James Henderson – Green Room (Fukuoka, Japan)

James Henderson is a PhD student at the University of Leeds who went to Fukuoka, Japan for his PIPS to teach English to Japanese students in a company called Green Room. The students ranged from 15 to 70 years old, and from beginner to advanced levels. Read on to find out more about Jamie’s experience and see the photos that illustrate it!

What did you do?
 
From the outset of the placement I was a teaching assistant; helping the full-time teachers and having private lessons with more capable students. As my time progressed I was responsible for my own classrooms, up to six students at a time, either following textbooks, or creating my own schedules. I was also responsible for the conversational café that would require me balancing the outspoken students with the more anxious individuals, ensuring everyone was able to practice their English. I would often interact with at least 15 people during these sessions.
 

What made you want to do that particular placement?

For several years I have considered a career in Japan, but was fully aware that getting a job there is quite difficult without any previous experience of the country and its customs. PIPS gave me the opportunity to live and work in Japan, which I otherwise would not have been able to do. I have also previously considered a career in education as I have enjoyed my short experiences of teaching. This placement allowed me to experience both of my potential future aspirations. Initially I was unsure if teaching English would be a waste of time and if I should do something more science-related. Eventually I decided that the benefits of working abroad, practicing a career I enjoyed and going out of my comfort zone outweighed doing a science internship.  

How did you go about finding and planning your PIPS?

As I had no contacts in Japan, it was initially very difficult to obtain a placement there. I had to use the help of a company that specialised in finding internships for non-Japanese citizens, Meiji Internships. Through them I was able to apply to several different fields such as education, agriculture and so on. Once they found a company interested in working with me, they gave me their contact details so that we could plan my internship and responsibilities. Without Meiji Internships I don’t think I would have been able to find a placement so easily, so I am very grateful to them. 

What have you gained from doing your PIPS?

The biggest personal gain I got from my PIPS was an improvement in my confidence. I had to interact with students of all ages and maintain interesting discussions on a daily basis, which forced me to come out of my comfort zone. Many Japanese students were very shy, so I had to encourage them to talk by asking them questions and keeping them engaged. The language barrier also helped improve my explanation of complex ideas, such as my PhD project, as I had to describe the concepts in a very simple manner. Something I wasn’t expecting was the level of enjoyment I obtained from teaching. Previously I thought teaching might be a good career path, but now it is a genuine career I may pursue. 

How would you sum up your PIPS experience?

My PIPS experience was excellent. In first year I thought it would be a pain and assumed I would do some dull job in or near Leeds for ease. Halfway through second year I started seriously considering what I could do and when I realised it was (almost) anything I wanted, I jumped at the opportunity to work in Japan. It has helped improve some of my weaker characteristics, such as my shy persona and fear of trying new things. I was able to live in a new country, adapt to a completely different culture, see things I would never see in the UK, meet new people and form some strong contacts. It reinforced future career paths that I may follow and, as a plus, was a nice break from the lab. PIPS has evolved from something I was dreading to my favourite part of my PhD so far.    

What advice would you give to other students about PIPS?

I would suggest to other students that they go abroad if they haven’t been before and have the opportunity to do so. My placement was the first time I have ever been out of the UK for anything longer than two weeks, and has changed my views about working abroad. Previously I had only truly considered working in either the UK or USA (and a desire to work in Japan), but my placement has now made me more than happy to try working in other non-English speaking countries. Also don’t worry if your placement isn’t completely science-related, which was a fear of mine. I assumed I would have to do science as it was what others were doing and I thought it was expected of most students; but you really can do what you want to do.

Maia Harvey – Oxford University Innovation

Oxford University Innovation new logo

Maia Harvey is a final year student at the University of Leeds who did her PIPS with Oxford University Innovation (OUI) – Oxford University’s technology transfer office. OUI helps academics if they want to form a spinout company, protect a technology with intellectual property, form licensing agreements and market technologies to potential investors or licensees. Read Maia’s PIPS case study to find out what a placement in technology transfer entails!

Where did you go and what did you do?

I spent 3 months at Oxford University Innovation. I was working with the Life Sciences, Physical Sciences and Digital Health departments – which meant I worked on projects ranging from sustainable energy to drug delivery!

When I arrived I trained alongside a new Assistant Licensing and Ventures Manager. We were trained on patents and other intellectual property, so that I could work with an inventor to decide whether the technology they had invented was novel or not (if it’s not novel or useful, it won’t have commercial value!). This involved meeting with University professors and listening to ‘pitches’ of their inventions before going away and researching if something similar had been done before and how they might patent their idea. I enjoyed this as it felt like detective work, and looking at science from a different point of view was really interesting.

