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.

Stella Christou – COVID-19 Genomics UK

Stella Christou became involved with the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) Consortium for her PIPS placement. She joined a lab at the University of Sheffield where they sequenced SARS-CoV-2 from positive patients around South Yorkshire. Read more to find out how PIPS can further your transferrable skills.

Read moreStella Christou – COVID-19 Genomics UK

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.

The Space Chile Grow a Pepper Plant Challenge: your chance to contribute to growing plants in space!

Space chile logo

My name is Luke and I’m about to undertake my PIPS placement with the Space Chile Grow a Pepper Plant Challenge. This is a citizen science project designed and run by Jacob Torres, a contracted engineering plant scientist at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (although this placement is not affiliated with NASA!). While the placement will be based in Sheffield due to COVID restrictions, it’s sure to be an ‘out of this world’ experience!

Read moreThe Space Chile Grow a Pepper Plant Challenge: your chance to contribute to growing plants in space!

Remote PIPS placements with Catriona Walker

New Phytologist logo

Catriona Walker is a third year PhD student at the University of Leeds with Tom Bennett. Her research focuses on the roles of phytohormones in the control of carpic dominance and the end of flowering. Carpic dominance is the process whereby developing seeds exhibit dominance over newer seeds, with results varying from mild (a decrease in fruit size) to severe (total inhibition of fruit development). This process acts as a significant limit on yield, as it occurs in situations even where resources are not limiting. Similarly, the end of flowering signifies the final point at which seed and fruits can develop and as such is also a large limiting factor to yield.

She carried out her PIPs placement remotely, during the first lockdown of 2020, with the plant science journal, New Phytologist.

Read moreRemote PIPS placements with Catriona Walker

Ioannis Tsagakis – FEBS Press

Ioannis Tsagakis immersed himself into the life of a scientific editor by undertaking an editorial internship at FEBS Press in his third year of PhD. The timing coincided with COVID-19 lockdown hence the internship was completed ‘virtually’ from Leeds, instead of the Cambridge office.

Read moreIoannis Tsagakis – FEBS Press

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

Sport, psychology, and animal video clips with PIPS

BBSRC DTP PhD student Matthew Chadwick undertook a PIPS with the Human Performance Service in the Sport and Exercise Sciences Department of the University of Leeds, providing technical consultation and training to research teams. In case you wanted additional reasons to watch those cat videos on the internet, keep reading.

Read moreSport, psychology, and animal video clips with PIPS

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

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

Lukas Jasaitis – Singer Instruments

Best PIPS Talk

Lukas Jasaitis won the prize for Best PIPS Talk – “Algae, Robots, The Great Unkown” –  at the DTP Student Symposium held on 13th December 2019.  He undertook his PIPS in the field of Laboratory Robotics manufacturing at Singer Instruments in Somerset… which was a very long way to go!  But totally worth it!

Whilst at Singer, Lukas’ main duties were:

  • Quality assurance on a number of high value products within demanding time frames
  • Work on designing methods to assess and track reliability
  • Pioneering the Chlamydomonas reinhardtii research project within the Singer lab

Lukas particularly enjoyed these aspects of his PIPS:

“I really enjoyed defined working hours, that demanded that I learn to structure my work so that I accomplish all of the tasks that were assigned to me (or that I have planned for myself), or if I realized that I was at maximum capacity to communicate this to my co-workers. During my first weeks, I found the fact that I am now indeed working as a part of a small focused team surprising and very rewarding. The pay-off for doing good quality, well-documented work was immediately accessible.”

There was a commercial outcome to the role:

“Validating the robot’s capability of manipulating this organism (Chlamydomonas reinhardtii) opens up a large new sector that this robot can be marketed and sold to.”

A key benefit of the placement for Lukas was:

“I have learned better ways to organise and communicate vital information, I now use these skills in my day to day work and I am passing them on to the people I work with.”

Talk slides

Luke has kindly agreed to share his talk slides – They provide lots of useful information about making the most of your PIPS e.g. a Timeline to Start, as well as some beautiful photographs of the Somerset landscape!

Lukas Jasaitis PIP slides – Click here to download


Andy Stone – The Academy of Medical Sciences

Andy Stone wrote a case study for his host organisation at the Academy of Medical Sciences.  Click the link below to find out Andy’s answers to questions such as,

Tell us about your PhD and what stage you were in when you did your internship

What did you work on during your internship?

Do you have any advice for someone who’s thinking of applying for the internship?

… and many more


Alex Wright – Swift Analytical

Alex Wright undertook his Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS) as a third year in 2019.  Here’s what he had to say about his experience:

Where did you go and what did you do?

