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Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology

Students in Ethiopia on ReachSci global programme

Our PhD student Mohammed Alawami, who launched his own STEM outreach venture ReachSci, was recently awarded a grant from University Diversity Fund for his work improving access of underrepresented minorities to postgraduate research through the delivery of a hands-on research project.

Mohammed, who joined CEB’s Sensors CDT programme in 2019, is in his second year PhD working on the development of cutting-edge RNA analysis tools for early detection of cancer. He founded Reachsci, a not-for-profit Cambridge University Society,  in 2021 along with other PhD students, most of them were students in our Sensor CDT 2019 cohort. The venture aims to remove barriers to research to enable anyone anywhere to do outstanding research. 

"After helping thousands of students through social media, I realised giving advice online is insufficient to increase access to research degrees and careers, and what is actually needed is hand-on training with a direct mentoring component"; said Mohammed.

From here, he decided to start a practical training programme that gives the students a first-hand experience in doing research to explore what research is actually like, and at the same time learn all the key research and professional skills to succeed in research-based degrees and careers. ReachSci started developing programmes for UK undergraduate students initially and now is moving towards developing global programmes in Ethiopia. See inset students in Ethiopia on ReachSci global programme who have been using a portable device from WaterScope company to measure water contamination to determine the source of contamination at their Universities, Bahia Dar and Debre Tabor.

His goal with ReachSci is to offer the most accessible research training in the world by 2025 and he is adapting different teaching strategies to get closer to this goal. Through this venture he has also collaborated with Dr Sam Stranks’s group at CEB to design and manage a programme specifically targeting high school students in Britain studying photovoltaic and spectroscopy.

Since its inception, ReachSci has grown from a one-man band to a global society with more than 150 volunteers from more than 14 countries, and more than 90 Professors in 21 countries - all are helping to offer the ReachSci programme to those who need it across the world. Its current research training programme consists of 16 workshops and a novel research project that students undertake. In the workshops, the students learn the skills and then apply what they learn directly to their research project.

Mohammed also recently won the University Diversity Fund  and was also selected as Top.21 of 21toWatch innovative people in Cambridgeshire and East England by Cofinitive. The grant awarded is funded from one of the initiatives launched by the University to challenge any form of discrimination and inequality. It is also aimed at enhancing the representation of underrepresented groups and to raise awareness about issues related to equality, diversity, and inclusion, as well as to facilitate the implementation of good practices within the University.

Any individuals or organisations sharing ReachSci’s vision and interested in helping make a big impact in research and education get in touch with Mohammed Alawami directly.



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