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Stem Work experience

Hi I’m a year 12 student looking to study NatSci at Cambridge I’m wondering if anyone had any suggestions for stem work experience in the chemistry or physics field
Original post by 1278721372
Hi I’m a year 12 student looking to study NatSci at Cambridge I’m wondering if anyone had any suggestions for stem work experience in the chemistry or physics field
You do not have to do any work experience at all and of everyone I knew at Uni it was rare for anyone to have any significant experience (by which i mean doing anything more than fetching people coffee and shadowing), and I also know for a fact that admissions cannot use this as a discriminator because the fact is that not everyone will have access or the means to secure work experience like this.

If you really want to find something then i'd recommend fishing around for pretty much anything where the field is solved or established. Advanced medical equipment, water treatment, pharmaceutical companies, anything engineering-adjacent or sports-adjacent is also fine. I'm not sure how many of these sectors would necessarily let in a teenager though.


Much more relevant for natsci;

Olympiads, Maths challenges, online competitions, etc. May be a bit late for some of these if you are applying this year.

Helping in learning through your school or otherwise. Maybe you tutor or give assistance/ share notes with people doing GCSEs.

Individual projects and books - the kinds of things you dont need supervision or actual money for. e.g. You could - with only a cheap telescope worth almost nothing - try to calculate the distance to or mass of the moon. A lot of raw data is also published publicly nowadays, and you could attempt to do something basic with that over the summer

Learning a science-adjacent skill like programming or more advanced statistical methods and applying it to something related to science or maths. e.g. perhaps you have a favorite video game, you could construct statistical models for it or something and share it online (or not share it). Learning 3d rendering or animation or even basic game design will also involve a lot of mathematics if done from the ground up.

Learning to enjoy problem solving. It doesn't have to be chess or minesweeper or past MAT papers, but I'd recommend following any kind of natural interest you have.


You do not have to do anything of the above though. They really are just interested in the best students in the context of the course itself
Reply 2
Original post by A Light Lilt
You do not have to do any work experience at all and of everyone I knew at Uni it was rare for anyone to have any significant experience (by which i mean doing anything more than fetching people coffee and shadowing), and I also know for a fact that admissions cannot use this as a discriminator because the fact is that not everyone will have access or the means to secure work experience like this.
If you really want to find something then i'd recommend fishing around for pretty much anything where the field is solved or established. Advanced medical equipment, water treatment, pharmaceutical companies, anything engineering-adjacent or sports-adjacent is also fine. I'm not sure how many of these sectors would necessarily let in a teenager though.
Much more relevant for natsci;

Olympiads, Maths challenges, online competitions, etc. May be a bit late for some of these if you are applying this year.

Helping in learning through your school or otherwise. Maybe you tutor or give assistance/ share notes with people doing GCSEs.

Individual projects and books - the kinds of things you dont need supervision or actual money for. e.g. You could - with only a cheap telescope worth almost nothing - try to calculate the distance to or mass of the moon. A lot of raw data is also published publicly nowadays, and you could attempt to do something basic with that over the summer

Learning a science-adjacent skill like programming or more advanced statistical methods and applying it to something related to science or maths. e.g. perhaps you have a favorite video game, you could construct statistical models for it or something and share it online (or not share it). Learning 3d rendering or animation or even basic game design will also involve a lot of mathematics if done from the ground up.

Learning to enjoy problem solving. It doesn't have to be chess or minesweeper or past MAT papers, but I'd recommend following any kind of natural interest you have.


You do not have to do anything of the above though. They really are just interested in the best students in the context of the course itself


Thanks so much, that is really insightful and really interesting to hear I appreciate that a lot. I’m struggling at the moment as many competitions I find I’ve missed the deadlines for. However I’m doing an EPQ and am beginning to develop a reading list, I really liked your suggestions using a telescope and wondered if you had any other suggestions like that? However I am looking to see if I may be able to shadow someone in my local hospital who works in something like X-rays. Would you think this would be suitable and beneficial experience?
Original post by 1278721372
Thanks so much, that is really insightful and really interesting to hear I appreciate that a lot. I’m struggling at the moment as many competitions I find I’ve missed the deadlines for. However I’m doing an EPQ and am beginning to develop a reading list, I really liked your suggestions using a telescope and wondered if you had any other suggestions like that? However I am looking to see if I may be able to shadow someone in my local hospital who works in something like X-rays. Would you think this would be suitable and beneficial experience?
The X-ray idea is a good one if its possible. If not check if they have MRI or CT or anything else close.

