking that you meet the eligibility criteria

The additional information below has been provided to help you check whether you meet the criteria concerning your income or neighbourhood as outlined above.

Assessing your financial eligibility

Applicants who received at least the following levels of support from their regional funding body during their degree are eligible for our graduate access programmes.

The minimum qualifying support levels for the different regions are set out below.

If you completed a part-time undergraduate degree during this period, please contact us by email (uniqplus@admin.ox.ac.uk) for information on eligibility thresholds.

England

Students who received funding in 2020-21:

  • Studying outside London, not living with parents: Student loan of at least £8,700
  • Studying in London, not living with parents: Student loan of at least £11,100
  • Living at home: Student loan of at least £7,290

If you completed your degree prior to 2021 and believe that you were in receipt of the maximum loan from Student Finance England, please contact us by email (uniqplus@admin.ox.ac.uk).

Scotland

Maintenance grant of at least £1,125.

Northern Ireland

Maintenance grant of at least £2,201.

Wales

Students who began their undergraduate course from 2018-19 minimum qualifying support levels:

  • Studying outside London, not living with parents: Maintenance grant of at least £6,900
  • Studying in London, not living with parents: Maintenance grant of at least £8,600
  • Living at home: Maintenance grant of at least £5,900

Students who began their course from 2012-13 to 2017-18 inclusive:

  • Grant of at least £3,347

Using ACORN and POLAR to assess eligibility

ACORN and POLAR (Participation of Local Areas) are ways of assessing the levels of socio-economic wealth or participation in higher education in different areas of the UK.

Those eligible may have lived in an area of low socio-economic status which is classed as either ACORN Category 4 or 5, or POLAR4 Quintile 1 or 2.

ACORN

You can check which ACORN category your home postcode comes under on the ACORN website. You will need to register with ACORN, which is free.

Once you have registered please search for the postcode of your home address in the final year of your secondary education (usually in the final year of your Sixth Form/FE college at age 18).

Your postcode search will return a summary page with with the ACORN Category. Your postcode will need to fall into Category 4 or 5 to be eligible.

POLAR4

You can check which POLAR4 quintile your home postcode comes under on the POLAR website. You do not need to register for POLAR.

Please search for the the postcode of your home address in the final year of your secondary education (usually in the final year of your Sixth Form/FE college at age 18).

Your postcode search will return a summary page with the POLAR quintiles (and other measures). Please check against the POLAR4 quintile which is the second column. Your postcode will need to fall into quintile 1 or 2 to be eligible.

How to apply

Applications for our 2021 programmes have now closed. If you have applied for a place in 2021, you can still login to our application form to review your previously submitted application.

We welcome applications from all talented individuals who would find continuing into postgraduate study a challenge for reasons other than academic ability.

As part of your application, you will be able to select which of the three graduate access programmes you would like to be considered for (UNIQ+ internships, UNIQ+ Digital and/or Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarships). You will need to ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria for each programme you have selected. You can find more details about the criteria in the Eligibility criteria section of each programme page. 

You may apply to all three programmes if you wish and you only need to submit one application. However, your application will only be considered for programmes where you meet the eligibility criteria.

Applications to the UNIQ+ internships
and/or Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarships (BVS) programmes

If you would like to be considered for a place on the UNIQ+ internships and/or Wellcome BVS programmes, you will need to tick the appropriate box on the application form.

Successful applications

If you apply to be considered for both programmes and are successful on both, we will match you to UNIQ+ internships or Wellcome BVS on the basis of:

  • your interests;
  • project/supervisor availability; and
  • closest match with the eligibility criteria.

This will enable us to maximise the number of places we can offer.

If your application to the UNIQ+ internships or Wellcome BVS is successful, you will also automatically be offered a place on UNIQ+ Digital even if you did not tick the box to be considered for UNIQ+ Digital on the application form.

Unsuccessful applications

If your application to the UNIQ+ internships or Wellcome BVS is unsuccessful, you will only be considered for a place on UNIQ+ Digital if you have ticked the box on the application form.

