How it works
Your internship should be undertaken between months 12 and 36 of your EASTBIO PhD after your first year report has been completed, ‘PIPS Planning Sheet’ approved and the ‘PIPS Internship Agreement’ completed.
How to find an internship
- Apply to an existing internship program
- See what internships EASTBIO has created
- Create your own internship idea
“I was worried that I would have to fight hard to do my 'out of the ordinary', international PIPS idea but I was pleasantly surprised when the PIPS coordinator was so enthusiastic about everything.”
“Thanks to PIPS I am no longer worried about my future career – rather I feel I have found a potential career with all the aspects of research that I like but without the academic setting which I find difficult to work in. I continue to do my PhD with new found enthusiasm – a nice consequence of my PIPS that I had never foreseen."
What are EASTBIO and the BBSRC expecting from students?
You will be expected to do the following:
- Source a suitable internship project with a suitable internship provider in a non-academic workplace setting
- Plan the PIPS into your PhD work in collaboration with your PhD supervisor
- Complete all the necessary paperwork (forms, agreements, approvals etc.) for your PIPS and communicate them to EASTBIO, host university and/or organisation, in accordance with milestones and deadlines set out in the PIPS Student Guide
- Engage with your PIPS provider professionally when you are developing your PIPS project
- Carry out and complete a PIPS of suitable length and scope, whilst adopting a professional behaviour in the organisation
- Report on the outcomes of your PIPS to EASTBIO and BBSRC according to the requirements set out in the PIPS Student Guide.
For further questions about the above, please email the EASTBIO Placements mailbox.
My experience from completing an EASTBIO PIPS
2019 student Letizia Delle Vedove (Aberdeen) completed her placement with IPG Health - McCann Health Medical Communications; this is what she communicated to us:
"I carried out my three months internship with two of McCann Health Medical Communications agencies, CMC Affinity and CMC Connect. The medical communications (med comms) environment is very dynamic, and I was involved in a variety of projects for the clients (for both publications and medical affairs purposes), and for the company’s internal needs. I also had the opportunity to better understand the dynamics between client services and the clients, and better understand the business model of this industry.
thought it would be challenging to carry out this internship remotely, but it wasn’t. Because the company has offices spread across the globe, the company has a good tradition in managing teams whose members are not all in the same location. Even though I worked from home (Aberdeen) for the Glasgow office, I had the opportunity to work with line managers and colleagues mostly based in the US, Canada and England. Training and induction sessions were scheduled in such a way that colleagues from different time zones could attend at the same time, and interact with each other. I think this added to the learning and working experience, as people from different countries had different experiences and insights to share.
I feel like I learnt a lot during this internship, and greatly improved skills such as communication, writing and team work, all of which will be useful for any future career I might choose."
2019 student Beth McCaw (Aberdeen) completed her placement with SASA (Science & Advice for Scottish Agriculture) and shared the following feedback with us:
"During my three-month internship at SASA, I investigated the presence and prevalence of the parasitoid big-eyed fly, Verrallia aucta (see photo below), in Scotland through DNA sequencing of fly specimens and molecular screening of the meadow spittlebug host, Philaenus spumarius. Understanding the presence and prevalence of V .aucta in Scotland is essential for its potential use as a biological control measure on spittlebug populations in preparation for the possible introduction of the fatal plant pathogen, Xylella fastidiosa, into the UK – of which the spittlebug is a known transmitter.
While working at SASA, I learned how scientific research is conducted and communicated in an industrial organisation. In particular, I learned how to present our findings within a government style report and communicate them effectively to the rest of the team. From this internship, I learned how to design and test/validate new primers and how to conduct Sanger sequencing and analyse DNA sequencing reads. These technical skills will be useful for future molecular experiments in my PhD project.
I really enjoyed the unique opportunity of working in a research department within an industry organisation. In addition, I enjoyed working as a team in a professional industrial environment and was also grateful to be trusted as the primary researcher for this project.