Once an invention has intellectual property protection, it can be licensed to companies that want to use the technology. Part of my role was to market these inventions, finding companies that might be interested in licensing the technology. I also wrote profiles of the technology to ‘advertise’ what the invention was.

I also attended Oxford University’s spinout training at their ‘incubator’ for new potential start-ups. As someone with a business mindset, I relished this opportunity and learnt lots about what you have to consider when developing your own business model – where to look for investment, how to market a product effectively, and how to master the perfect ‘elevator pitch’ to use at networking events.

During my time at OUI I also worked with OxReach – Oxford University’s crowdfunding platform. This year they were raising funds to digitise plant samples so they could be used worldwide in food security research.  I helped manage the social media campaign, creating posts for Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I also secured a radio interview with a local radio station to help spread the word!

What made you want to do that particular placement?

Throughout my undergraduate degree and PhD, I’ve always been interested in the commercial potential of scientific inventions. Working in a drug discovery lab, I was interested in how the research conducted in academic labs can be translated to create businesses and products to be used in industry. I really wanted to find an internship that combined my passions for science and business.

How did you go about finding and planning your PIPS?

It was a very straightforward process. I saw an advert posted on the BBSRC website and sent my CV and a cover letter. I then had a chat on the phone to the head of Licensing and Ventures at the company and arranged a start date.

What have you gained from doing your PIPS?

Where to start! Firstly, this internship confirmed to me that I’d like a career working at some stage of the science commercialisation process. I feel like I left OUI with a solid knowledge base including specific skills in patents, marketing and business development.

As PhD students, we are working on one main project for 3-4 years, so suddenly working on several projects in a week made me quickly learn how to juggle my time and prioritise.

Completing my internship in Spring 2020 meant that a national lockdown started halfway through my 3 months – so I quickly had to adapt to working from home and becoming a Microsoft Teams expert! It was really interesting to see how a company can adapt so quickly to 100% WFH while maintaining revenue in completely new circumstances.

How would you sum up your PIPS experience?

A fast-paced science commercialisation internship with good office company! Thank you, OUI!

What advice would you give to other PGRs about PIPS?

I found it useful to complete an internship in a career area I was considering. Through conversations with colleagues about their own career journeys, I was introduced to roles and careers I didn’t know existed before! Completing my PIPS really helped me narrow down what I want to do after my PhD.

Lizzy Parker – Hope for the Future

Lizzy Parker at Hope for the Future webinar

Lizzy Parker is a PhD student at the University of Sheffield who spent 6 months working part-time at ​Hope for the Future​. ​Hope for the Future is a national climate communication charity which works to equip communities, groups and individuals across the country to help communicate the urgency of climate change with their local politicians. Keep reading to find out more about what Lizzy’s role involved and why she chose to do this particular placement!

Read moreLizzy Parker – Hope for the Future

Get to know… your WRDTP student reps: Alex Scott

It’s time to meet our second rep from the University of York – Alex Scott. He also did his undergraduate degree in York – however, that was an integrated masters in physics, not biology! With only 10 weeks of wet lab experience before starting his PhD, every day has come with new challenges and an awful lot of learning.

Alex Scott

Alex has just now, in October, entered third year – how time flies!

3-Minute Thesis – Alex Setchfield and Katie West

Two of our DTP students – Katie West and Alex Setchfield – took part in the University of York 2020 3-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition and presented their work in the final round on Wednesday 10th June 2020. We talked to Katie and Alex about the whole process – from their motivation to take part, through the preparation they did, to their reflections on the process! We would like to say a very big ‘well done’ to Katie and Alex on making it to the final of the competition, especially with the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic! Read their full interview to find out more about their experience and the invaluable advice they have for anyone who wants to try taking part in 3MT in the future, as well as a link where you can watch the event in full.

3-Minute Thesis logo

Read more3-Minute Thesis – Alex Setchfield and Katie West

Get to know… your WRDTP Comms Team: Maria Nikolova

My name’s Maria Nikolova and I’m a second year PhD student at the University of Leeds. I am the Comms Team group lead and most of the Tweets you see will be from me. Who knew a lifetime of endless scrolling through social media and subsconsciously absorbing what content gets the most attention will be useful!

Maria Nikolova intro
Like Ioannis, I also prefer spending my holidays by the beach because of where I come from (in my case, that’s a city called Burgas in Bulgaria).

