Although your time at university can mainly be about figuring out your passions and interests, it’s also a great opportunity to gain some experience for your future career. Since getting work experience in a chemistry lab before university is sometimes near impossible for safety reasons, lot of students complete laboratory internships during the summers of their 2nd and/or 3rd years. Read on to find out more about my internship experiences!
The first research internship that I secured was at King’s in the summer of 2020. Due to COVID-19, I completed this internship remotely, focusing on writing a literature review on interaction partners for the protein apoptin, which helped to steer future lab work by the research group. I really enjoyed this topic and so when looking for another summer lab placement for 2021, I asked my supervisor if he had any colleagues working in a similar field abroad. That’s how I found a lab in Jena, Germany. So, a big tip for securing these internship is to work with what you’ve got. Sometimes all you have to do is ask around your university, you never know what kind of opportunities may come up.
The second bit of advice is a common one but probably one of the most important: don’t be afraid to ask questions! Asking that question that you think might be stupid (it isn’t) is way better than making a mistake and having to start an experiment all over again (believe me I know). I can assure you that most, if not all, of the people in the research group you’re working with have asked that same question when they were a student. So don’t worry, no one will judge you! Also, everyone makes mistakes so just laugh it off and carry on.
Finally, ask everyone in the group what they’re up to and if you can help, if you have some spare time. Not only will they be thankful for the help, but you’ll get more experience in different lab techniques. This is also a great way to get to know the other group members. In that same vein, make sure to get involved in out of lab extracurricular activities either with your lab members or ones at the local university etc.
For example, while in Germany, even though I was not part of the University of Jena, I found that they have an amazing range of sports classes which I got stuck in wholeheartedly.
So, to sum up…
Ask around for opportunities, ask loads of questions, and don’t be scared to make mistakes and get involved! This is also a chance to try out different chemistry research areas if you are not quite sure whether/what kind of PhD you want to do after your degree. But most of all, try to make the most of your internship and enjoy it 😊