I was trusted to work independently and to use my time management skills to complete a research project and write a full report of the study within three months and with minimal supervision. Through problem solving and trouble-shooting new assays, this internship improved my confidence, competence and independence in working in the lab.
I hope that the findings from the study provide important and beneficial insight for SASA and will lead to future research on the use of biological control agents in Scottish agriculture."
2019 student Dagmar der Weduwen (St Andrews) completed her placement with the Naturalis Biodiversity Center and shared this feedback with EASTBIO students:
"I conducted research on fish jaw anatomy and evolution, comparing the bone structure of archerfish and gouramis using 3D models. I also took part in the museum’s LiveScience exhibit, where visitors can interact with museum researchers and volunteers while they are working. This meant I was able to communicate my research as I was conducting it, as well as explain the importance of research in general, give advice to children, teenagers, and students, and educate visitors on other biology topics that they were interested in. I also did four “Spotlight” presentations to audiences aged 8+, explaining the importance of my research at Naturalis.
During my placement, I learned how to be a more effective science communicator. Working in two languages (Dutch and English) was a challenge but one I enjoyed. It forced me to think more closely about the language I used to explain my research. I also learned how to create 3D models and use them for comparative anatomy and evolutionary research.
I really enjoyed working in the LiveScience exhibit. I was able to interact with the museum visitors and explain my research, but also other biology concepts related to the museum exhibits. I especially enjoyed speaking to the children that would visit, as I was able to give them school/career advice. Naturalis was my favourite museum as a child, so I could tell the children visiting that they too could one day work there!
My time in the LiveScience exhibit, and the Spotlight presentations I did there, taught me how to effectively communicate complex scientific topics to a very wide audience. I educated people ages 3 and over, working in two languages. I was able to inspire confidence in and a passion for science in the people I spoke with.
I will continue to apply the science communication skills I learned at Naturalis in my freelance sci-comm work, as well as in my future career."
2019 intake student Laurine Brouck (Edinburgh) completed her placement with the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) and shared this feedback with us:
"As a Science Communicator, I created new interactive content for 7- to 11-year-olds on the new ABPI schools website. This involved planning and writing the content, and then working with the Education team to bring it to life. To do so, I learnt a lot about website development: from HTML fundamentals to website migration and accessibility. I also liaised with people from different departments and external stakeholders to receive feedback on my content and improve the website. I really enjoyed the creative aspect of my internship. After discussing the broad layout of the project, my line manager gave me carte blanche to create the new resources.
The most challenging part was to write for such a young audience. I spent a lot of time rephrasing my sentences to make them as clear and accurate as possible. I am particularly proud of the course I wrote about the classification of living organisms. This new content includes a short section about microorganisms, which I hope will attract children eager to learn more about a certain SARS-CoV-2 virus. I hope that this new course, together with the updated ABPI schools website, will contribute to make science more engaging and accessible to the general public – especially in the era of mass misinformation."
2019 cohort student Phil Butlin (Edinburgh) completed his placement with LettUs Grow. In his own words:
"While at LettUs Grow, I was working on a project to compare the performance of various light sources in their aeroponic vertical farming systems. To do this, we used various metrics to evaluate the growth of sweet basil, including tracking the height and leaf size of plants during development, and collecting additional data on the yield production efficiency, nutritional content and taste of crops at harvest. In addition to my main project, I also assisted in various other farm activities, such as cultivating and maintaining a wide variety of salads, herbs and microgreens, and helped with other tasks around the company, including installing and assembling aeroponic grow beds. Furthermore, I got to use my own expertise as a plant photobiologist to provide input to internal scientific meetings, as well as those with clients and collaborators.
During my placement, I learnt a lot about the operational side of running and managing vertical farms, and also developed a much better understanding of how controlled environment agriculture systems work. In addition, I got to practice and hone my ability to present scientific findings to more general audiences in an industry setting, a skill which I have struggled with in the past. I also developed a much broader insight into the industry as a whole. In particular, I got to learn about how investment into vertical farms is brought in, the various approaches different companies were taking in terms of their technological developments, and what experts within the industry actually think of these plans.