Applications to the UNIQ+ Digital programme

If you would like to be considered for a place on the UNIQ+ Digital programme (either on its own or as an unsuccessful UNIQ+ internships and/or Wellcome BVS applicant), you will need to tick the box to be considered for UNIQ+ Digital on the application form. Once your application has been submitted you will not have an opportunity to change your preference later (eg upon hearing that your UNIQ+ internships/Wellcome BVS application has been unsuccessful).

Completing the application form

To apply, you will need to complete our online application form. As part of the application process you will be required to provide information about your education, submit supporting documents, state your subject interests, provide a personal statement, and source two references.

The information below will help you to prepare the information you need before you start the form.

Your education

In addition to information about your undergraduate/postgraduate degree, the application form will ask you to provide the name and address of the school(s)/college(s) that you attended when you passed your GCSE(s) or equivalent (usually at age 16) and in your final calendar year of secondary education (usually Sixth Form/FE college at age 18). Don’t worry if the name has changed or the school has now closed – just include as much detail as you can. You will need to provide a postcode, which you can search for using an online service such as the Royal Mail’s Postcode Finder.

Supporting documents

CV

The application form will require you to upload several documents in support of your application. You will first be required to upload your CV in PDF format (or as a PNG/JPG).

When preparing your document, please save it with the following naming convention: SURNAME, Firstname, CV.

Transcript

You will also need to upload a copy of your University transcript(s) containing, if you have not completed your degree, the grades/marks you have received so far for your undergraduate (and, if applicable, postgraduate) degree(s).

Downloads/screenshots from student self-service online systems are fine, but must clearly show:

  • your name;
  • the name of the awarding institution;
  • details of your course; and
  • a breakdown of grades.

You will have the opportunity to add up to five files and we kindly request that you use the following naming convention: SURNAME, Firstname, type of document (eg Undergraduate Transcript/Postgraduate Transcript etc).

Student Finance summary

You will be required to upload a scanned copy of the most recent official letter/screenshot with your entitlement summary from Student Finance confirming the undergraduate financial support you receive/have received from the UK government.

This should detail any loan/grant in addition to the standard government loan that all UK resident students are eligible for.

Any screenshot must include:

  • your name;
  • the name of the issuing authority (ie, Student Finance England); and
  • the amount of funding received and confirmation of this.

A copy of an application for funding will not suffice. Please note, we do not require evidence of any loans received for master’s courses.

Your subject interests

Research projects offered as part of the UNIQ+ internships and Wellcome BVS at Oxford are listed in the Projects section of each programme page. The application form will ask you to outline your preferred field of study and areas of research and indicate which of the listed projects you would be interested in working on.

If you are successful, we will try to match your interests to available projects and supervisors. Please note that we will not always be able to meet your preferences for a project/supervisor, but we will try our best to do this wherever possible.

Your personal statement

The application form will ask you to provide a personal statement that is divided into two sections with up to 2,000 characters per section. We recommend that you draft this offline and double check the number of characters you have used before copying this into the application form.

The first section of you statement should explain why you are interested in the graduate access programme(s) you have chosen. Think about what interests you about the programme and the projects you have selected, what motivates you to study your subject now, how you have engaged more closely with your field over time, and what you would like to get out of the programme. 

The second section of your statement should explain why you are applying and why you believe your background and/or personal circumstances qualify you. Think about which eligibility criteria you meet and your reasons for applying for UNIQ+ that is designed to introduce students from under-represented backgrounds to graduate study. We encourage you to mention any extenuating circumstances or personal circumstances that you would like to bring to the attention of the academic assessors. For example, if you have been in care, if you are estranged from your family, if you have experienced homelessness, or experienced other situations that have had a significant impact on your education.  

As part of the application form, you will be asked if you have undertaken or are undertaking a sandwich year/intercalated year as part of your undergraduate degree. Please specify in your personal statement the type of placement and whether or not this involves/has involved a significant research component.

Write your statement in Word or Notepad, checking that each section is under the 2,000-character limit, then copy-paste your text into the form when you are happy with it. There isn’t one ideal structure or style for a personal statement - focus on what you want us to know about you and how this programme would fit into your academic development. Make sure that you have read the programme criteria and project descriptions carefully to see what the programme is looking for before you start.

References

The application form will ask you to provide information about your two referees. At least one should be a member of university academic staff (eg a tutor, advisor or professor) who can comment on your academic ability, the quality of your work, your potential for further study, and your suitability for the programme(s).

