SAW Trust provides Beth with a positive placement experience during lockdown

Beth Sherman, a Student based at the John Innes Centre, had spoken with the SAW Trust at the Employer Forum and liked the concept of one of their proposed internship projects; development of a summer science activity book aimed at years 4 and 5 (KS2). Beth wanted to maximise her time outside of the lab during the pandemic and so used her placement to work from home productively during this time, undertaking her placement during her first year. This worked well and also meant that Beth did not have to interrupt any of her experiments.
Working in conjunction with multiple scientists from across NRP on six scientific themes including climate change and gut health, and a writer and graphic designer, Beth co-ordinated the development and production of the book in both printed and electronic form. “I kept lines of communication between scientists and the writer and illustrator”, explains Beth. “We created an activity book that will be handed out to primary schools to help make up for some of the learning that was lost during the pandemic” Beth continues. Beth also worked on a side-project to develop a follow-on Halloween themed resource for use at Norwich Science Festival and communicated with nearby schools. Writing the book in a child-friendly way and keeping the same tone throughout the whole book was quite challenging when there were so many people contributing, but Beth felt that they managed to achieve this.

Beth found some logistics of the editorial process challenging to manage, such as working with multiple contributors making it difficult to track changes, but she felt her organisational skills and accurate record keeping improved as detailed document nomenclature and file organisation was required. Beth felt she developed her problem-solving skills to develop the imagery and content in a scientifically accurate way and she improved her communication skills, learning the appropriate level of language for the intended audience. Beth also wrote a blog for the SAW website. Beth adopted a flexible approach to managing the time dedicated to the project as some days needed to be longer than others to meet certain deadlines.

Beth developed a wide range of skills during the internship. As the project progressed, Beth developed confidence in her own voice and increased in her willingness to raise her ideas and take decisions. Beth also learnt about other areas of science that she hadn’t looked into much before, such as climate change. Beth also got to express creativity by coming up with activities that could be included in the project. The project was very much a team effort as it was crucial to work well as a team to get the project done.

Beth feels the experience has impacted her career aspirations. “This is definitely something that I would like to get involved with again. It has opened up my career aspirations to something that I might not have considered, or even realised was possible before” she says.
Overall, Beth found the placement to be very positive, enjoying the creativity of the project and she felt valued for her contributions. She advises future PIPS students to completely throw yourself into it to get as much out of it as possible. She recommends doing something different to what you are already doing or have done previously to gain a new set of skills.

The book project recently featured as an article in the EDP. You can read about it here.