Vacation placements for undergraduates

Vacation placements usually last between 1-12 weeks. They may be paid, or may come with a bursary to cover your costs of living during the placement. If you don’t succeed in getting a paid summer placement, you may still want to arrange for an unpaid placement for a few weeks.

This is a list of paid vacation placements.

  • Why do a vacation placement?
  • General biology placements
  • Specialist placements
  • Plant science placements
  • Sandwich placements

Why do a vacation placement?

Some degrees include a year’s work placement in industry (sometimes known as a ‘sandwich’ degree). If a work placement isn’t in your degree, it’s can be very useful to do an internship over your summer holidays, especially at the end of your 2nd year.

Internships are a good opportunity to find out if you really like working in a lab, to gain new skills and to gain experience of a professional scientific environment. They are also a good chance to make connections with people who you can ask for advice, to give you a reference when you apply for jobs, and who might let you know about other job opportunities when you graduate.

Take a look around our Careers section to get more tips on how to network to build your biology careers, and how to make the most of your vacation placement.


General biology placements

UROP Placements

Your University may run what’s called a ‘UROP’ scheme – ‘Undergraduate Research Opportunity Placements’. These are funded summer placements for the summer holiday after your second year. You will receive a bursary of around £180 a week to work with a University researcher on a 4-8 week project of their choice. UROPs are an excellent way to see whether you would find scientific research fulfilling as a future career. It’s also an excellent experience to put on your CV, and many UROP supervisors will be happy to act as a referee when you look for jobs.

UROPs are currently available at Imperial, Cambridge, Reading, Essex and Cardiff Universities, but similar schemes may be available at other Universities.


BBSRC – Research Experience Placements

Students in the middle years of their first undergraduate science degrees are given the opportunity to gain greater experience of bioscience research. Placements should last for a maximum of ten weeks during the summer vacation period 2010 at a UK higher education institution or research institute.
Award: The value of the award is £2,500 to cover a minimum stipend of £200 per week to the student and to contribute towards research expenses during the placement
Application deadline: See website for specific deadlines

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Wellcome Trust Summer Internships

The Wellcome Trust runs a series of paid summer internships for undergraduate students in areas such as science funding, policy and public engagement.

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Carnegie Scholarships – Undergraduate Vacation Scholarships

These are available to undergraduates who were born in Scotland or who have a parent born in Scotland or who have at least two years of secondary education in Scotland, may be considered for the award of a Vacation Scholarship for the pursuit of a full time research project, usually in the vacation between their second and third years. Scholarships are for maintenance of up a maximum of 8 weeks, whether based at home, elsewhere in the UK, or abroad.
Award: See website for specific deadlines
Application deadline: 15 March each year

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Specialist placements

The Biochemical Society – Summer Vacation Studentships

Grants are available for stipends of £200 per week for 6 – 8 weeks, and up to £1,600 in total, to support an undergraduate student to carry out a summer lab placement in biochemistry. The placement must be with a researcher who is a member of the Biochemical Society working in a university or research institute.

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Genetics Society – Summer Studentships

Grants are available to provide financial support for undergraduate students carrying out a research project in genetics over the summer vacation. Both the Principal Investigator and the student involved must be members of the Genetics Society

Deadline: 31 March

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Society for General Microbiology (SGM) – Undergraduate Studentships

The SGM funds over 50 summer vacation studentships in microbiology each year. These support 6-8 week projects undertaken by undergraduate students in the summer vacation before they enter the final year of study. Applications are made by members of the SGM.

Deadline: 10 Feb

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Society for Applied Microbiology – Students into Work

For students who wish to do a project on microbiology during their summer vacation. If you would like to read about the experiences of students who have benefited from this grant, you can do so in each issue of Microbiologist magazine on the website.

Deadline: 8 April

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Society for Applied Microbiology – Conference Studentship

The Society offers studentships to enable Full Student Members to attend the Society Summer Conference on microbiology.  Preference is given to students contributing to the meeting, usually by offering a paper or poster.

Application deadline: mid-March

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Sanger Centre

Summer placements at the Sanger Centre, a genome research centre, are an opportunity for undergraduate students to get experience during their summer vacation. These placements are advertised via the website each year.

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British Society for Cell Biology – Summer Studentship

These are offered to  undergraduate students, who wish to gain research experience in cell biology during their summer vacation. Applications must be made by the prospective supervisor on behalf of a named student.

Deadline: 31 March

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British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy – Vacation Scholarships

These are designed to give undergraduates experience in research. Research projects funded under the scheme can last up to 10 weeks.

Deadline: 31 March

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British Phycological Society – Summer Research Projects

These undergraduate summer research projects on phycology (the study of algae) last 6 to 8 weeks and the emphasis is on providing a research experience and training for the student.

Deadline: 1 December

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British Lichen Society – Summer Vacation Scholarship

The British Lichen Society offers one student scholarship annually for a summer vacation project at a British academic or other research institution. Suitable candidates are likely to be higher education/university students who would like to pursue a project investigating some aspect of lichen. This could involve, for example, their ecology, taxonomy, physiology, structure, evolution or chemistry, or an area of particular local interest.

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British Mycological Society – Undergraduate Student Bursaries

The British Mycological Society offers a number of Undergraduate Student Bursaries to give students experience of research in any branch of mycology (the study of fungi) in the summer vacation prior to their final year of study.

Deadline: 30 April

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Plant Science Placements

Sainsbury Undergraduate Studentships

Sainsbury Undergraduate Studentships of £4000 are awarded to support undergraduate summer projects in plant science. These prestigious studentships are offered to up to seven students each year.

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Royal Horticultural Society

Bursaries are available from the RHS for projects with a clear relevance to horticulture. These might include expeditions, work experience, study tours, etc.

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British Society for Plant Pathology – Undergraduate Vacation Bursary Fund

The objective of the bursaries is to provide undergraduates considering a research career with some practical experience in a plant pathology laboratory and to assist supervisors to meet some specific research objectives. Bursaries will be for a maximum of 10 weeks and a minimum of 8 weeks.

Deadline: 1 April

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Undergraduate Summer Vacation Bursaries and Undergraduate Summer School – John Innes Centre

Many laboratories at JIC, a plant and microbial science research institute,  welcome undergraduates to work on research projects during the summer vacation.  Students typically work in a laboratory for around eight weeks during the summer vacation.  This provides an excellent opportunity to gain first hand research experience in an internationally respected laboratory and is particularly useful for undergraduates who may be considering taking up a PhD studentship after they graduate.

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Summer undergraduate placements – Rothamsted Research

These summer placements are designed to give promising undergraduates an opportunity to experience first-hand a period of time in a publicly-funded research laboratory during the summer vacation, usually at the end of the second year of a three year course. Rothamsted Research focuses on sustainable agriculture, biotechnology and agro-ecology.

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Sandwich Placements at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

To provide practical work experience for undergraduates, Kew offers a series of sandwich student placements, either working within its plant science teams or as part of the information technology department.

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Botanical Society of the British Isles Plant Study Grant

Undergraduate and Postgraduate Study Grants of up to £1,000 are available for the study of plants within the UK.

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Botanical Society of Scotland – Fieldwork projects

Criteria for support: it should not form part of a university or college course, it should be undertaken in the British Isles, preferably in Scotland and it may be carried out by individual students or groups of students. The maximum grant available for each project is £400.
Award: £400 for each project
Application deadline: See website for specific deadlines

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Sandwich placements

Sandwich placements at Kew and the Millenium Seed Bank

Science placements are available for students to develop practical and analytical skills, and to provide an opportunity to participate in scientific research alongside leading plant scientists

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