My research focuses on the structural and functional investigation of PACE transporters. They are a family of multidrug efflux pumps that can transport a number of biocides out of bacteria and facilitate resistance. I chose this project because protein biochemistry was my favourite part of the integrated masters I did at the University of York (I just need a post-doc in Sheffield to complete my White Rose collection) and I think antimicrobial resistance is the most urgent global health threat we are facing. I also wanted a challenging project and membrane proteins fit neatly into that category so I can’t complain when it’s hard now (although I still do). It has been a steep learning curve but a rewarding experience and I feel like I have already learned a lot. Now I just need my structure!

I have recently got into cycling as it’s such a great way to get active and explore the green spaces around my plain old terraced house (I have not enjoyed spending a lot of time indoors…) and I get some satisfaction out of getting there all on my own. I may have got a little too into tracking my rides on Strava… Just another social media obsession to add to my list. I also love meeting up with friends in my spare time and getting involved in science communication projects. It’s no surprise then that I’m involved in organising Pint of Science for the second year running as it combines two of my favourite activities! I joined the DTP Comms Team because I see great potential in using our social media and website to showcase and amplify all the great achievements of our students and also provide a platform for students to share what they’re passionate about. I’m also quite excited about connecting with and sharing ideas with our cohort so it’s been great fun for me really. I hope everyone enjoys our posts and our DMs and emails are always open for new suggestions!

Tips on giving a conference talk from Oli Herd

Oli Herd is a final year PhD student at the University of York characterising haematopoietic and immunological changes using a mouse model of chronic immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) under the supervision of Ian Hitchcock and Paul Genever. In December 2019 he presented a talk at the American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida (USA) on his research in defining changes in haematopoietic stem cell populations and the bone marrow microenvironment during ITP progression. We asked Oli for his top tips for preparing to give a talk at a conference, read below for a first-hand account of his experience!

Oli Herd at ASH
Here is a picture of Oli presenting his talk!

Read moreTips on giving a conference talk from Oli Herd

Marcus Holt – FindAUniversity

Marcus Holt at PIPS

Marcus Holt is a final year PhD student at the University of Leeds, who did his PIPS with the internet-based company FindAUniversity. The company is geared towards students looking for a postgraduate course. He told us what was involved in his role within the Content team (part of which was carried out remotely due to COVID-19) and gave us some great insight into what he took away from his PIPS experience!

 

Read moreMarcus Holt – FindAUniversity

Get to know… your WRDTP student reps: Evie Farnham

It’s time to introduce our first student rep from the University of York! Evie is currently in the second year of her PhD. She also did her undergraduate at York, with a year working in the agriculture industry in Gloucestershire. Her PhD allows her to combine her interests in crop protection, microbial evolution and genetics into one project. Evie thinks time has really flown by and she can’t believe she’s already halfway through her PhD!

Evie Farnham

Read on to find out how Evie’s interest in crop protection has evolved to bring her to her current project and what it entails, what she loves doing in her spare time and one of the misfortunes she’s had during a late night in the lab (don’t worry, it has a happy ending)!

Read moreGet to know… your WRDTP student reps: Evie Farnham

Dani Pierce – MRC Research Unit The Gambia

Sunset from Dani Pierce's PIPS placement

Dani Pierce is a third year PhD student at the University of Leeds who undertook her PIPS placement at the MRC Research Unit The Gambia. Read her full PIPS case study to find out what scientific work was involved in the two clinical trials she was part of and what it was like spending 3 months in The Gambia (complete with more pictures that capture her experience)! Dani also shared her tips and advice on looking for a PIPS placement.

Read moreDani Pierce – MRC Research Unit The Gambia

Get to know… your WRDTP student reps: Roz Latham

Rosalind Latham

First in our new blog series ‘Get to know… your WRDTP student reps’ is Rosalind Latham! Roz did her BSc in Biology at the University of York, with a year in Industry in Pharmaceutical research. Highlights of her degree were learning about biotechnology and how to genetically engineer plants/microbes for human benefit.

After gaining industrial experience in a Fast-Moving-Consumer-Goods Graduate Scheme, Roz decided to go back to science and plant biotechnology, which she specialised in as an undergraduate. She’s now 8 months into her PhD and loving it!

We asked Roz a few more questions about her life in and outside of the lab – keep reading to find out how DNA origami can help us get better crops, Roz’s favourite Yorkshire spots and what you should (not) do when growing archaea!

Read moreGet to know… your WRDTP student reps: Roz Latham

How will protein structures help us in the fight against COVID-19?


Mpro with inhibitor

Alex Holmes is a second-year White Rose DTP student at the University of Leeds and volunteers as a Pint of Science team leader for the ‘Our Body’ strand. She works at the interface of structural, computational and chemical biology, using these techniques to study a family of membrane proteins and their potential druggability.

Read moreHow will protein structures help us in the fight against COVID-19?