CREST Awards case study: an interview with Toby Hill

Mewburn is a national partner for the CREST Awards programme run by the British Science Association (BSA) whose mission is to see a future where science is more relevant, representative, and connected to society. As part of this partnership, Mewburn has run two CREST Discovery Days in our offices and also provided funding that has enabled one thousand students of all ages to complete CREST Awards for free.

I was fortunate enough to take part in the CREST Discovery Day held last September in Manchester and, during my introduction to the students, I mentioned that I was familiar with the BSA and their outreach programme having completed a Gold CREST Award at the University of Hertfordshire as part of a Nuffield Research Placement in the summer between year 12 and 13 way back in 2015.

This caught the attention of Estelle Whewell (CREST's Product & Partnerships Manager) who asked me whether I would be happy to be contacted by one of BSA's marketing team so they could interview me as part of their outreach campaign so I could share my experience of the CREST Discovery Day as well as the CREST Award scheme in general and discuss how I felt it had benefitted me in terms of my university applications.

I'm really glad Mewburn has decided to partner with the BSA and think it's extremely important we continue to support their work because if we want to improve diversity and inclusion at Mewburn, we need to improve diversity and inclusion in STEM by giving students from all backgrounds the opportunities to develop their skills so they have the confidence to make informed choices in their GCSEs, A-Levels and UCAS applications.

View the full interview below, originally published by the BSA.


The quest to write the perfect UCAS personal statement, and have all the right things to say in a university interview, is as old as the process itself.

We know how much higher education means to a lot of young people. Of course, achieving a degree is not the only route to success. But for thousands of prospective students, going to university is their first taste of independent adulthood – and the first step in their career journey.

Writing a stand-out personal statement is key to catching the eye of admissions officers. Particularly when applying to STEM* courses, it’s important to be able to back-up an expressed interest in a topic with proof; a lot of candidates will have competitive grades so extra-curricular activities and projects in a student’s chosen field are a brilliant way of showing passion, alongside aptitude, for their subject and helping them stand out.

And that’s where we come in! CREST Awards are the perfect achievement for students to include in their UCAS statements. Achieving a CREST Award demonstrates interest in and dedication to a topic above and beyond classroom study, an ability to think critically and work independently – among many other skills.

But you don’t have to take our word for it.

Toby's CREST journey

Meet Toby Hill. Toby is a trainee patent attorney at Mewburn Ellis – one of Europe’s leading intellectual property law firms – a job he began after graduating from the University of Cambridge with a degree in Engineering. He is also the proud recipient of a Gold CREST Award.

Standing out from the crowd

Toby spoke to us about how he completed his Award in the summer before his final year at sixth form as part of a Nuffield Research Placement. He talks us through the skills and confidence the Award helped him to develop, and how it provided him with a useful way to demonstrate his subject knowledge during the admission process for the University of Cambridge.

"I think completing a CREST Award demonstrates to universities that you're committed to your subject because whenever you say something, you want to try and back it up with evidence. “I enjoy engineering” is OK. But why do you enjoy it? Why do you want to study it? “So I've gone and spent four weeks of my summer in a lab working on an engineering-related project.” It just adds a lot more impact to what you're saying and I think being able to talk about it [the CREST experience] in your personal statement was really useful". 

Interview talking points

He explained how, once his UCAS application had earned him interviews with universities, his Gold CREST Award came in handy as a talking point to demonstrate his knowledge of engineering:

"They [the interview panel] want something that you're familiar with so that they can ask you questions about it and see what you know and how you think. And this project [the Gold CREST Award] was perfect for that because it was a technical project, which I've spent quite a lot of time doing. So there was an expectation that I knew what I was talking about".

From CREST to career

After graduating from the University of Cambridge with a degree in Engineering, Toby joined Mewburn Ellis as a trainee patent attorney. He speaks about how having a background in STEM gives you transferable skills that can open doors to careers you might not realise are possible:

"I find the job fascinating. You’ve got the scientific side of it, in terms of understanding the inventions themselves, then you’ve got to consider how the law plays into it. I think a lot of people don’t know that, to be a patent attorney, you don’t need a law degree. You actually learn all the law on the job but what you really need is a STEM degree."

Watch the full interview below with Toby – you’ll hear about what he investigated for his Gold CREST Award project, how it helped to set him up for university, and how he now supports students who are working to achieve their own CREST Awards in his role with Mewburn Ellis.



This article was originally published by the British Science Association here

This article was also picked up by Business Today who used it as a springboard for an article focussing on how businesses can help the next generation succeed in science and technology. Read this article here.