Careers Lab: work experience programme

Take your first step into a career in cancer research

Our Careers Lab Work Experience Programme provides sixth form (Year 12 and Year 13) students with a week-long opportunity to explore various career paths within the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute.

Aimed at those interested in gaining practical insights into different professional fields, the programme challenges preconceptions about working in science while aligning with our mission to our aim to beat cancer sooner.

We currently offer two distinct types of placement:

1) Year 12/13 Research Placement 

Engage in hands-on experiences within our cutting-edge research laboratories, delving into the world of cancer biology. Gain exposure to state-of-the-art Core Facilities, teams dedicated to developing and applying specific technologies, and learn from experts in microscopy, genomics and animal technology.

While each placement is unique to its research group, expect to acquire skills and experiences such as:

  • How to culture cells
  • Tissue staining techniques
  • Understanding the basics of microscopy and tissue compositions
  • How to isolate and multiply DNA

2) Year 12/13 Operations Placement  

Explore non-scientific roles within our Operations Team, responsible for the seamless functioning of the Institute. This placement offers insights into various departments, including Finance & Grants, Human Resources, and Property Services.

Our operations staff come from a range of backgrounds, and no scientific background is required for this placement. Rotations could include:

  • Managing a multi-million-pound portfolio of grants
  • Attracting top scientists to join our labs
  • Creating a culture where science and fun intersect
  • Creating and maintaining the physical environment of the Institute

Whether you’re passionate about science or seeking a non-scientific career path to enable vital cancer research, our programme opens doors to a diverse range of opportunities within the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute.


Applicants must be enrolled in sixth form, or equivalent, and currently in Year 12 or Year 13.


What are we looking for?

  1. Interest in the programme:
    We seek candidates who genuinely demonstrate a keen interest in the Careers Lab programme, showcasing a passion for the opportunities it presents and a clear understanding of how it aligns with their personal and professional goals.
  2. Intellectual curiosity:
    We value candidates who exhibit a strong sense of intellectual curiosity, an eagerness to explore new ideas, and a proactive approach to learning. Individuals who enjoy delving into diverse topics and consistently seek to broaden their knowledge are highly regarded.
  3. Perseverance:
    Perseverance is a key attribute we look for in candidates. We seek individuals who demonstrate resilience, determination, and the ability to navigate challenges effectively. Candidates who view setbacks as opportunities for growth and consistently strive to overcome obstacles align well with this criterion.
  4. Commitment to improving the lives of others:
    We are interested in candidates who show a genuine commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of others. This can manifest in various forms, such as a dedication to community service, a passion for social causes, or a desire to contribute to the well-being and advancement of individuals and communities.

Applicants are encouraged to reflect on these criteria and showcase specific examples from their experiences that highlight their alignment with these qualities.


  • Application Period: 10 January 10 – 12 February 2024
  • Interviews Scheduled (Virtual): February – March 2024
  • Reference Check for Shortlisted Candidates: Mid-March 2024
  • Final Placements Confirmation: Late April 2024
  • Careers Lab Programme (In Person): 1 July – 5 July 2024

How to apply

Application form:

  • Complete a 5-10 minute form providing academic and personal details.
  • Express why you are interested in applying for the Careers Lab programme.

Careers Lab personal statement (within the application form):
Respond to the following prompts within the application form:

  • In no more than 100 words, explain why you are applying for this programme.
  • In no more than 100 words, describe the skills you currently possess and identify the skills you need to gain for success in your dream career.

Sixth Form College Reference:
If shortlisted for an interview, we will contact a member of staff at your school or sixth form college. They will be asked to provide an assessment based on the following criteria:

  • Interest in the programme
  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Perseverance
  • Commitment to improving the lives of others

Follow the link below to apply.

How we select

Careers Lab uses a comprehensive two-stage selection process to ensure that our placements align with our criteria:

Application Form:
To be considered for a Careers Lab Work Experience placement for Year 12/13, completion of the application form in full is mandatory.

Shortlisting and Interview:
Shortlisted candidates are invited to a virtual interview to assess their alignment with the four Careers Lab criteria.

The brief interview will assess your motivations for applying to the programme. Alternative arrangements will be made to accommodate individuals with limited internet accessibility.

Details about the format and arrangements will be sent according to the application timeline.

The interview consists of three main sections:

  • Welcome and introduction
  • Interview questions
  • Final thoughts and answering your questions

If not called for an interview, you will receive an email confirming that your application was not successful.

Please note that we are not able to provide feedback to unsuccessful applicants.

Contact us: with any additional queries!

Undergraduate Summer Research Placements

If you are an undergraduate student, looking to find a research placement over the summer vacation period, please visit our Summer Research Placements page.

For any other questions, please get in touch using our contact form.