A place for everything and everything in its place

For many of our students, one of the best parts about embarking on a Biosciences degree is the opportunity not only to study and research a particular field, but also to gain genuine work experience within that field, whatever it may be. Take a look at what some of our students had to say about their time on placement.

Alex (Biomedical Science with Industrial Experience)

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I’ve always liked the idea of working in communications but also wanted to develop relevant skills outside of what was taught in lectures. I ideally wanted a salaried placement too, but this was secondary to finding something interesting.

I sent three applications before landing my placement, so the best thing to do is to not be disheartened by rejections. Keep your chin up, there are plenty of placements out there!

The vacancy was vetted by the placement office who provided lots of help: advising me on my report, tips on how to manage my stress and even providing information on how long the commute would take (only 25 minutes!).

My work involved the creation of materials that would be distributed across the company within UK & Ireland; when a department needed a video, internal news story, poster or another form of communication, I was the go-to. I definitely had a lot of responsibility – I did far more than bring tea to people!

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I have developed an array of organisational and creative skills, all of which are going to benefit me during my final year. Knowing that I had departments counting on me to get my work done to a high standard and on-time, I learnt to organise my time in order to keep myself from falling behind on any projects.

I’d recommend a placement to anybody – you develop some truly essential skills that you won’t gain through  purely academic work and it has shown me that communications is the area that I want to go into once I graduate.

Julie (Biochemistry with Industrial Experience)

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I chose to do a placement year because I wanted to increase my employability and I knew it would be a great opportunity to try something new and develop my transferable skills. I also wanted a change from the University environment and the chance to live in a different part of the country and meet new people.

I applied to a couple of large pharmaceutical companies who took many placement students across a wide range of job roles. I was looking for a job where I could use my science knowledge but also develop business acumen and improve my transferable skills, so I applied to marketing-based commercial placement opportunities.

I was lucky enough to receive offers from both placements that I applied for and in the end elected to do my placement at Pfizer, a huge company who offer many placements each year. I met around 50 other students who were all in the same boat as me which made is much to settle in to working life.

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My manager was extremely supportive, we had a close working relationship and after about a month I began to take the lead on some key projects which meant I had real responsibilities and was accountable for the success of various tasks. There were times in the year when I asked for either more responsibility or more support when leading on a project; the best tip I would have for anyone going on placement is not to be afraid to speak up and ask for help.

My placement year has definitely been the most pivotal learning experience in my life and looking back I know I developed massively over the year, especially in terms of interpersonal skills. I was also lucky enough to travel to some amazing places on business trips both within the UK and around Europe and made some friends for life.

I have been offered a graduate role at Pfizer following my year in industry, which might not have been offered to me if I hadn’t worked there, so it has already been worth it!

Alison (Biomedical Science with Industrial Experience)

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I chose to do a placement year because I wanted a year to be able to go abroad and do some work alongside travelling. I always knew I wanted to go somewhere out of my comfort zone.

I had heard about the MRC placements in The Gambia before and as soon as I heard they were re-offering, I knew that was the one for me. I really wanted to do fieldwork as well as labs and this placement offered me both.

I worked directly with a PhD student on her project, so in the beginning there was a lot of teaching and help, but by the end I was able to run experiments alone and felt confident about my ability to perform them.

The University was extremely helpful throughout: my academic tutor really supported my decision and put me in contact with another academic who had also been to The Gambia to visit previous placement students; there was also a guide to The Gambia written by previous placement students on Blackboard.

The accommodation was provided by the organisation in a compound for safety. We had to pay for this with our own money/student loan. I went out there with 2 other students from Manchester, however, due to the nature of my placement I did not live with the other students: I lived in a rural village 2 hours up-country.

It was really difficult to settle in initially – going from a 10-person student house seemed a million miles away from this! But I spent a lot of time developing new hobbies, keeping to my routine in the lab and by Christmas another girl from the US was living with me – she was great.

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It was really nice to get out of the university bubble and experience a different culture. It was my first time in Africa and the placement really put a lot of things into perspective: it made me appreciate things a lot more. I have missed Manchester a lot but it felt odd coming back with a lot of my friends having left – luckily, I am living with friends from 2nd year. It has been difficult getting back into a study routine because I’ve had a year away from exams but, overall, my time away has made me a lot more relaxed about work.

I have learnt so much about both the subject and myself; my lab skills have developed enormously; I have made great friends both locally and internationally, as well as having met people who are experts in my field who I hope to keep in contact and network with in the future.


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