PIPS student profile

Gemma Hardman

Institute of Integrative Biology Biosciences Building University of Liverpool Crown Street Liverpool L69 7ZB

PIPS Internship Organisation Name

The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering



When deciding on your internship, what did you want to experience and what did you hope to gain from that experience? 

I wanted to experience a role outside of the lab.  I wanted to stretch myself and do something I had little experience in, with the hope of developing new skills.  In particular I hoped this internship would give me the opportunity to learn more about media and public engagement which are becoming increasingly important for scientists and an area I am especially interested in.

Did you get the experience you were expecting and did you achieve the personal development you had hoped to make?

My internship was certainly very different to being in the lab!  I have experienced lots of things that I would never have had exposure to during my PhD otherwise.  I have learnt a lot about engaging the public in STEM (specifically engineering but it’s applicable across the sciences), especially realising the role businesses and their early-career employees must have in this process to inspire the next generation.  Participating in the organisation of a large event also allowed me to develop my organisational skills, problem-solving abilities, teamwork (both within my small team and with the other departments also alongside the external PR company we engaged with) and gain exposure to financial planning and budgets.

Did you discover anything about yourself or make any achievements that you were not expecting? 

I discovered I can be more confident and resourceful than I originally thought.  Talking to senior engineers from around the world and having to solve problems quickly in the run up to (and during) the big event was really eye-opening and I feel I coped surprisingly well in what could have been quite stressful situations.  Being asked to write a blog post was also a steep learning curve.  After many years of writing in a formal scientific style, having to write an informal blog post about a scientific/engineering topic that was accessible for the general public was quite challenging.  However, I enjoyed the challenge and I was proud of the final result.

Has the internship made you feel differently about potential career options and has it helped to put the skills from research into a broader context?

Being away from the lab and doing something that is not particularly related to science has made me realise that I definitely want to continue in a scientific field in the future. I have enjoyed some of the ‘non-lab’ aspects of the job but I have missed not engaging with people about science and the research I do.  However, by doing an internship that has been so different from my PhD/lab-work I can see how the skills I have learnt so far in my PhD would help me in any career I chose to do in the future. Working with an organisation that plays a role in engaging and inspiring the general public and the younger generation about engineering has made me think about how I can combine this sort of outreach/engagement about science with my day-to-day PhD work.

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