CREST case study: Bronze, Silver and Gold student - Rachel
Name: Rachel Harris
CREST Level: Bronze, Silver and Gold
Year: 2003 - 2009 Project
Title: Bronze: Comparing low fat and normal crisps
Silver: Investigating different spot creams
Gold: Devising a new test for the wettability of lead compounds (the ability for water to make contact with a surface, or in this case a drug)
Project Mentor / Organisation: Too many to mention
Rachel worked her way through the CREST scheme, starting with a Bronze Award through a school STEM Club, moving onto a Silver Award also in school, and finally taking on a Gold Award through a Nuffield Science Bursary. She was really supported by an inspirational teacher, Linda Rashbrook. In 2009 she presented her work as part of the first ever National Science + Engineering Competition and got her first taste of presenting her work to fellow scientists and the public, which she says 'of course is a vital skill'. Rachel came back to help with the Competitor Care team at the National Science + Engineering Competition finals this year. She tells us a bit about her CREST experience here.
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What was your project about? My Gold project was about the ability for a new drug to break down and enter the blood is of vital importance. Testing wettability gives an indication of how easy it will be to make the new drug into a tablet. Devising a new quick test for this early on in development saves time and money.
Who encouraged you to get involved with CREST? I was good at science from an early age and I really enjoyed it, a great teacher at my school ran a science club to get Bronze level so I got involved from there. After Bronze, I again did a Silver project with my school. I progressed to Gold after work experience at GSK Harlow lead to a Nuffield bursary funded summer placement.
What was the best thing about doing a CREST award? The sense of achievement when the project was completed and you were presenting to others is always a great feeling. Also working with other like minded young people to complete my awards was great fun! It definitely makes studying easier when you’re doing something that you enjoy and have seen where good grades and hard work can get you in the real world.
How do you think you benefited from your CREST Award experience? I believe it really helped me to get into a good university, and experience in industry and being selected for the national finals really pushed me to keep going and to peruse a career in science. I think science is always challenging, but that’s what makes it so rewarding. My gold project definitely posed several problems and it was the first time I wrote a scientific report, did a formal presentation and made a scientific poster. All these things posed their own difficulties but were easily overcome when I asked for help and advice from the people around me and were a great learning experience.
What are your hopes for the future? I’m now completing my MRes in Experimental Neuroscience at Imperial College London after gaining a degree from UCL in Biomedical Sciences. I hope to do a PhD in the area of neurodegenerative disease, and go from there! Hopefully I’ll get to use my job to live and work abroad at some point, as well as getting more people involved in science.
Any wise words to those thinking of undertaking a CREST Award now? Well first of all, definitely do it! You never know where the experience can lead you and you’ll definitely have a great time!