Wellcome Trust Biomedical Vacation scholarships

The scholarship provides the opportunity for an undergraduate to gain a paid, first-hand experience of research working in cutting-edge research facilities at the University of Sheffield.


Applications for projects taking place in summer 2023 are now open.  The deadline for three projects has been extended to 12 noon on the 15th May 2023. 


The University is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a grant to provide Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarships for the summer vacation periods of 2020-2025. The Scholarship provides the opportunity for an undergraduate to gain a paid, first-hand experience of research working in cutting-edge research facilities at the University of Sheffield.

The University of Sheffield will aim to host six of these scholarships each year.

We recognise that financial, socio-economic and other circumstances can make it difficult for some to continue studying beyond an undergraduate degree. A key priority of the Biomedical Vacation Scholarship is to provide research opportunities for groups that are currently underrepresented in postgraduate research. As such, we aim to award at least 50% of these scholarships to individuals currently underrepresented.

Applicants who do not meet any of these criteria are still eligible to apply.

Projects must take place at the University of Sheffield over a six week period during the summer vacation. All potential applicants must apply to one of the projects advertised as part of this scheme.

The scholarship

The Wellcome Biomedical Vacation Scholarship provides the successful applicant with knowledge and experience in a professional research setting, useful for supporting applications for postgraduate study and postgraduate employment.

It also provides:

  • a basic salary at the University of Sheffield minimum hourly rate (currently £11.58 per hour) plus holiday pay and National Insurance contributions for the duration of a six week project
  • working hours of 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday
  • up to £1500 to cover or subsidise accommodation and travel if required
  • £500 towards the cost of materials and consumables provided to the host research group

Successful applicants will be registered as employees at the University and will be required to complete right to work checks before the project starts.


  • A full list of projects available over summer 2023 scholarships:

Victoria Hill, Investigating the effect of mutations on the conformational dynamics of HIV-1 protease and drug binding

The HIV-1 protease enzyme is responsible for enabling the HIV virus to replicate inside human cells and is a major target for intervention via anti-HIV drugs. The protease has two highly flexible regions called ‘flaps’ that cover the drug binding site and that are known to be crucial for mediating protein-drug interactions. Mutations in the protease enzyme are known to affect the dynamics of the flaps which is likely to influence the protein-drug interactions. Here, you will analyse a total of 75 molecular dynamics simulations of HIV-1 protease. These include the wild-type enzyme and all possible combinations of three common mutations both alone and with two anti-HIV drugs, darunavir and lopinavir. The aim of the project is to investigate how the mutations change the conformational dynamics of the protease and, specifically, the flap regions. This will lead to an investigation of how those dynamics change further on binding to an anti-HIV drug, and if those mutations are able to cause drug resistance. You will compare the results from the simulations to existing experimental results in order to ensure their accuracy and to provide further mechanistic insights into protein conformational dynamics and protein-drug interactions. This will help to explain the mechanisms of drug resistance in the mutated protein. You will use analysis tools from the simulation software, as well as artificial intelligence (machine learning) methods and write your own code to investigate how mutations in HIV-1 protease are able to retain catalytic activity yet simultaneously cause drug resistance. There will also be an opportunity to run your own simulations if you wish within a choice of areas – studying further anti-HIV drugs, more mutations, or to add small dyes to the enzyme to aid experimental design. This can depend on your interests which will give you an opportunity to drive and manage your own project.

Aida Aide Luna Perez, CFTR role in breast cancer phenotype

The mammary gland consists of an interconnected system of hollow tubes surrounded by polarised epithelia that envelop a luminal space. Formation and expansion of the lumen establish the tubular morphology, and its maintenance is essential for the homeostasis and function of the mammary gland. Breast cancer development is characterized by altered tissue organization. One common example in patients is when the lumen space is lost by filling with cells. Likewise, the structure of lumen is compromised in some breast cancer. The cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) ion channel is indispensable for lumen structure in different biological systems and alterations in its activity leads to abnormal lumen formation and maintenance. Nevertheless, the role of CFTR in lumen formation in mammary epithelial cells has not been described. Our previous laboratory data shows that CFTR activity and expression is indispensable for lumen formation and maintenance in primary mouse mammary epithelial cells. In addition, CFTR expression appears to be reduced in some breast cancer cell line, which are not able to form a lumen structure.  This research aims to explore the role of CFTR in lumen formation and maintenance and its relationship with the cancer phenotype in mammary epithelial cells. Understanding lumen formation and maintenance may provide insights into normal mammary gland development and the pathology of breast cancer and also provide novel druggable targets for developing new treatments.

Bahman Mirheidari, Automatic cognitive assessment of stroke survivors

Stroke survivors (SS) are at high risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which could cause dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Almost half of all dementia is caused by stroke. Therefore it is vital to routinely assess the cognitive ability of SSs. The current pen-and-paper-based cognitive tests are not suitable for SSs and could cause anxiety. The Montreal cognitive assessment (MoCA) is a common cognitive assessment tool in the UK. Automatic detection and monitoring the cognitive abilities are highly desirable, allowing better management and treatment of the disease, especially at its early stages. 

In previous work, we developed a fully automatic system, known as CognoSpeak, to detect dementia through analysis of conversations between an intelligent virtual agent (IVA) and patients with memory concerns. The IVA prompts the patients with a series of memory-probing questions and standard cognitive tests. The CognoSpeak website allows the participants remotely being assessed at their homes, reducing anxiety and stress of the tests.