Do not necessarily worry about missing the boat on Olympiads and competitions. A lot of schools just dont do them. I suspect you will probably enjoy trying a few past papers on them regardless (these are generally quite good practice for any potential interviews or exams or whatever they are doing in 2024...)

The EPQ is a good, and the reading list also, just my recommendation there is dont bite off more than you can chew. It is difficult to find *good* science books aimed at intelligent 17 year olds. Most of the actually good ones are basically undergrad and most ones that dont stray into any real maths are often mostly fluff.


I think an ideal "fun summer project" is probably:

free / cheap or reasonably cheap in the context of how well off your parents/ guardians are

Not too long - i wouldnt recommend starting anything you estimate is going to be over 20 hours

"Solved" science - e.g. Proving that light is a wave or has wave-like properties, anything astronomy related, building a coke + mento rocket. Ideally this has an answer that's easy to check (e.g. the value of absolute zero or the speed of light or the distance to the sun or the radius of the earth).

One where you can actually talk about or put the results somewhere (at minimum, you could create an instagram or youtube to show what you did) as this kind of an actual deadline or endpoint should make sure you actually do the entire thing

Something "someone" can check. Obvious candidate here is a school teacher, but a knowledgeable family member or friend can work. If the work is largely mathematical or interesting then you can very likely get someone on the internet to do it for free.

I guess bonus points if it can be included in the EPQ but that doesnt seem super necessary

I would not worry about trying to learn something new. You will likely learn something anyway when you attempt to measure the error, etc.


My best recommendation is probably just something you have covered this year or find most interesting.

I would then look for something which has been experimentally proven/ solved in the past and try and work out as much as possible on your own about what to do, without directly copying what they did. The advantage of doing something that's been done before is that you always have this as a backup though, so the project wont just die 8 hours in if you get stuck.


To avoid being annoying, it would be best for you to come up with the idea yourself i think. That way its most likely to be original

I would also focus on any and all exams or mock exams you have first


Edit: Youtube has a lot of these good mini projects. Steve Mould, a lot of the maths gang, a lot of the flat earth debunk (or bunk) videos go over the idea for these "backyard" projects and are maybe some inspiration or something to shoot for.
(edited 1 month ago)
Reply 4
Original post by A Light Lilt
The X-ray idea is a good one if its possible. If not check if they have MRI or CT or anything else close.
Do not necessarily worry about missing the boat on Olympiads and competitions. A lot of schools just dont do them. I suspect you will probably enjoy trying a few past papers on them regardless (these are generally quite good practice for any potential interviews or exams or whatever they are doing in 2024...)
The EPQ is a good, and the reading list also, just my recommendation there is dont bite off more than you can chew. It is difficult to find *good* science books aimed at intelligent 17 year olds. Most of the actually good ones are basically undergrad and most ones that dont stray into any real maths are often mostly fluff.
I think an ideal "fun summer project" is probably:

free / cheap or reasonably cheap in the context of how well off your parents/ guardians are

Not too long - i wouldnt recommend starting anything you estimate is going to be over 20 hours

"Solved" science - e.g. Proving that light is a wave or has wave-like properties, anything astronomy related, building a coke + mento rocket. Ideally this has an answer that's easy to check (e.g. the value of absolute zero or the speed of light or the distance to the sun or the radius of the earth).

One where you can actually talk about or put the results somewhere (at minimum, you could create an instagram or youtube to show what you did) as this kind of an actual deadline or endpoint should make sure you actually do the entire thing

Something "someone" can check. Obvious candidate here is a school teacher, but a knowledgeable family member or friend can work. If the work is largely mathematical or interesting then you can very likely get someone on the internet to do it for free.

I guess bonus points if it can be included in the EPQ but that doesnt seem super necessary

I would not worry about trying to learn something new. You will likely learn something anyway when you attempt to measure the error, etc.


My best recommendation is probably just something you have covered this year or find most interesting.
I would then look for something which has been experimentally proven/ solved in the past and try and work out as much as possible on your own about what to do, without directly copying what they did. The advantage of doing something that's been done before is that you always have this as a backup though, so the project wont just die 8 hours in if you get stuck.
To avoid being annoying, it would be best for you to come up with the idea yourself i think. That way its most likely to be original
I would also focus on any and all exams or mock exams you have first


Thank you so much that is an amazing idea I hadn’t actually considered doing my own experiment but now you mention it it seems so obvious and works well as a talking point in an interview thank you so much

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