LifeLab is a fantastic teaching laboratory created and run to engage young people, particularly in health-related issues.

As part of Southampton University, LifeLab, located in Southampton General Hospital, works with schools and colleges in and around the Southampton area to introduce young people to opportunities surrounding biomedicine and research work in scientific fields.

Just one part of their work to get students involved is the LifeLab Youth Panel which is available for young people to aid them in developing independent research and collaboration skills.

Dr Kathryn Woods-Townsend, the LifeLab programme manager, said it’s important that LifeLab gives young people a voice. 

She said: “So much of what affects young people’s lives is decided in rooms where young people don’t have voices. As adults, we need to hear directly from young people about their experiences and their needs.” 

The advanced and mature style of work expected from young people leads to excellent end products that are then used for the benefit of their peers. Previous panels of young people have produced many valuable resources, including ones to help combat exam stress, how to say no to vapes and explaining clinical research. As for what’s involved in being a member of the panel, Dr Woods-Townsend explained the wide variety of skills that are developed in taking part. 

This article was written by Esther Draper, from Peter Symonds College, as part of Newsquest's YounG reporter scheme. 

She said: “Generally, we run each youth panel for a school or college term. We meet as a group online once a week for about an hour and we have a discussion. In the week, we ask you to complete about two hours of independent work and this could be a variety of different tasks.” 

Past panellist Evan Bartlett said: “What they do at LifeLab is impactful so I’m very privileged to have had the opportunity to work for them on the youth panel. I feel proud to have been a part of the youth panel.”

The continuation of this work is vital – all of LifeLab’s projects, including the Youth Panel, bring confidence to young people in the value of their voices and opinions.

Dr Woods-Townsend said: “I want us to carry on being able to offer our programmes to primary and secondary schools and colleges, bringing on more places as they show interest. But, more than that, I’m excited about the opportunities we can provide for young people to realise the futures they want to have.”

Exciting upcoming events with LifeLab include the launch event of the Young Researcher Training Programme in March. This will showcase the educational videos and learning resources created by the young people to teach their peers the skills of becoming young researchers. LifeLab’s work is incredibly important in teaching young people that what they have to say matters and that it will have an impact on the future, which, after all, does belong to them.

  • This article was written by Esther Draper, PSC, from Peter Symonds College, as part of Newsquest's Young Reporter scheme.