I relished having the opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge I have developed so far during my PhD in an industry setting. In particular, I enjoyed trying to use my understanding of plant biology to tackle more applied issues, such as how to improve yield production using less energy, which will have benefits for both LettUs Grow’s customers and the climate. What surprised me the most, however, was how much I enjoyed working outside of academia – something I hadn’t particularly considered prior to my placement.
The findings of my work showed that switching to an alternative lighting provider to that currently used by LettUs Grow could lead to substantial yield increases in crops, while also consuming less energy. Although this was the case for a few light sources, I got to apply my own understanding of how light spectra alter plant growth to explain the trends we saw, and predict which LEDs may be suitable in different contexts (i.e. depending on customer needs).
I hope that my project will lead to a long standing collaboration for LettUs Grow, and help reduce energy for customers in the long-term, which will take LettUs Grow a step closer to achieving their goals of producing cheap, year-round and sustainable food production equipment."
2020 cohort student Moray Smith (James Hutton Institute) completed his placement with Nemedussa. He reported the following on his placement:
"My internship was focused on developing awareness and education of plant pathogenic nematodes (PPNs) in Sub-Saharan Africa with the Nemedussa project. First, I spent a month in Belgium, where I worked with collaborators from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and Ghent University to develop an educational program on PPNs that will be run in several partnered universities in Sub-Saharan Africa. This included the development of an interactive, digital textbook using resources sent in by partners that will be deployed as a mobile and web application.
For the second half of my internship I moved to Kenya, where I was first based in Eldoret at Moi University (see photo below - Outside the main gate of Moi University with Dr Njira Njira Pili - project coordinator in Kenya). A trial of the educational program will be run at Moi University in 2022 and so I worked with partners at the university in preparation of this. I also assisted in setting up a new plant pathology laboratory at the University which can be used for pathogen diagnostics and research in the region. During my time in Eldoret, I also met potential industrial partners, such as apple growers or cotton producers that could also benefit from this investment in plant pathology.
For the final stage of my internship, I moved to Nairobi, where I was based at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), where I was to present feedback on the recent project developments at Moi University and the current progress of the educational program. I was also going to assist with the ‘Basic Crash Course in Nematology’, a one-week course at ICIPE that would provide training on PPN identification and treatment, and soil health. Unfortunately, due to travel restrictions, this was cut short and so I returned to the UK and completed these aims remotely.
I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to set up a laboratory at Moi University. It presented some unexpected challenges, including rewiring plug sockets so that they would be suitable for lab equipment, and trying to set up a sterile environment in a very dusty area! The laboratory will be the first of its kind in the region and will be a massive benefit to plant pathology diagnostics, research, and education in the Great Rift Valley region.
During my internship, I took the development of a textbook, a large part of the project that had been falling behind schedule and brought it back on time, avoiding additional expenses and potential financial penalties from the funding organisation.
A long-term benefit of the project will be the development of plant pathology resources in Sub-Saharan Africa. Awareness amongst farmers and industries is chronically low and the establishment of an educational program in-country will be a key part of tackling this. The program and laboratory will also serve as a platform for future research into PPNs, an understudied group of pathogens that have a massive impact on crop yield in the region."
2018 cohort student Christine Jack (University of Aberdeen) completed her placement with Elasmogen. The aim of her internship project was to isolate and characterise an antigen specific VNAR so that it could be used as an additional screening tool during the drug development process. This meant that she had to use a variety of different techniques, including large scale protein expression, purification and verification of target binding by ELISA.
