Camilla explores outreach opportunities with OpenPlant

Camilla Stanton, a student at the John Innes Centre, has always been very interested in science communication and roles that can be complementary and supportive to academia. Millie spoke to OpenPlant at the PIPS Employer Forum and felt that they were an obvious choice for her internship. Millie undertook her placement during the second year of her PhD, which she found to work well.

During the placement, Millie was given a lot of flexibility and had the opportunity to try a range activities from developing educational tools, which involved trying graphic design, to more traditional outreach and networking events. The primary basis of the project was to develop a set of educational resources based on work carried out by researchers in Cambridge and Norwich. This involved assessing the teaching resources already available, contacting researchers, and formulating a comprehensive set of activities. Millie also participated in some outreach events, such as helping run the SAW Trust stall at the Royal Norfolk Show and running her own stall promoting her project at the OpenPlant Forum. Millie was also entrusted with producing promotional materials in the lead up to the OpenPlant Forum and providing general support in other ongoing projects.

During the placement Millie produced three completed practicals with supplementary materials, some of which she was able to test at the DTP Conference and a Norwich Biomakers event. Millie successfully presented her finished materials at the OpenPlant Forum, where she received positive feedback and engagement from researchers and teachers alike. In producing these practicals, and the promotional materials for the OpenPlant Forum, Millie was given training in using Adobe InDesign which she had never used before, and now feels she have good working use of the Adobe Suite package in general. “I really enjoyed this aspect of the project as I feel I got to explore a more creative side to the way I work and was really proud (and surprised myself!) at how professional the finished products looked”, reflects Millie.

Millie developed many skills during the internship. The project demanded that she learn a lot about new topics and subjects so this helped increase her confidence in approaching new areas. Millie also had to be assertive about contacting people, setting up meetings and promoting her project and outputs, which taught her a lot about putting herself out there and opening herself up to feedback. Millie found that the design and creative aspect of the project showed her what she is capable of and the placement has opened Millie’s eyes to the more creative and people-orientated careers that she could undertake within an academic environment. “I found I really enjoyed the social aspects and the variation in the placement, and think this is something that would be key for my future career”, reflects Millie. Millie also learnt about time management; “While I think I work very well in a changing environment, I think I learnt that in order to be more productive I need to be slightly stricter with deadlines and work plans”. Communication skills were a big area of development. In producing educational practicals Millie was given lots of opportunity to develop a range of writing skills, from methods to longer, more informative article pieces, as well as writing an OpenPlant summary report for the project, which required more formal report writing. Millie also developed her presentation skills, ranging from formal presentations to more informal presentations and presenting the stall at the OpenPlant Forum. Millie found the outreach exceptionally valuable, but she found running activities and interacting with the public the most challenging, as she found it difficult having to deal with an audience from a mixed knowledge background sometimes under busy conditions.

Overall, Millie found her PIPS placement to be a very positive experience. Millie advises future PIPS students to be open to new challenges and say yes to as many opportunities as possible – even if it’s not what you originally set out to do!