Savvas Ioannou – University of York Technology Facility

Savvas Ioannou is a final-year PhD student based at the University of York. For his PIPS, Savvas decided to stay on campus and spent three months working within the Technology Facility at his university. He received specialist training to oversee projects from outside his usual field of expertise.

What did you do?

I completed my PIPS at the University of York and I was part of the Technology Facility (TF). I received training from the TF staff members regarding light microscopy, and holotomography. I was trained on sample preparation (mammalian and yeast cells) and imaging techniques using confocal microscopes/airyscan and holotomography/refractive index (Tomocube). I had the pleasure of working with specialists from the Tomocube company to ensure that the sample imaging was following the right specifications. I also had the opportunity to start working on the preparation of samples from mammalian cells for expansion microscopy, a new technique that will be used later on from the TF staff for various projects. Attending the meetings of the team also helped me to gain an understanding on how a core facility like this one is running.

“I wanted to do a hands-on PIPS and due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the travel restrictions, I decided to do my PIPS somewhere local in York.”

What made you want to do that particular placement?

I wanted to do an internship that will give me the opportunity to be involved in various projects. Undertaking a placement with the technology facility at the University of York gave me the chance to be trained under the supervision of experts in the field. I was aware that the TF in York receives samples from all over the country for processing and that intrigued my curiosity to learn how a facility with so many collaborations works.  It was a great opportunity for me to be involved in various projects that were assigned to us from various labs or companies.

How did you go about finding and planning your PIPS?

I wanted to do a hands-on PIPS and due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the travel restrictions, I decided to do my PIPS somewhere local in York. I received an email that the Technology Facility at the University offered PIPS placements. I then contacted Dr Pete O’Toole and arranged a zoom meeting to further discuss these placements. I was really excited to be working closely with Pete and his team, and luckily I was accepted from the beginning and a great placement happened!

“Starting an unfamiliar project gave me confidence to be open to the idea of trying new career paths.”

What have you gained from doing your PIPS?

I truly enjoyed my PIPS. I had the opportunity to work with a great team and I was trained on new techniques that I would not have had the chance to learn during my PhD. Working with the TF staff and Tomocube specialists allowed me taking the lead role on driving the placement’s tasks while discussing the progress of the projects I was working on. This placement made me realise that most of the skills I have gained so far during my PhD are transferrable. Teamwork, organisation and time management skills were a few of the skills I developed further during this placement. It was an eye opening experience for me, starting an unfamiliar project like the Tomocube project gave me confidence to be open in the idea of trying new career paths.

How would you sum up your PIPS experience?

My PIPS experience was great. I learned a lot and got the chance to work on projects of a complex structure. The team of experts I was working with taught me well and opened me up to a type of work I wouldn’t have the chance to otherwise.

What advice would you give to other PGRs about PIPS?

When looking for your PIPS, take your time exploring your options. Do not worry if you do not have expertise in that field. The skills you gain in your PhD are transferable in several jobs. Undertaking a PIPS placement is a great opportunity to try a new path of career development.