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How paid internships can benefit life science students

How can industry inspire the next generation of life science professionals?  In this post, summer intern Zara Puckrin describes the challenges faced by today’s graduates and explains how REPROCELL have helped her to bridge the gap between university and work.

Graduation is a momentous occasion for many students. Years of stress and tribulation are finally over, and the event is commemorated by champagne-fueled ceremonies and graduation selfies. Those embarking on further study will continue to progress in academia, while students lucky enough to secure employment can look forward to building life-long careers.

Yet for many young people, graduation is overshadowed by a looming uncertainty. Possession of a degree no longer guarantees employment, and many graduates leave university with ambiguous career prospects. To prevent this from happening, students are urged to pursue relevant work experience throughout their studies. Yet undergraduate opportunities are often unpaid, meaning those with reduced financial support are excluded.

Two images of a female presenting person. one in a lab wearing a lab coat. The other wearing a dress

Fairer opportunities  

To address this imbalance, Skills Development Scotland (SDS) run the Scottish Life Sciences Internship Programme every year — a scheme which offers paid work experience to life science undergraduates in Scotland. Candidates apply for available internships online and then undergo a competitive selection process including interviews with potential employers. Since its establishment in 2014, the scheme has granted over 100 students relevant work experience over their summer break.

I was fortunate enough to secure an internship with REPROCELL through this programme. As an administration assistant helping departments throughout the company, I was exposed to all areas of a commercial life science business.  Among other things, I was responsible for leading a marketing campaign, generating a multi-coloured FACS panel, and completing GLP documentation. It was refreshing to walk into an unfamiliar workplace as a young person and be treated as an equal by my colleagues. Their trust in my abilities increased my confidence greatly, and I felt like I was making a valuable contribution to the company.

Image of a female presenting scientist looking into a microscope

A life-changing experience

The following year, REPROCELL organised a laboratory-based research placement for me with one of their Study Directors. This opportunity not only developed my laboratory skills, but also provided the company with a validated protocol for immunocytochemistry. And there have been glamorous perks as well — in February I was invited to attend the annual Scottish Life Sciences Awards where I was provided the chance to network with high-flyers in the sector.

Altogether, the insight I received while working for REPROCELL has been the most significant benefit of all. The experience has revolutionized my perception of marketing careers in science and has redirected my employment aspirations. Before this placement, an office job seemed like the most unappealing occupation in the world — now, I am planning on pursuing this career pathway following graduation. I am more excited than ever about completing my degree and look forward to discovering where my future career will take me.

An image of two female presenting people looking at a computer

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