Scholarship stories: how DeepMind helped Chelsea Tripp realise her potential
How a DeepMind scholarship is helping a UCL student to write the next chapter in her story.
27 October 2021
United by shared values of innovation and inclusion, UCL and artificial intelligence (AI) company DeepMind have a long-standing partnership spanning teaching, research and public engagement. The partnership provides PhD funding and a range of Master's scholarships aimed at improving representation and inclusivity in artificial intelligence and postgraduate studies in Neuroscience, Computer Science, and Science, Technology and Society. This support for students, part of the DeepMind Scholarship Programme, began in 2017 when UCL was the first university the AI company chose to partner with.
For each student, a DeepMind scholarship has the potential to be transformative – as aspiring science journalist Chelsea Tripp, studying an MSc in Science, Technology and Society at UCL knows well.
Finding her feet
During Chelsea’s undergraduate degree in Animal Science at Writtle University College in Essex, it was one particular module that opened Chelsea’s eyes to the crossover of science and communications. “It was a mix of what I’d already enjoyed studying in terms of ethics and science,” she says. “Then we started doing science communication: relaying hugely scientific papers on animal research into something simple.”
“From that moment I realised that this is something I’d really like to do at Master’s level.”
Chelsea’s introduction to science communication led her to consider further study. UCL in particular appealed to her because of the range of subjects offered. “The Public Engagement and Science Journalism modules really drew me in,” she says.
“Without the scholarship there’s no way I’d have been able to think about being in an unpaid role for six months. It just wouldn’t have been a possibility.”
But there was also another important consideration at play.
“Student loans don’t cover your costs, and I took a job in retail to try to save up for travel and contribute to my tuition,” she recalls. “But I found that there is a lot more support available at UCL when compared to other Russell Group universities.”
After successfully applying for a DeepMind scholarship, Chelsea was able to enrol and her arrival at UCL only cemented her decision that it was the right choice for her future career.
“I think when I first got to UCL, it was really set in stone. I thought: ‘I’m going to go into science journalism!’.”
Since joining UCL, the support Chelsea has received from DeepMind has put any financial worries at bay.
“My laptop was on its last legs,” she says. “I was trying to get it repaired but it was such an old model that all the parts had been discontinued. The DeepMind scholarship enabled me to get a computer that was not going to give up on me.”
Soon, Chelsea’s realised her scholarship had brought benefits that go beyond the classroom. Access to professional conferences, societies, and industry internships meant that it wasn’t just Chelsea’s education that was boosted.
“To me, it’s something to be able to actually afford to go to online conferences. It gives me the chance to be able to network with different people, and to learn from them,” says Chelsea. “Society memberships, too: The Study for Artificial Intelligence and Simulation of Behaviour is a really cool one.”
Although Chelsea’s studies at UCL are drawing to a close, the DeepMind scholarship continues to positively transform her studies. Her final dissertation topic, how different age groups understand AI in the form of social media algorithms, was inspired by DeepMind.
“The ethics regarding AI and trust in technology was certainly a theme that we discussed,” she says. “I have been keeping up to date with technology news, which encouraged me to consider AI in relation to social media and how it can influence our understanding on scientific issues like climate change.”
Chelsea also credits the scholarship with giving her to the opportunity apply to a number of internships in the field. “Without the scholarship there’s no way I’d have been able to think about being in an unpaid role for six months. It just wouldn’t have been a possibility.”
But the benefits aren’t solely financial. Like all DeepMind scholars, Chelsea is given one-to-one support by experienced mentors at the company, filling gaps in her knowledge.
“I have virtual sessions at least once a month with my mentors,” she explains. “They help me in all sorts of ways: in terms of my self-esteem, with applying for internships, or in advising me on how to follow a certain career path. They even provide a perspective on my assignments.”
“It’s just been so helpful.”
The next steps
Chelsea remains committed to pursuing a career in science journalism and at UCL has found the inspiration and the opportunities she’s been searching for. She writes for UCL’s Kinesis magazine, UCL's only life sciences magazine, and cites author, communicator and UCL guest speaker Dr Kat Arney and The Atlantic’s science journalist and UCL alumnus Ed Yong as two of her role models.
The module in Engaging the Public with Science also sparked Chelsea's desire to communicate complex scientific issues to the general public in an accessible way.
“At first I didn’t realise how important it is to listen to the other side,” she admits, citing her studies of the anti-vax movement during the COVID-19 pandemic. “But I now know you cannot treat people as passive objects or throw information at them. To communicate concepts properly you need to engage with people rather than dismiss them, and I think that’s a problem we have at this moment.”
The DeepMind scholarship has given Chelsea a wealth of new experiences, and she sees AI – and her understanding of it – at the forefront of her future career.
“I think AI will play a really significant role in filtering out fake news in effective science journalism, which is an issue that all science communicators are currently concerned about,” she says. “There’s also potential to use AI in identifying certain stories or breaking news and make the researching and writing process much more efficient.”
Chelsea’s time at UCL and DeepMind's investment in her future has been the starting point for Chelsea's future career, removing the financial barriers for students like herself from a range of backgrounds. So she is delighted that DeepMind has renewed its support of the scholarship programme at UCL for the 2021/22 academic year.
“I think it’s fantastic what DeepMind do,” she says. “People who may have been overlooked – for whatever reason – deserve an equal opportunity to access higher education. These are groups of people who have lots to offer.”
“It’s not just beneficial for the recipients, either: I think studying and working with people with different backgrounds provides a richer experience for everyone.”