Erika Coletto, a student at the Quadram Institute, went to the Institute of Biorobotics, part of the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, Italy for her PIPS placement. The BioRobotics Institute is an integrated system pursuing frontier research, advanced education and innovation in the fields of biorobotics and bionics. Erika set up her placement using a personal contact and undertook her PIPS at the start of her second year, which she found to work well in terms of timing.
Erika was working on a research project outside of the remit of her PhD to evaluate the effects of sleep deprivation on the performance of surgeons. She learnt new scientific approaches and techniques such as diagnostic tools to measure changes in eye movement, pulse etc as well as using tools for data analysis (Matlab). Erika worked on the analysis of pupillometry, EEG and EKG data as well as conducting a literature search in order to write up a review about the topic. This enabled Erika to gain knowledge of the biorobotics field and engineering platform, something she found quite challenging but very motivating as it was a new area of science for her.
Erika gained an insight into the differences between a UK and Italian research environment and gained a feel for commercially focused research. She felt the main benefit from her placement was an increase in self-confidence in her ability to learn a new area of scientific research and in joining a new people to work with. “I had chance to be part of good team working environment that welcomed me very well and where I had the opportunity to gain knowledge about new science topics”, reflects Erika. Communication, presentation and team working skills were all additional areas where Erika feels she benefited.
In terms her career aspirations Erika feels that the internship has shown her different science prospects beyond the academic settings, as well as enhancing her professional networks for her future career. Erika is now more aware of the career options outside of higher education, is more willing to look for a job outside of academia and in general feels that her internship has enhanced her employment prospects.
Overall, Erika found her internship beneficial for both her training and skills development, and her research project and rates the placement as a very positive experience. She advises students still looking for their PIPS to choose carefully what they would like to explore and be ready to the new challenges. It is a great opportunity.