I worked for a life sciences technology commercialisation company called Swift Analytical. Swift is a consultancy and sales company, which specialises in the product development and subsequent marketing of novel life science technologies around the world. Swift generally specialises helping late-stage start-ups establish a targeted distribution network, and fine tune their product specification for market. Swift also works with established technology companies to set up global distribution networks for new products.

I worked primarily on the launch of the new iWashTM slide cleaning system. In my role I extensively tested the system and wrote its user manual, and provided face-to-face technical feedback to the manufacturer.

I also wrote two technical articles for publication extolling the systems virtues, and wrote several press releases announcing its global sales launch and growing distribution network.

I also worked on lead generation for the Regemat 3D bioprinting system, which directly led to two Skype calls with clients interested in purchasing the system.

What made you want to do that particular placement?
Firstly, it was conveniently situated in York which allowed me to stay living in Leeds, as the reclamation model for PIPS expenses made it impossible for me to live away from home for 3 months. I was interested in the industry surrounding the transfer of research technologies to the industrial marketplace. This placement offered the opportunity to be a member of a small team, and to be intimately involved with the final-stage pre-launch testing and marketing of new technology for the scientific industry.
How did you go about finding and planning your PIPS?
Swift Analytical were listed as previous employers for PIPS. I therefore emailed them with my CV and a covering letter. They got in contact by phone to organise a meeting. This was successful and we settled on a start date.
What have you gained from doing your PIPS?
I have gained a better understanding of the processes required to bring a product to market. This includes knowledge of the legal and economic requirements for a product to be successful. I have also gained experience of active sales processes, and methods to gain visibility for a product.
How would you sum up your PIPS experience?
Interesting change in perspective, as it allowed me to see different mindset required from the earliest stages of design in order to develop and successfully market new technology. Also it was a useful breather to recover from the stress of PhD research, allowing me to return refreshed and re-energised.
What advice would you give to other students about PIPS?
Do it earlier than your 3rd year. Even if you’re doing something boring, try hard and you might learn something interesting. Don’t do whatever you’re told or you’ll be made to do pointless grunt work beneath your level; stand up for yourself if you’re not getting to do what you were promised.

Michaela Agapiou – The Story Collider

Michaela Agapiou was based in New York City for her internship with The Story Collider as part of her PhD programme , having approached them after spending many, many hours listening to podcasts while dissecting fruit fly testes. This is her first job outside of a lab, as she fell in love with science and research at a young age.  She undertook her internship during 2019, whilst she was in her third year.

In Michaela’s own words…

I carried out my PIPS with The Story Collider, a non-profit organisation that produces true, personal stories about science. They have 60-70 live shows a year across the USA, Canada, New Zealand and the UK, as well as a weekly podcast that has been downloaded more than 9 million times. 

After having spent many hours in the lab listening to, and being incredibly moved by, these stories, I approached The Story Collider after a live show I attended, to ask whether they would take me on as an intern. Fortunately, they said ‘Yes’ and a year later I moved to New York City for three months. Without the funding from BBSRC for this internship – through the White Rose BBSRC  Doctoral Training Partnership, The Story Collider would not have been able to host me, as they are a small organisation with only three full-time staff.

From March-June 2019, I worked mostly with Erin Barker (Artistic Director) and Nisse Greenberg (Deputy Director). My main project was to review and categorise their back catalogue, which spans many years, and to help create new pages on their website to make these stories more discoverable and shareable based on their themes. I used new software and websites to complete this project and developed my organisational skills. I also kept up to date with the current stories being produced to help contribute to the podcast planning discussions.

I also developed and performed a story of my own for one of the shows. This was an incredible experience where I learnt about communicating science to a broader audience than I have in the past and in a very different style. It was great for my personal growth too, as my confidence in public speaking has improved. Through working on my own story with one of The Story Collider ’s senior producers, and in helping the production of other shows, I learnt about the process of developing a story from an initial written draft to it being told on stage. I got to see this process with six of The Story Collider’s producers and learn about their different styles of working with storytellers. 

Through my main project and the live shows I attended (not just The Story Collider ’s but many other storytelling shows accessible to me whilST living in New York) I was really immersed in the storytelling world and further exposed to the art of it and how powerful personal narratives can be. I feel really passionate about the mission of The Story Collider to humanise science, and show that science belongs to us all and is part of everyone’s lives through these personal stories. It was an honour to work with them, learn from them and contribute to this mission for three months and I hope to work with them again in the future.

Amy Tooke – The Great North Museum

Amy Tooke undertook her Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS) during 2019 (whilst she was in her second year) at The Great North Museum, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Amy said,

“I really did enjoy my PIPS and think it was such a lucky and useful experience for me to be able to have.”

Amy wrote a testimonial for the museum’s website:


There are 2 Amy’s on the list but it is obvious which one is ‘our Amy’!