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:P
Jake Davies, Natural Resources Wales with the Intertidal and Coastal team, UK.
The placement was crucial to my career and provided with me a variety of experiences as well as developing and learning new skills. During the year I had the opportunity to work along a variety of specialist not just marine but terrestrial too. The year included a lot of fieldwork from conducting species and habitat surveys on the intertidal shores such as mapping seagrass and Honeycomb worm (Sabellaria alveolata) to conducting drop down surveys for invasive species, Cetacean surveys and an opportunity to join the CEFAS Endeavour research vessel on the North Sea for smart buoy maintenance and sampling. I was also provided with the opportunity to follow my interests therefore I wrote an evidence report on seagrass (Zostera marina) meadows using aerial imagery / survey data to analyse the seagrass extent changes over a period of time. I also helped in establishing the Pilot Angelshark data gathering project during the summer of 2017 where I lead the fisher engagement work. This then helped in funding Angel Shark Project: Wales which is a 2 year project which started in June 2018 of which I am fortunate to be the project coordinator for. The project lead by Zoological Society of London and Natural Resources Wales aims to better understand the Critically Endangered Angelshark (Squatina squatina) off the Welsh coast through fisher engagement, historical research and citizen science.
Georgina Matthews, The Australian institute of Marine science (AIMs), Australia.
I believe an internship year to either an institute or a university is incredibly important to the development of skills and life lessons for future careers. I have gained a vast amount of knowledge not just in my field of study but also in how to conduct myself in a professional environment and what science is truly about (aka lots and lots of husbandry work!!). In the past 9 months that I have been at AIMs I have been completed over a month and a half in the field. Partaking first hand in conducting experiments on the back of research ships, collecting samples, following relative permits, and collecting raw data. Not only was I able to assist in experiments on ship but I also completed over 3 weeks of constant experiments at aims within their national sea simulator and over 2 months of work specifically on coral spawning. Working first hand with coral gametes and learning how to assortment crosses of different adult colonies to create hybrids. I have hence taken part in lots of initial processing of raw samples, including initial snap freezing with liquid nitrogen and tissue blasting to remove soft tissue for physiological assays. Later lab work has therefore included chlorophyll assays, protein assays, DNA extractions and gel electrophoresis. These have given me priceless skills in my field of interest which would not have been obtainable just from an undergrad marine bio course these skills I can now use to my benefit for later on in my scientific career.
You can find Gina on: Twitter
Edward Cardona, Pelagic lab at the Hawaiian Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB), Hawaii.
My year in industry was an amazing experience, and I worked with incredible people. I essentially shadowed PhD students doing their thesis, working on different Hawaiian Islands and on different species of sharks. I was also able to work on my own projects, of which I will be writing first author papers. It really gave me a perspective as to how real science is done. The amount of time and effort that goes into collecting data and writing up the paper! It was a great opportunity and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who’s on the fence about doing one!
You can find Ed on: Researchgate
Rhian Taylor, University of Canterbury, New Zealand.
I was employed as a research assistant and assisted with a number of different projects with my supervisor, PhD students and MSc students. These projects ranged from sieving through estuarine sediment samples after drying them out and burning off any organic material, to going away and doing fieldwork around South Island. The most interesting project I worked on was looking at the impacts of earthquake uplift on intertidal organisms following the November 2016 Kaikoura earthquake. For this project, we would go away for 4-10 days of fieldwork, with weather ranging from clear blue skies to the worst conditions I’ve ever done fieldwork, this was some of the most fun I had while on my placement year.
From this year in industry, I gained a number of new skills – some useful and some not so useful! While doing fieldwork, I completed many quadrat samples, and now I can identify a large number of intertidal organisms in New Zealand, and can compare these to their UK and Ireland equivalent. I know how to complete different sampling techniques, such as random, systematic and haphazard sampling and have conducted these on both rocky shore and estuarine substratum. Some more specific skills include knowing how to monitor a crab’s heart rate – and the useless skill is definitely being able to cut open a mussel in less than 10 seconds (I needed to feed my crabs).
This experience was something that I loved, but at times it was quite tiring. With fieldwork, you often work around the tide, sometimes we had to be in the labs until 10pm because low tide was in the late afternoon, or you’ve got to be up at 4am. I really enjoyed doing my placement year, and now I have a year of work experience in the field that will hopefully help me get employment after my Masters. If I hadn’t enjoyed it though, I think I would have much preferred deciding that it wasn’t the right area for me to go in while still at university rather at a job stage. If you have the opportunity to do so, I would highly recommend doing a placement year before you finish your degree.
Grace Tomlinson, Mediterranean institute for advanced studies in Mallorca (IMEDEA), Mallorca.
My placement taught me practical skills in laboratories and has given me valuable experience working alongside researchers. It reiterated the importance of putting myself out there and asking to help others with their research, which has definitely broadened my skills and introduced me to networking. The year gave me time to do relevant work experience and helped me establish what type of work I enjoy and what best suits me and my abilities.
You can find Grace on: Instagram
Maria Hayden-Hughes, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), The Netherlands.
My placement started by researching relevant literature to gain a basic understanding of previous research on the American razor clam Ensis directus, to find knowledge gaps to base my experimental design on. Prior to my project there had been few laboratory-based experiments using E. directus because of low survival and no behavioural studies using the species. After my pilot studies, I began geomorphological experiments using live and mimic razor clams to investigate the effect shell structure under different densities on sediment stability. My findings showed that the structure of the American razor clam has the ability to stabilise the sediment and form hummocks. However E. directus is highly mobile and moves with sand ripples formed under high flow velocity. Therefore sediment stabilisation does not occur. High movability is believed to be the reason why the invasive non-native American razor clam, first introduced in the 1970’s, has become one of the most abundant commercial bivalve species in the Netherlands.
During my placement I also had the opportunity to attended my first conference, the Netherlands Annual Ecology Meeting and presented my preliminary finding as a scientific poster. It was a vital learning curve, improving my scientific communication skills and building my confidence in my own ability as a researcher. The conference enabled me to expand my knowledge of possible research areas and meet renowned scientists in my field of interest. The placement also allowed me to experience other cultures and cuisine, as the NIOZ guesthouse hosts colleagues and students from all over the world.
I thoroughly enjoyed my work placement, gaining practical knowledge of implementing and completing scientific research independently that has benefited my future studies. There was plenty of experience in practical problem solving throughout my placement and I learnt to adapt to changing situations. Throughout my placement, my communication and presentation skills have vastly improved as I have developed a greater confidence in myself and my work to continue working in marine research. Working within an international marine institute and meeting people from different stages of research sharpened my desire in coastal ecology and fisheries research. My placement provided me with the opportunity to gain invaluable knowledge and experience in active research, gaining profitable skills that has benefitted my current career. I now work as a research project support officer working with local fisheries, governance and environmental agencies to promote and support new/underexploited shellfisheries to develop the aquaculture in Wales.
You can find Maria on: LinkedIn