If theres one thing that I regret from my undergraduate degree, its that I didnt take the opportunity to do a year in industry. A year in industry is where a student gets to go into the working field, whether at a research institute or a company, and work alongside experts for a year. This gives the student more experience of working in the field and allows them to gain skills outside of the undergraduate degree- something thats often advantageous when it comes to PhDs and jobs! So I asked those that have experienced years in industry for their opinions on whether they found that their placement did or didn’t help them with their future career, and what they gained from it. For those debating a year in industry and its benefits, heres what they have to say about it:
Oscar Ward, Australian Institute of Marine Science
My time at AIMS was an invaluable part of my education, allowing to develop a range of skills that would have otherwise been unavailable to me. Over the year I had the opportunity to work extensively in the lab, the field and at the National Sea Simulator, a world class aquaculture facility. I was able to work on a number of projects looking at Assisted Evolution as a possibility to help reduce the impact of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef. Spending a year in industry allowed me to see projects through from conception to finalisation – an experience which is often missed in shorter internships. Spending over 2 months in the field over the year gave fantastic insight as to how valuable operational efficiency and planning can be, and how putting work in early can make your life far easier in the long term (labelling well is important – don’t underestimate a good system when you’re dealing with thousands of samples)! Working in the lab allowed me to develop skills that my university education had not given me the opportunity to experience, and aquaculture also exposed me to sides of marine science that I would have otherwise never seen. Having the opportunity to participate in research alongside labs conducting leading research is an incredibly motivating experience. I would highly recommend anybody considering it to take the opportunity, as it played a key role in my development as a marine biologist!
You can find Oscar on: LinkedIn
Ada Barbanera, Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (IMEDEA),Palma de Mallorca, Spain.
I graduated in Applied Marine Biology from Bangor University last July and I am currently collecting data for my MsciRes in Kenya. I decided to engage myself into an extra year of university during my second year. The idea of learning, assisting and practicing my research skills sounded like a perfect plan to overtake my uncertainty and anxiety of performing well. Unluckily, I was one of the few students that had to face issues at the beginning of it. A few months after starting my work with an NGO based in Croatia, my father got ill and passed away after few weeks. Back then my necessities shifted away from the placement and I needed some time away from university to understand myself and priorities. Five months later I decided to go back on the boat, and with some assistance I connect to great people and scientists during their post-doctoral researchers. The new placement in Mallorca not only gave me the chance to collaborate to important ecological researches by testing the effect of global warming on seagrass reproduction and distribution by collecting, planting and cultivating seedlings, but also allowed me to initiate a long-term monitoring survey on different endemic species of macro-algae and monitoring the benthic associated macrofauna. Although I was mainly supervised by two researchers, in my free time I spent my time helping as many PhD students as possible with the aim to gain a large spectrum of ecological and conservational skills. I believe extending university of one extra year has had an important impact in my academic career. I learned from the frustration and the excitement of living amongst experienced researchers and feeling the pressure of only being an undergraduate, but still share my opinion. I learned how important mistakes are to develop self-confidence and the importance in work endurance to achieve results. My year within IMEDEA truly helped me performing with confidence and positivity my final year at the university and left an important scientific inter-web of contacts, in addition to wonderful friends and experiences in such an astonishing little island
Eleanor Falch, Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, Bergen.
The best parts of my placement year were those I spent at sea, working in fish and plankton labs on board research vessels. I gained valuable experience in fisheries data collection as well as testing my ability to work well in a laboratory team, despite the challenging conditions that night shifts and bad weather brought. I think this is a really good example of adaptability and I often use it in job applications. I spent the rest of my placement year completing a research project which involved mapping the spawning distribution of North Sea saithe using R. While R experience is obviously useful for a career in marine science, I have forgotten most of what I learned after being out of practice for 2 years. I sometimes wonder if I could have used my time a little better but overall, my placement year has had a very positive impact on my employability, both on paper and in person.
Jade Caygill. Sea life centre, Blackpool.
Although I enjoyed my time, since carrying out the placement and working at Sealife, I have realised that this is not a path I wish to pursue. I gained a lot of aquarium knowledge on my placement, which has expanded my understanding and knowledge of how aquariums work and how they are able to keep captive animals, but also why certain animals are unable to be kept in captivity. However, I don’t think this route right for me. I’ve realised I’d rather be out in the field working more hands on with the animals that I am studying. Despite this, taking the placement year has allowed me to understand what path I’d rather take, and without the placement year I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do so.
You can find Jade on: LinkedIn
Molly Crowe, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
During my placement I learnt about animal husbandry, gained more advanced microscope skills, staining for lipids/starch/proteins, respirometry and PAM fluorescence measurements. My own project – The affect of increased temperature on lipid and starch contents of 3 Symbiodiniaceae clades – has the potential to be written up and published!
It was a great experience of networking, life as a researcher (things going wrong especially when working with live specimens) and experiencing life in ‘the world after university’ – living in a new country and learning I can hack it on my own.
Rhodri Irranca-Davies, Natural Resources Wales, part of the Marine Monitoring Team.
During the fifteen months I spent at NRW, I was part of the specialist monitoring team. This grouping included experts in terrestrial, aquatic, marine, and atmospheric monitoring, however I was primarily involved with the marine division. This diverse organisational structure coupled with the knowledge-sharing mind-set of the staff, meant that I was involved in a huge variety of projects across a number of different internal groups, such as marine mammals groups, ornithology groups, water framework directive (WFD) groups, sustainable management of natural resources (SMNR) groups, etc., working with experts in their chosen fields. During my time I also had the pleasure of working with a collection of NGOs, governmental bodies, universities, and environmental contractors. Outside of work, I used the money earned to increase my scuba diving qualification level, and have now completed my PADI advanced open water and PADI rescue diver training. In addition to this, NRW provided me with a vast array of other professional courses and qualifications orientated towards a career in scientific monitoring and reporting. These included: Seafarer medical (ENG1), Diver medical (MA1), 2-day intertidal training course (Rescue365), Personal survival techniques (PST) and Swiftwater and flood first responder (Rescue3International). I feel that the array of different experiences I have undergone in the past fifteen months within NRW, alongside the qualifications I have amounted, and the diverse spectrum of expert contacts (and friends) I feel I have established, have provided me with the fundamental tools I require to seek-out and obtain future careers within the industry post-MSc – in which I now feel I can thrive. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at NRW. The workplace has a lively and enthusiastic feel to it, whilst maintaining a work-intensive feel, allowing me to develop as a young scientist and expand my knowledge and skill-base significantly.