My time as a Public Engagement intern at Babraham: Recommendations to prospective students
The dust has settled after my 3 month PIPS internship in Cambridge, so it feels like the perfect time to reflect on my time there and provide advice for students looking to carry out an internship in the future.
I decided to look for an internship at the Babraham Institute because their core research theme aligns with my own PhD work on healthy ageing. I thought that the internship would provide an opportunity to experience healthy ageing research through a different lens - that of Public Engagement. Additionally, reading about current Institute Public Engagement projects like ORION and CHROMOS intrigued me.
I did a lot of networking at the ‘Healthy Ageing: from molecules to organisms’ conference at the Wellcome Genome Campus last year. During an enjoyable visit to the Babraham Institute, I met Tacita, who, as Public Engagement Manager, would be my internship supervisor. We discussed what I’d like to get out of an internship, and what I could bring to the team. We then wrote a project proposal together, with the aim of providing me with experience that future employers would look for in an applicant for a full time position.
The basis of my internship involved three projects: taking part in LifeLab, which you can read about in my previous blog, developing a workshop on the ethics of healthy ageing research, and helping create a centralised resource for teachers based on past engagement activities. The resources, including my workshop, will be published on the Public & Schools section of Institute’s website this March.
For those hoping to do an internship in any field, my main piece of advice would be: do some background work first! Talk to people in areas that you find interesting and ask them what their day-to-day job is like. Most people can empathise with your position and are generally willing to help. Take time to think about when is best for you to take a break from your research. This is a personal choice and depends on your project, your priorities, and your supervisors. I took my internship at the end of my third year because I wanted to have time to get my lab techniques working and feel settled as a PhD student. Time away before my fourth year also helped me feel refreshed for completing my research. I also made sure that the time for my visit to the Institute was at a time when there were lots of different activities to get involved with.
To make the most of your internship, be helpful and show initiative. If there are things happening that look interesting to you, get involved. During my internship I also took part in an ORION Open Science workshop, received training on evaluating public engagement events, flow cytometry and communicating animal research. Be sure to reflect as you go, think about and document the skills that you are gaining from the experience for future job applications.
Overall, I had a great time during my PIPS. I felt that I’d chosen the right place and gained a huge repertoire of experience and skills that I wouldn’t otherwise have received. I’d like to finish by thanking everyone that I met at the Institute for making me feel welcome. I hope that we’ll see each other again soon!