Embarrassing Bodies’ Dr Dawn Harper delivers inspiring message to would-be scientists

New survey data shows Science most popular school subject; UCB’s Work In Science Week underpins commitment to motivating young people to pursue career in science

 School students were introduced to the merits and diversity of a career in science by Dr Dawn Harper, general practitioner and presenter of popular Channel 4 TV show Embarrassing Bodies, during UCB’s Work in Science Week (WISW).

WISW, held annually at the company’s UK research and development (R&D) headquarters in Slough, aims to encourage students to consider a career in science and gives them direct access to UCB’s laboratories. By working alongside UCB scientists on projects such as computer aided drug design, the students gain rare insight into the reality of the drug discovery process.

Commenting on the programme, Dr Dawn Harper said: “I see how scientific innovation and R&D positively impact my patients. For this progress to continue, it is essential that we encourage young people to be interested in science and show them how exciting, rewarding and diverse a career in science can be. I am thrilled to be involved in the programme and hope that the experience will encourage the students taking part in Work in Science Week to consider furthering their scientific education.”

The UK is a global leader in scientific R&D and UCB views the need for a plentiful supply of talented science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates as essential for maintaining this leading position. With a looming skills deficit in these subjects, UCB initiatives such as WISW demonstrate the company’s commitment to addressing the STEM skills gap.

UCB’s continued work to support STEM skills development led the company to achieve national recognition at this year’s Cogent Life Skills Awards; an initiative which celebrates the achievements of those who have excelled in contributing to the development of skills within the life sciences sector.  Rachel Garlish, UCB senior principal scientist and a key member of the WISW organising committee, was selected as the winner in the ‘Outstanding Leadership in Skills’ Award and for the second year running UCB won the ‘Employer of the Year’ award.

To coincide with WISW, UCB has also published the latest findings of its annual 'science survey’ of 234 school children, carried out at the annual Slough Aspire/Learning To Work Careers event. Encouraging results from the survey show that science is the most popular school subject, with slightly more girls (35%) choosing it as their favourite than boys (27%). However, other STEM subjects were shown to be less popular, with maths most frequently chosen as the least popular subject.

The survey also showed that almost two thirds of students (62%) would be interested in studying science at university. However, despite the majority (89%) of respondents saying that studying science was positively encouraged at their school, almost half (49%) felt that scientific careers advice was not readily available at their school. The survey also reinforced the benefits of allowing students the chance to work in the UCB laboratories, with over three quarters of students (78%) said that they prefer practical over desk-based work.

Gillian Burgess, UCB’s vice president of Discovery Biology, said: “We are really encouraged by the fact that the Aspire survey shows so many children have a keen interest in science and we must ensure that those students interested in studying science are supported in doing so. For UCB it is vital that we continue to spark the imagination of young scientists by inviting them to meet our excellent team and by giving them hands-on experience in our labs.”

She continued: “It is a very exciting time to be working in the biopharmaceutical industry and UCB will continue to enable young people to choose a career in science and play a role in keeping the UK at the forefront of R&D innovation.”

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