We are the White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) in Mechanistic Biology, which brings together the research of world-class molecular and cellular bioscience centres at the White Rose universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York. The collaboration has attracted three major investments from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) which, together with additional investment from the partner universities, is currently supporting >130 PhD studentships.
What is a PIPS?
The Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS) is a 3-month placement and is a key component of our Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) programme. The aim of PIPS is to allow students to gain the opportunity to carry out a non-academic work experience placement during their PhD. Such experience is important both to help early career researchers understand the context of their research and to expose them to the range of opportunities available to them after they graduate. We are conscious that our students go onto to a range of academic and non-academic related careers. It is therefore important that PIPS placement helps the students to develop transferable work-related skills.
We have placed a large number of students with host organisations over the course of the DTP and have received very favourable feedback from both the students and their hosts. Many of these organisations have gone on to host multiple placements.
How are PIPS organised?
The PIPS process is student-led i.e. the students organise and plan their own, individual PIPS, with support from their University PIPS Contact. They are encouraged to find their own placements, either from organisations that have previously been PIPS hosts or those who are new to the PIPS programme. Students are usually in years 2 or 3 of their 4-year PhD programme when they undertake their PIPS.
The White Rose DTP is interested in hearing from organisations from any employment sector – including industry, business, education, media, governmental and voluntary sector organisations/charities – who would be able to offer PIPS opportunities to our high calibre students.
What are the benefits?
The PIPs scheme is mutually beneficial to the student and the host organisation. You receive a highly motivated and highly intelligent intern who will make a substantial and positive contribution to your organisation. The student receives from you a professional experience, unrelated to their PhD research, that will develop and enhance their broader, work-related skills and give them an insight into a profession they may or may not have previously considered.
The benefits of the PIPS scheme to the host organisation include:
- Access to highly motivated students, who have graduated from high ranking universities
- Establishing, maintaining or developing collaborations with academic partners
- Developing links with specific research areas, including bringing the expertise and experience of research trained individuals to policy analysis and development
- An additional resource to carry out a meaningful piece of work
- Working with a highly skilled individual on projects that might not otherwise be undertaken, such as a short research or business development project
- Providing staff with experience of line management over a short, defined period
- Renewing the enthusiasm of staff (e.g. teachers, policy makers, project managers)
- Early chance to assess potential new talent for future recruitment
What types of internships are suitable?
All placements are required to be:
- Unrelated to the student’s PhD research project
- Outside of academia – Research roles in academia or research institutes are not generally appropriate, even in an area unrelated to the student’s PhD project. However, if you are able to offer a sufficiently differentiated experience for the student and they would also develop non-lab skills (i.e. a wider range of transferable, work-related skills) then this may be considered.
- At an appropriate level to challenge a talented PhD student
PIPS are discrete projects, which are planned to be suitable for high calibre PhD students. The following are common PIPS experiences, although this list is not exhaustive and PIPS we encourage students to explore PIPS in a wide range of fields:
- 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, local authority, non-departmental public body, professional association, charity, research funder or medical organisation (such as NHS Primary Care Trust)
- Media, e.g. press office, science publishing company, public organisation
How long are the internships?
Placements are 3 months in duration. This is to ensure that the placement provides adequate experience outside the research project environment. PIPS are usually undertaken by students towards the end of Year 2 or the beginning of Year 3 during their 4-year PhD project, in order to minimise the interruption to their research.
The internship may be taken either in one 3-month block or in a number of shorter blocks. This will depend on the preferences of the student and host organisation, as well as the type of internship. Internships could be hosted by more than one host organisation if this is considered appropriate.
How are PIPS funded?
The students are PhD researchers and continue to receive their BBSRC-funded maintenance stipend throughout their placement. They therefore do not require a salary from the host organisation. In addition, funds are available from the DTP to reimburse students for reasonable travel and accommodation expenses. In some instances, the expenses are more than the DTP allowance and we would ask host organisations to make a voluntary contribution, if they are in a position to do so.
Is there a lot of paperwork involved?
Becoming a host organisation is a simple process. A straightforward Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is put in place prior to the student starting their placement. This enables all parties to have a clear understanding of the activities or project on which the student will be working and facilitates the most positive outcome for all parties. The MOU should be negotiated between the host organisation and the student to ensure the maximum benefits to both.
PIPS hosts are also required to complete a Health and Safety checklist before each placement commences. At the end of the placement, we ask hosts to give feedback on the student’s progress.
Can internships be carried out abroad?
PIPS are normally expected to be undertaken within the UK. They can be taken abroad but the extra costs associated with this are expected to be met by the host organisation.
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.
How can I get involved?
You may already have had an enquiry from an individual student and are considering a one-off placement. Alternatively, we are happy to advertise new PIPS opportunities across the whole cohort of eligible students. PIPS can be offered for fixed dates or as an open application process. For examples, please see the right-hand side of this page for the latest PIPS opportunities that have been advertised to our students.
If you are interested in taking part in the PIPS scheme and would like more information, you can download the PIPS guide for potential new hosts – Click here. The guide includes a template for putting together a PIPS advert.
Doctoral Training Partnership Co-ordinator, Catherine Liddle, email: WRDTP@leeds.ac.uk