Widening Participation Project – Schools Engagement

Hands reaching out symbolising engagement

Team Science is essential for cancer research in that everyone from a diverse range of careers and backgrounds must work together towards a common goal to help beat cancer sooner.


As part of Widening Participation (WP) activities at the University of Manchester, colleagues from across the Division of Cancer Sciences and MCRC partners came together in a Schools Engagement project. The aim was to inspire and inform secondary school pupils from under-represented communities and to showcase the numerous and varied roles within cancer research.

What career advice would you give your 15-year-old self?


Alongside providing an overview of their career journey, colleagues were asked: “What career advice would you give your 15-year-old self?” Answers were practical, insightful and inspiring, including a quote by Prof. Ananya Choudhury: “You can be anyone and do anything. Grab each opportunity that crosses your path – be fearless and fair. You never know where you will end up, so enjoy the journey!” and a quote by Dr Suzanne Johnson: “Follow what you enjoy, keep asking questions, networking is fun, people in senior roles are still just people, don’t just talk about it, do it! Most of all, believe in your abilities.”

Follow what you enjoy, keep asking questions, networking is fun, people in senior roles are still just people, don’t just talk about it, do it! Most of all, believe in your abilities.

Dr. Suzanne Johnson

Lecturer and Divisional Lead for Social Responsibility for the Division of Cancer Sciences

Engagement with schools

 On the 26th May, colleagues came together in a live Zoom call with over 100 secondary school pupils from schools in Preston and Manchester to outline the diversity of career pathways, with key takeaway messages: 1) Follow what you enjoy, 2) Many different skills are needed to fight cancer, 3) We would love to welcome you to the University of Manchester in years to come.


Chaired by Dr Suzanne Johnson, the panel consisted of: Dr Andrew Gilmore (Senior Lecturer), Samantha Littler (Research Assistant), Nadin Hawwash (MBPhD student), Dr Nicola Flaum (Clinical Research Training Fellow), Charlotte Heaven (Year 2 PhD student), Melanie Seaton (Year 2 PhD student), Samuel Burford-Eyre (Year 1 PhD student), Moaad Abu Hashim (Final year medical student), and Rita Chow (Senior Administrator).


Pupils watched a short film outlining cancer research in Manchester and the variety of education and career choices made by staff, created by Dr Joe Clarke and Elizabeth Openshaw of the MCRC Comms team. In addition, pupils were shown a series of slides that provided a visual representation of career paths, as well as a short animation about cancer research and careers, which was created by UoM medical student Moaad Abu Hashim.


During the live Zoom call, pupils had the opportunity to ask a variety of questions to the panel and we were delighted to see their high levels of engagement. Questions featured topics around careers and cancer research in Manchester, including: How is cancer research funded?”, “Is there a link between vaping and cancer?”, “Why does cancer go undetected for so long in some people?” and “Do you think there will be a point where there will be no cancer?”.

Widening Participation Video

Watch the Widening Participation video from the Division of Cancer Sciences featuring contributions from Dr Suzanne Johnson, Lee Malcomson, Nadin Hawwash, Jamie Honeychurch, Rita Chow, Dr Kiran Batta, and Professor Cliona Kirwan.

University of Manchester

Next steps

So what happens next? The pupils will produce an infographic that displays all of the roles and a prize will be awarded to the best one.  This will be made into a poster for distribution to schools across Greater Manchester – watch this space!


And it doesn’t end there. This project, alongside others, will provide future students with a greater understanding of the multi-disciplinary roles which form the cancer team. We hope to strengthen these new school partnerships, engage other schools, and in time organise lab tours and visits. Ultimately, we aim to inspire school children to follow a career that makes a difference to the wider society.

Widening Participation - live zoom call with schools

Take a look through some of the career journeys our colleagues have taken, as well as career advice they would give to their 15 year old self.

Patient, Public Involvement and Engagement

At the MCRC, patient public involvement and engagement (PPIE) represents an important and active partnership between researchers and patients and members of the public. Find out more here.


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