Making the most of my MSc

As a keen and supremely talented photographer, Benjamin Harris and science communication go hand in hand. Initially studying BSc Zoology, Ben found himself at a bit of a loss after graduating, but a three year trip travelling the world inspired him to enroll on the MSc Science Communication course at Manchester. Ahead of his second graduation this summer, enjoy a selection of Ben’s favourite shots as he reflects on his time on the course…

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21 years old and fresh out of my undergraduate degree, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. So, like any sensible millennial, I packed a rucksack and left the country for three years. A lot of things happened whilst I was travelling, but perhaps the most crucial was the decision to return to university to study a master’s degree.

This was a massive investment in both time and money, so choosing the right course and city was hugely important to me. Manchester leapt to the top of the pile for a number of reasons. Not only is it my home city, it also boasts such a rich history of industrial and academic progress, as well as being the jewel in the crown of the North of England.

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Starting my MSc in Science Communication in September 2017 was a strange experience. I had spent 3-years in the working world, so the rigid structure of academia felt a little strange. I soon settled in, however, thanks to the engaging staff and a fantastic cohort of peers. Essay writing was equally daunting, but again the tutors came in to support me through the harrowing process of re-learning referencing.

Whilst the support was present, it was still a rough start to the year. Balancing study, work, exercise, leisure and everything else definitely got on top of me at one point. Luckily, Christmas break came just in time and I got a little respite from all of the above, reorganized my life and faced down the second term with a renewed vigour.

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To exemplify my organisation, I sat down with my tutors early in the term to set topics for my two final projects. This proved fortuitous, as one of the contacts I was given for my mentored project began to ask me to work outside of my degree. I was invited along on two BBC shoots to work as a runner, which was incredibly insightful.

The networking I have performed this year, along with the kudos offered by being enrolled onto a master’s course, has offered many opportunities that have furthered my career goals.

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Initially, I was assigned a mentor who ran a production company that produced short films for the BBC. This has turned into a professional working relationship, and is a connection I would have been unlikely to make other than through university.

In May, I was lucky enough to be invited on two trips with Wildlife presenter Patrick Aryee, to act as his cameraman. We initially took a 3-day trip to Cornwall to film a few pieces of content for Patrick. A few weeks later, Oceania flew us to Sicily in order to document an expedition they were performing, exploring the ocean floor. The outcome of this trip has become my final piece of work for my degree.

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Alongside this, my peers are all out completing exciting projects around the country for their own mentored projects. This provides not only a network of interesting people to know, but also a network of future science communicators that I will no doubt work alongside at some point in the future.

All-in-all, I have gained a lot from studying a master’s degree at the University of Manchester. I began the year with an idea of where I wanted to end up in a few years time, and this goal has been adjusted and re-adjusted as I moved along much quicker than I anticipated. Not only that, but I have gained a fair few things from my year at Manchester. Along with friends, mentors, technical knowledge and skills, I’ve gained confidence. A master’s degree has lent certain legitimacy to my career goals, and has definitely pushed me along the path to achieving them.

To check out more of Ben’s work, follow him on Instagram here

 


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