Corinne’s internship helps clarify her future career choices
Corinne Arnold, a student at the John Innes Centre, undertook her internship from January to April 2016 with LRC Ltd (Limestone Research and Consultancy). Corinne wanted to gain experience in applying previous biological knowledge and experience to a completely different, unfamiliar situation. She also wanted to gain an insight into what it would be like to work with children on a daily basis in a school environment so included a large outreach element in the internship.
There were several objectives to the project. The first was to collect samples from cave systems, and extract and sequence the DNA. This had to be done in a careful way so as not to cross-contaminate samples. Corinne planned her experiments and organized the library preparation and sequencing that would take place on the samples used in this project.
The second objective was to produce a variety of outreach materials to take into schools and engage students in what caving is about, how caves are formed and what living organisms might be found in a cave. Corinne was responsible for designing and producing materials, as well as contacting the schools involved and organizing dates to visit the students. Corinne became a STEM Ambassador so was trained to work with children. “I managed to create interest in a sport that was completely new to most students and had the opportunity to share my enthusiasm for science. This, for me, was the best outcome of the internship as I could clearly see that the students really enjoyed learning about this topic”, says Corinne. “I feel like I really gained some experience in this area and was surprised to find I enjoyed this part more than the research part”, she continues.
The third objective was to produce a website that collated all of the materials and resources gathered during the internship (https://caveslime.wordpress.com/). Corinne collated all of the information and designed a website which includes some downloadable content, such as the outreach activities developed during the project. She also wrote an article that was published in a caving magazine called Descent to draw the attention of cave scientists to this area of work, and she will be giving a presentation at the BCRA annual cave science symposium in October 2016.
Corinne benefited in many ways from her internship, not least as it has helped her consider her future career. She had previously been considering a career in cave research in the future, but having had the experience this has shown her that this career path is not the right choice as it is very chemistry-based, which is not something Corinne feels is one of her stronger skills.
The internship was also an excellent opportunity to develop her creativity skills as she developed several outreach activities to take into schools. Corinne also found that the internship showed her that she should have more confidence in her abilities. Other skills developed included further development of time management skills, and communication skills. “The project really allowed me to get involved in public engagement which I would not previously have wanted to try as I didn’t think this type of work suited me”, says Corinne.
Corinne designed the project herself so gained experience in writing grant applications and ensuring that the project stayed within the designated budget, so this was a brilliant opportunity to gain experience in project and financial management.
Corinne advises students to ensure that they know exactly what needs to be done during their internship and that there is enough time for them to complete what they need to during the limited time-frame. She concludes that students should; “make sure they enjoy the time away from their PhD and try not to think about it! Just focus on the internship at that time”.