Exploring a future in science

Aspiring young scientists make aspirin, fly drones, collect specimens, and more—in five immersive days at the UC Science Summer Camp 2019!


The transition from school to university can be hard: there are so many options to choose from, and decisions to be made on what to be.

That’s why we started the UC Science Summer Camp, for Year 12 students interested in studying science at university. This programme is designed to give a first-hand experience of university life, and science at the University of Canterbury: from lectures and lab activities to fieldwork and the latest technologies. By living the science life for five immersive days, students get the opportunity to make informed decisions for the future, and connect with like-minded people who make life at Uni (and beyond) exciting and meaningful.

Camp 2019

This year the camp was held between 2-6 December, with 60 science-minded Year 12s selected from all over New Zealand. The students stayed on campus in university accommodation, at the Rochester and Rutherford Halls of Residence.

A typical day at the camp would start bright and early with breakfast at the halls of residence, followed by science sessions throughout the day all over the UC campus, with breaks for morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea. At the end of the day, the group would unwind over dinner and social activities like movie screenings or games.

Hands-on Science

Through lectures, labs and fieldwork, the students explored a range of Science topics. While students had a chance to work with their favourite science subjects, this variety of topics exposed students to other subjects they may potentially be interested in; and also showed how interdisciplinary science can really be.

Donning their lab coats (or waders), safety glasses and thinking caps, the students analysed microplastics; extracted strawberry DNA; gathered and identified specimens of plant and freshwater invertebrate species; made batteries; tested common veggies for their electrical conductivity; split water; made aspirin (yes, aspirin!!!); tested water quality in the Okeover stream; learnt about spectroscopy and quantum dots; flew drones; studied rock samples and cell cultures under the microscope; performed thought experiments with communication challenges; encapsulated algae to study photosynthesis; and loads more.

Meeting scientists

Throughout the Camp, students had plenty of one-on-one interactions with UC staff and students, getting inspiration and answers to burning questions.

The final day’s sessions covered the BSc degree and its pathways, with undergraduate students and alumni speaking about their experiences studying Science; and emerging UC researchers sharing a view on their work and the research environment here. The variety of science experiences and ideas throughout the camp showed that this is a degree you can truly tailor to your interests with its flexible course options.

Work and play

Of course, university life is not all about study. There were social activities – including games, a movie night, an evening out in the Christchurch CBD (the impromptu dance session was such a treat!), unwinding at the Margaret Mahy playground (with its giant slide and flying foxes!) and a Bacon Bros burger evening – and time to hang out and get a feel for the campus.

Connecting with science

During the Camp, the students have made valuable, meaningful connections with each other, the science subjects they love, scientists who enjoy their work, and so much more. Feedback from the students has been overwhelmingly positive, and gives us great ideas for future summer camps!

Instagram post by Emily Nimmo
Instagram post by Harry Wiltshire
Instagram post by Beth Seifert

Learn more about the UC Science Summer Camp here.