How to find a summer placement in the sciences

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Are you looking for a 2018 summer placement? Emma Isle and Oliver Cohen share some of their top tips as to how to get the most out of your summer, whilst getting invaluable work experiencxe...

It can seem a bit daunting initially when you start looking for placements, especially ones within your own field. You’ve heard that they are few and far between, and therefore the prospect of finding one can seem overwhelming. Never fear though – we are here with tips for getting the placement of your dreams.

Know your options...

The first place to start is always knowing your options – unless you know what’s available to you it’ll be hard to even start thinking about where to go next. Google is a great resource in this instant – if you’re tenacious enough you can probably find a lot of options. Some websites that I would recommend include: national science society websites – these are really good as a starting place and often have links to sites where you can find placements etc. The royal society of biology website is particularly good at this. Also websites such as ‘ratemyplacement.co.uk’ and ‘studentladder.co.uk’ also have forums where you can find out about placements others have done and get tips on which are the best.

Vary where you look...

Most big companies offer placements of some kind as well as in academic institutions, for example GSK, which can span everything from research to business operations. They are a good option as often these placements come with a salary, so you won’t have to look for other funding. They can also provide useful links to industry which may help when looking for a job in the future. Be mindful when applying for these as they mostly require an expected 2:1, and you will probably need references, so be aware of the deadlines and make sure you know what is required.

Use the careers service...

After all they are there to help students with gaining employment - and placements definitely come under this bracket. Not only can they help you with both your CV and cover letters, but can also help prepare you for interviews. They are also pretty handy when it comes to recommending potential places you can apply, so if you’re struggling to find something go and ask them.

Ask your personal tutor for help...

Personal tutors are wonderful, and knowledgable. Most of them have had many students in the past, so are very experienced with students that are looking for summer experience. They can point you in the right direction, put you in contact with colleagues that may be accepting summer students and help you with your application. This is a really good resource, as often they know where their students have gone in the past and if they enjoyed the experience. I would strongly advise that before you apply anywhere, or email anyone, to talk to your personal tutor first, as their advice could be invaluable.

Don’t be afraid to email people...

Sometimes the simplest routes are the best, and if you know someone who you’d like to work with, either in Bristol or at another university don’t be afraid to email them about the possibility of working with them. Some academics can be unreliable at replies, so don’t be surprised if you don’t get an immediate response, but it is wise to email more than one person – some might be more receptive than others. Top tip: some professors will advertise on their page if they accept summer students and this can be a good indication of if they’d be likely to accept you. This is how I got my placement last year, and I would highly recommend this route, especially if you’ve not got the best grades, as you’re unlikely to get one via the more competitive routes. Once you’ve secured a placement with someone you can then investigate funding options.

If you are going to go down this route email as early as possible, as they tend to get a fair few requests, and the earlier you email the more likely they are to have space for you, and be willing to sort out a potential project for you.

Look at other universities as well as Bristol...

If you live in another city, it may be easier, or cheaper, to get a summer placement at a university nearby. Some universities, such as imperial, run schemes like UROP (which is open to students across all areas of science and engineering to students from outside the university). You can also email people directly that are at different institutions, as sometimes they are happy to consider you even if you don’t attend their university.

Look for funding options...

They may not be in the obvious place. Most of the large societies will have funding available for summer projects. However these can be quite competitive so make sure you have a solid project idea agreed first. Lists of funding can often be found on the society websites, as well as with a google search. Often there are more obscure sources of funding as well, such as charities, that may offer studentships for summer projects, and if you’ve arranged a project with someone, they may be able to point you in the direction of some of these.

As mentioned in the video many university specific options are unique to University of Bristol students. One of the more interesting opportunities is to work across departments -http://www.bristol.ac.uk/ias/urc-funding/research-internships/. You get the chance to work and advance subject knowledge you're familiar with while also getting experience with a completely different area to add a bit of a novel aspect to your placement. Moreover, the university has unique partnerships, so you can do research all across the globe, like at the University of Auckland! http://www.bristol.ac.uk/wun/news/2017/university-of-Auckland-summer-2018-research-scholarships.html

Listed below are a couple of links to other interesting/mentioned opportunities that you may like to check out and get involved in…

http://www.rsc.org/ScienceAndTechnology/Funding/undergraduate-bursary.asp

https://wellcome.ac.uk/funding/biomedical-vacation-scholarships

http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/undergraduate-research-bursaries-science-0

http://www.imperial.ac.uk/urop

Start looking now. It is never too early to start thinking about summer placements. The sooner you email people, the more likely they will be to have an opportunity for you, and when it comes to schemes, you could very easily miss the deadlines if you look any later!


Are you doing a summer placement? Or would you like to? Get in touch with us or comment below!

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