PIPS Q&A for Students

Do I have to go on a placement during my PhD?  I don’t want to go into industry?

Yes, the PIPS placement is mandatory for all DTP students. The only exception is for the DTP CASE students, as they will already be spending time on placement with their industry partner. We often get feedback from students saying how much they enjoyed taking a break from their studies to do something completely different and that it gave them a different perspective. The placements are very flexible, you can choose to undertake your PIPS almost anywhere to suit your own interests and career ambitions. Regardless of your career aspirations, PIPS are intended to provide you with an early opportunity to develop a broader understanding of how your research training can have an impact in the wider economy and society. They are also intended to widen your horizons to the range of careers open to you. 

Why are PIPS not related to my research?  Can I undertake a research-focused placement?

PIPS are not about doing more research. For all internships, the experience may not be directly related to the your PhD project. PIPS are intended to help you understand how your research and professional skills can be used in a more broadly relevant context. Research roles in academia or research institutes are generally not appropriate, even in an area unrelated to your PhD project. However, a predominantly research-based placement in an industry setting may be suitable, provided it offers a sufficiently differentiated environment.

When can I go on my placement?

You will be eligible to start your placement once you have successfully passed your transfer viva and upgraded.  PIPS must be completed by the end of the third year. In certain cases, and with the agreement of your supervisor, it may be possible to continue a placement into the final year – but this is not encouraged.

What is the duration of the PIPS?

PIPS must be the equivalent of 3 months. You have the option to do the placement in either a 3-month block or as a series of shorter blocks over a longer period of time. This can be a discussion between yourself and your supervisor and will also be dependent on the nature of the placement and the needs of the host organisation.

Where can I get help with planning and organising my placement?

Our PIPs scheme is organised by all three White Rose Universities. You will be invited to annual PIPS Info Sessions organised locally in Leeds, Sheffield and York. In each university there are staff who are responsible for the Training and Development of PhD students and co-ordinate activity at a local level:

University of Leeds – Clare Green (C.J.Green@leeds.ac.uk)

University of York – Amanda Barnes (amanda.barnes@york.ac.uk)

University of Sheffield – Sandrine Soubes (s.soubes@sheffield.ac.uk) & Linda Harris (linda.harris@sheffield.ac.uk)

We will work with you to help you find your own placement opportunity, as this allows you to choose a PIPS which best meets your requirements. There is plenty of support available from your local training managers to help you select and secure your placement. In addition, there are a number of high quality PIPS opportunities which are circulated directly to eligible students throughout the year.  Please look out for these, which will be sent to you by email. If you are not receiving these PIPS alerts then please contact Clare Green.

What types of internships are suitable?

PIPS are expected to be discrete projects (or a series of smaller projects). They should be planned to provide you with experience at a level appropriate for a postgraduate student. The following are common PIPS experiences, but could be in any suitable field so don’t feel constrained by these suggestions:

  • A well defined desk-based research project
  • Review or analysis of manufacturing, processing or production techniques
  • Marketing, publishing or sales
  • Business development or project management
  • Legal offices
  • Internal audit or consultancy
  • Teaching – in schools, using the Researchers in Residence scheme 1, or through other mechanisms
  • Policy – developing policy or working in a related setting, such as a government department, parliamentary select committee, local authority, non-departmental public body, professional association, charity, research funder or medical organisation (such as NHS Primary Care Trust)
  • Public engagement
  • IPR
  • Media, e.g. press office, science publishing company, public organisation

Where can I find advertised PIPS?

PIPS are offered throughout the year by a variety of organisations and will be promoted directly to students via email. There are also opportunities available from BBSRC and Fera throughout the year, further information available here:

I am planning my placement, what procedures do I need to follow?

Contact your local Training Manager so that they may provide you with the relevant documentation. It is expected that students will plan their PIPS with their training manager, supervisor and key contact at their chosen host organisation. All associated paperwork must be completed prior to embarking on the internship:

  • A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will need to be completed – available from your local training manager – this allows you and your host to be completely in agreement as to what you will be doing during your placement. Complete as much as you can and then ask your contact at the host organisation to fill in their sections. A blank version is available here:  PIPS Host Organisation Memorandum of Understanding
  • We have developed an online learning and evaluation tool that is specifically designed to help both you and your host organisation get the most from this opportunity. You complete a short questionnaire two times – anytime before and then shortly after your PIPS. It allows us to see the impact of your placement on a number of key skills and competencies. You will be able to print out and keep a copy of your results and it might be useful for you to use this in the future to demonstrate how you have acquired skills which are considered valuable by employers. Our previous cohorts have told us that it has come in very handy when they are applying for jobs, as it has allowed them to clearly demonstrate that they have developed or enhanced particular skills/competencies:

“I completed the Learning Gain Tool immediately after my internship ended, I didn’t take much notice of the results at the time because I was keen to get back to laboratory work. However, upon re-visiting my results several months later, I realise what an invaluable tool it is for enhancing my self-awareness of the transferable skills gained from my internship. In particular I was surprised to see how much my internship had enhanced my professional skills (personal effectiveness) and upon reflection, I have taken a more professional approach to my research after my PIPs experience. The Learning Gain Tool has also helped me realise how much immersing myself in a charity environment for 3 months enhanced my commercial awareness and networking abilities. I will use the results of the Learning Gain Tool in development of my CV and in future job applications as I complete my PhD here in Sheffield. The skill sets on the Learning Gain Tool are helpfully subdivided so know when I can experiences gained during my internship as an example of where I developed specific work-based skills. The results from the Learning Gain Tool can also act as triggers to help me remember what I achieved on my internship”.

“In doing the review it highlighted to me just how much my role within a science communications agency raised my commercial awareness and understanding of infrastructure within a company. It also made it very clear to me that my oral and written communication skills were being improved during my role. The review process highlighted to me, before I started the position, areas that were weaker and that I could focus on improving during my PIPS. In terms of CV and interview for future employment, seeing my learning gain in various areas made it clearer where I had improved and allowed me to demonstrate my skills and evidence exactly how I have developed them with examples from the PIPS”.

Login details will be provided to you when you are planning your PIPS (from Clare Green or your local training manager). Access it here: Online Assessment Tool

Do I need to write a final report?

Yes, this is a compulsory requirement of your placement and must be completed within 3 months of finishing your PIPS. There are two reports to complete:

1. Institutional report – each student will need to complete their own institution’s report (available from your local training manager).

2. Online BBSRC report – each student will need to request a unique link and complete an online report via the BBSRC website.  Further guidelines are provided here:

What if I need to pay travel/accommodation expenses?

Funds are available to reimburse you for reasonable travel/accommodation costs (up to a maximum of £2050) to give you flexibility to choose the PIPS of your choice, regardless of location. PIPS can be taken anywhere in the UK and also abroad.  However, extra costs over and above the £2050 limit need to be agreed before committing to the placement.  You may be able to secure additional funding from your research institution or other sources.  There is also an additional PIPS fund, whereby you can apply for extra funding for particularly expensive placements (e.g. overseas).  Further details available from Clare Green or your Training Manager.

What about students with disabilities?

The needs of students with disabilities should be considered during the organisation of internships within institutions. All students funded from the DTP Training Grant are expected to carry out an internship at some point during their PhD.