Before you submit your application, you will need to contact your referees and make sure that they are happy to write a reference for you by the deadline. Once you submit your application, your referees will be sent an automated email telling them how to submit their references. Please submit your application as early as possible to give your referees plenty of time and keep in contact with them to make sure that they have received the email notification. Where possible, please enter your referee’s institutional/professional email address. 

Referees will be asked to send their references to us by email to uniqplus@admin.ox.ac.uk by the deadline shown in the email they received when you registered them as referees.

If they would like more information about any of the graduate access programmes that you have applied for, you can provide them with a link to the relevant programme page(s) on this website.

Both the UNIQ+ and Wellcome BVS at Oxford programme pages provide referees with the same guidance about what to include in their reference. This information can be found in the Guidance for referees sections of each page. For convenience, you may wish to provide your referees with the following web address: http://www.graduate.ox.ac.uk/access/referee

After you apply

Assessment of your application

Selection for our graduate access programmes will be made on the basis of the following information collected in the application form:

  • financial circumstances;
  • socio-economic information;
  • any relevant contextual information supplied in your application form and personal statement;
  • your academic merit and potential to do research in the relevant field, as evidenced by your academic record and references; and
  • all other things being equal, applicants who identify as Black or Mixed Black, Bangladeshi or Mixed Bangladeshi, and Pakistani or Mixed Pakistani may also be given preference in the assessment process because these groups are under-represented in postgraduate education at the University of Oxford. The University is taking positive action under the Equality Act 2010 to tackle the underrepresentation of UK students from Black, Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds at Oxford and to encourage more students from these groups to apply for graduate study.

Notifying you of the outcome

Update 06/05/2021: We received an unprecedented number of applications for our 2021 graduate access programmes, and our team is working with assessors to ensure that you know the outcome of your application as soon as possible. We hope to communicate decisions in the next two to three weeks, and will let you know the outcome of your application by email.

Successful applications

If you have been successful, the email will confirm which of the following is being offered:

  • a UNIQ+ internship and a place on UNIQ+ Digital,
  • a Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarship at Oxford and a place on UNIQ+ Digital; or
  • a place on UNIQ+ Digital.

It will also include what you’ll need to do next and information on how to prepare for your research placement.

Unsuccessful applications

If you aren’t successful, you might be placed on a waiting list – if so, we will let you know when you can expect to hear whether you’ve got a place.

Guidance for referees

What is the reference for?

Oxford's graduate access programmes (UNIQ+ internships, UNIQ+ Digital and Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarships at Oxford) offer the chance to experience what postgraduate study is like at the University of Oxford. They are aimed at those from areas of low progression to postgraduate study. You can read more about these programmes in the previous sections of this page and the other Graduate access pages on this website.

What should I include in my reference?

Referees are kindly requested to submit a reference letter, to assist the University in making a full assessment of each application. Please read the guidance below, which provides a suggestion of what to include in your reference letter and instructions for sending your reference.  The guidance is the same for all three of our graduate access programmes, so you do not need to worry about which programme(s) the applicant has applied for.

We ask that referees comment on the academic ability and general suitability of the applicant for participation in a graduate access programme at Oxford, and any other information you may consider relevant. Please ensure that the applicant's name is clearly visible in your reference letter.

If possible, please include the following in your reference letter:

  • the name of the applicant, so that we can attach your reference to the correct application;
  • the duration and extent of your familiarity with the applicant;
  • the specific course the applicant is/was on;
  • their general aptitude and academic potential;
  • their academic achievements (including prizes, publications etc);
  • their relevant skills and experience (eg academic writing, work and/or research experience, laboratory skills, etc);
  • their suitability for participating in a graduate access programme at Oxford; and
  • their relevant personal characteristics (eg independence, innovation or determination).

How do I submit my reference?

If you have been registered as a referee, we will send you an email containing instructions on how to submit your reference. Please submit your reference by the deadline shown in our email

You will need to send your reference to us by email (uniqplus@admin.ox.ac.uk) as a PDF attachment. To be considered valid, you should send your reference from your professional/institutional email address. Where this is not possible (eg because you have retired), could you please explain the circumstances in your reference letter.

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