As a short-term project, we aim to introduce a research study to an undergraduate student and motivate her/him to follow a PhD after their graduation. We will focus on two tasks in the CognoSpeak data (participants reading a paragraph and their description of the steps involved in making a cup of tea). The study needs to investigate a correlation between the participants’ answers and their overall MoCA score. It is hypothesised that SS participants with low MoCA scores (e.g. MoCA score <20) face more difficulties in reading tasks and describing the details of the process of making a cup of tea.

Eligibility and suitability

To apply you must:

  • be in the middle years of your first degree;
  • be registered on a relevant undergraduate course in the UK or Republic of Ireland. Relevant subjects include science (biomedical, natural, computing or physical sciences), medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, engineering, mathematics and psychology;
  • either have home status or be an EU/international applicant with evidence of your right to work in the UK;
  • be expected to obtain a First or Upper Second class honours degree;
  • have not yet undertaken a substantial period of research.

We are particularly interested in applications from students who meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • You are from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background.
  • You are a care leaver.
  • You are from a low-income background evidenced by receipt of maintenance grant and/or a higher rate of maintenance loan during undergraduate studies. Consideration will be given to the number of years that a maintenance grant was received and the amount awarded, or the rate of maintenance loan received (if you started your undergraduate course following the phasing out of maintenance grants).
  • You come from one of the most deprived areas of the UK as indicated by ACORN and LPN data. This is based on home postcode before attending university.
  • You are from an area of the UK with lower participation in higher education with a postcode (before attending university) listed as quintile 1 & 2.
  • You are/were in receipt of a Disabled Student Allowance (DSA) as part of your undergraduate studies or are receiving/received support from your undergraduate university's disability office.
  • You have been recognised as a refugee or asylum seeker or been granted humanitarian protection status by the UK government, or are the partner or child of someone who has been granted refugee, asylum seeker or humanitarian protection status.
  • You are the first generation in your family to attend university and be studying an undergraduate or equivalent qualification (neither of your parents has a BA, BSc or equivalent undergraduate degree).

Applicants will be assessed on the basis of scientific and academic merit.  Where applicants are determined to be of 'equal merit' following this process, the University will use positive action under the Equality Act 2010 to tackle the underrepresentation of, and overcome the disadvantaged experienced by, the groups mentioned above.

We also welcome applications from students who are currently studying at a non-Russell Group university and would like to explore the possibility of postgraduate research (Link to Russell Group https://russellgroup.ac.uk/about/our-universities/)

Applicants who do not meet the above criteria are still eligible to apply to the scheme.

You are not eligible to apply for this scheme if you:

  • Are in your first or last years of your degree (please note that you are considered a first year student during the summer after your first year at university and you are considered to be in your last year of university in the summer after your final year)
  • Have previously undertaken a vacation scholarship from Wellcome or another funding body, or have had significant research experience
  • Have completed or are currently undertaking an intercalated year
  • Have completed or are currently undertaking a one-year placement in research as part of a degree (eg a sandwich year)
  • Are a graduate-entry medical student who has completed a previous undergraduate degree in a science-related subject
  • Are enrolled on a course outside the UK or the Republic of Ireland.
  • Do not have the Right to Work in the UK.

Successful applicants will be registered as a member of staff at the University of Sheffield for the duration of the project and will be required to complete Right to Work checks before the project commences.

How to apply

You will need to complete an application form and obtain a reference from your tutor.  These must be completed on the templates available to download below. 

Completed application forms and references must be uploaded to this google form.  The google form contains equality and diversity and widening participation information.  

All applications will be assessed based on academic merit and potential to do research in biomedical sciences, as evidenced on academic record and answers provided in application form (e.g. motivation, contribution to host lab, skills to be gained).

Deadline for receipt of applications is 12 noon, 15th May 2023.  Applications received after this will not be considered.  Applicants will be notified of the outcome of their application by email.  Please ensure that your email is entered correctly.

Any queries regarding the application process, please email WTVacation@sheffield.ac.uk.


03.04.23 - 02.05.23 (12 noon) Projects are advertised to undergraduate students and applications are invited
From 03.05.23 Project supervisors review and shortlist applications
Week commencing 29.05.23 Shortlisted candidates are notified and invited to interview
No later than 16.06.23 Successful candidates notified
No later than 30.06.23 Completion of pre-employment and Right to Work checks
03.07.23 - 11.08.23 Projects start w/c 03.07.23 and end no later than 11.08.23

Privacy information

The University of Sheffield takes the security and integrity of all the personal data it holds seriously. Read the University's privacy notice

For all applicants, your data will be kept for the duration of the scholarship programme (a minimum period of five years) for planning and reporting purposes. It will not be published or used in a way that identifies you.

If you are successful in securing a place on the scholarship programme, your personal data will also form the basis of your record of employment.

The University makes certain statutory disclosures of information and your data may be used for those purposes. Your data will be used to report specifically to Wellcome Trust on the scholarship programme.


Wellcome Trust Biomedical Vacation scholarships downloads

Wellcome Trust Biomedical Vacation Scholarship application form 2023 (word 140 KB)

Wellcome Trust Biomedical Vacation Scholarship tutor reference 2023 (word 124 KB)

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