27 May 2022

The programme, named ‘Discover to recover’, will provide the interns an opportunity to work alongside experts at the University’s School of Life Sciences’ lab as they aim to create novel CRISPR-based diagnostic platforms for infectious and non-infectious diseases. It will also offer the Level 6 Life Sciences students an insight into employment in an academic research environment and offer a glimpse of transition into industry.

The programme is made possible by a £10,000 donation from Westminster alumnus Raj Sitlani. Raj, who studied Modern Languages at the University before launching into a successful career in finance, was struck by the passion of the Genome Engineering Lab team at an alumni event in 2018.

He said: “I was really struck by the high level of enthusiasm demonstrated by both Nadeen [Shaikh Solaiman] and Ahmed [Sidali] together with the dedication and commitment of [Dr] Kalpana [Surendranath]. It was great to see such energy and excitement from such a small team.”

Speaking about the impact from the Research Internship Programme, he said: “If I can help a few hard-working, bright students develop their research career paths or set them off on a better trajectory for something greater in the future, then I will feel that my support has been effective and worthwhile. I would like to think that for the selected students, my support can be critical in helping them stand out from the crowd.”

The interns will receive a stipend of £1,200 for the three-month-long internship starting in June. The students who have been selected to take part are Mariam Robakidze, Jessica Pantuczek and Jaskirat Kaur.

Jessica Pantuczek said: “I feel beyond grateful to be chosen as a participant of the research internship organised by the Genome Engineering Laboratory at the University of Westminster.

“As a soon-to-graduate student looking for opportunities to develop my research career, the chance to spend my summer working with driven scientists from the laboratory, conducting research under their supervision, and learning from their expertise is extraordinary. This experience, no doubt, will majorly influence my future career and allow me to gain more confidence as a scientist.”

Dr Kalpana Surendranath and Dr John Murphy, the Leaders of the Genome Engineering Laboratory, shared that the aim of the internships is to create novel CRISPR-based diagnostic platforms for infectious and non-infectious diseases.

In a statement, they said: “We are driven to creating a student community of belonging and commitment to excellence through the development of research-led student initiatives. Students trained by us in the past have achieved scholarships and positions in top universities and companies. We look forward to a fruitful collaboration with our students this summer.”

Speaking about the donation, Simay Sali Sevik – Development Manager said: “We are delighted to work with Raj on Genome Engineering Research Project over 3 years now. Thanks to his continued donations, the research team has made an impressive progress and now launching a brand-new programme, all thanks to support of Raj.”

Talking about the importance of giving back, Raj Sitlani added: “We all want to make the world a better place. By investing our time, skills or money with educational establishments, we can hopefully do a little bit of good and can even change lives by helping a worthy student progress in the world. Education is a never-ending process. We continue to learn even after we graduate. What better way to stay relevant, sharp, and challenged than to spend time with your alma mater and some of the smartest students there? My message to any alumni, is ‘get involved and try to give something back’”

To find out how you can support students or various projects at the University of Westminster, please email .