Of the things she's enjoyed during her PIPS, Christine mentioned "contributing her relative ‘expertise’ in an area the team was starting to work in. She helped to optimise experimental design in one of the flow cytometry techniques for Elasmogen to use." She also stressed "the successful cloning and characterisation of the VNAR of interest she was working, so the team now have a new tool for their future drug screening program." In terms of long-term benefit, Christine has this to say: "My internship has allowed me to gain an understanding of how a small biosciences company is organised and would now be an area I would consider for future employment. In addition, this internship opportunity allowed me to see the ‘real life’ application of many of the techniques I’ve learnt during my PhD and has given me the confidence in applying my knowledge in a new environment."
2018 cohort student Matthew French (University of Edinburgh) recently completed his placement with HigherSteaks.
The Research and Development experience has allowed him -- in his own words -- to contribute toward "greatly improving a key process in the company", "greatly improved his understanding of the industry and general start-up business inner workings." Matthew's conclusion was that this experience has "improved his employability in this sector" whilst also "meeting some great people along the way."
Matthew, in festive attire, can be seen in the photo, second on the left
2019 cohort student Laura MacKenzie (University of Aberdeen) has recently completed a 3-month placement with the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs. She had this to say about the placement:
"During my internship I had the opportunity to lead on the organisation of the G7 Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) meeting, held on 4th May 2021... [T]he discussion addressed three key themes: wildlife health surveillance, intelligence sharing and risk communication. [...] Further, I had the chance of rounding off the project by drafting the G7 meeting's agreed Chair’s summary. This piece of work was presented during an intervention by the UK Delegate (UK CVO) at the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) 88th General Session, in front of 182 member countries.
Lastly, I prepared a short reflection from the meeting, published by the UK CVO, Christine Middlemiss, on the government’s veterinary blog.
Next to this larger project, I also contributed scientific expertise to several smaller pieces of work, including the Defra response to the report “COVID 19: make it the last pandemic” by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response.
Despite this internship running for only 3-months, I have learnt a lot during this internship, from project management to how science informs policy. I have learnt how to write in a more accessible way, appropriate to policy makers. Further, I am now confident in leading on my own project, while closely collaborating with team members. I am now more confident to engage and collaborate with international stakeholders.
Being given the opportunity to fully lead on my own project was a great chance to develop my skills and confidence. While challenging at times, I really enjoyed taking ownership of the project, seeing it develop, while having a very supportive team around me to help as needed. I enjoyed engaging with all colleagues and international stakeholders to make this project a full success."
2018 cohort student Ana Rozman (University of Aberdeen) has recently completed her placement with the Academy of Medical Sciences. This is what Ana said about her placement:
"During my internship, I became a team member at the Academy of Medical Sciences Careers Team, working on a variety of projects related to biomedical research career development and training opportunities, as well as grant management. Some of my projects included organising an event on academic publishing, refreshing a COVID-19 Career Support Space, running career development events, participating in grant management and panel review processes and communicating with partners on behalf of the Academy.
The internship has been a great learning experience in working as part of a larger, diverse team. I have learned how to better manage my time, organise and delegate work for completion of a larger project, and effectively communicate with diverse audiences. At the same time, I have gained numerous insights into biomedical research funding and career support mechanisms available.
My role required a numerous written outputs -- i am usually not too excited to tackle writing tasks but having to produce written pieces under tight deadlines has given me a new understanding of the very important key phrase ‘finished, not perfect’ .
One of my favourite projects I have worked on during my placement has been refreshing the COVID-19 Career Support Space which organises useful reflections, resources, and tools to support clinical and biomedical researchers throughout the pandemic. This experience required analysis of the current space, preparation of multiple refresh proposals, communication and presentation of ideas to the expert advisory group, acting on the group feedback, preparing tools for project management, delegating tasks, writing summaries in the appropriate tone, as well as managing the technical execution by editing the webpages. Through this challenging but creative and extremely enjoyable task, I have developed transferable skills, such as communication with diverse audiences, as well as project and time management.
The internship has provided me a very valuable experience of the research support environment and enhanced confidence in my work. Both of these will be extremely useful for me, continuing my career path within or outside of academia. Most importantly, I have had a positive experience of professional environment culture, which I will be able to recall at any stage of my future career."