Hazel - an undergraduate student in the School of Biosciences - describes her experiences of the BSc Biological Sciences with Professional Placement degree course and of her year on placement, where she worked in Greece with a marine conservation organisation.
Title: BSc Biological Sciences with Professional Placement (follow for video)
Duration: 4.49 mins
Speaker Names: S1 Hazel Thornton - undergraduate
S1 My name's Hazel Thornton and I'm studying Biological Sciences with a year in industry.
I chose Birmingham to study Biological Sciences because I thought it had a great diversity of modules in the first year. I was able to study both the cellular and ecology of biology and then develop my skills in both areas. I was unsure, having spent my gap year in the lab, whether I wanted to continue into that field so it was a great opportunity for me to be able to develop my skills and diversify. And in the second year you are able to specify more clearly what you would to be involved in. I chose a course where we took a field trip to Norway and we were able to collect our own data, but then I also focused on the molecular side of it so I had the all around, encompassing areas of biology. And in my third year I was able to specialise into ecology and have a greater depth of knowledge in one specific area.
I found out about my placement opportunity from an email from the Biosciences Office and I was able to contact the organisation independently. I managed to get an interview and an acceptance nearly straight away. As it was in Greece we had to have Skype interviews, so it was a bit different to how I expected it to happen. But by talking to the scientists there we could develop opportunities and specify what I wanted to get out of the year. I was also able to learn more about the organisation I was going to work for so I was clear about what I was getting myself into, what the day-to-day life would be like and what projects I'd be involved in.
So working with Archipelagos it was both a marine and a terrestrial conservation organisation. So, based on really small islands between 300 and 1,000 people, we were community-based, working with the community, educating them. I was a team supervisor so in the morning we'd start out organising the team into what projects they'd be covering that day, ensuring the safety of everyone and then we'd get on to our own projects, whether it be in the sea or on the land. Then we'd meet in the afternoons to talk about the progress we'd made and, at the end of the week, we'd make progress reports to the head scientist to talk about any problems we'd encountered, the deliverables we'd achieved and what we'd expect to cover the next week.
I think the most important thing to think about before applying for a placement is to understand what you want to get out of it, what sort of environment you want to work in whether it be field or laboratory. Whether you want to be paid or not, I was voluntary for the whole year so had to think about the logistics of how I'm going to afford accommodation, food, how I'm going to get out there. And also about where you want to be. In Greece we were on very small islands so we had to be community-based and be really involved but other students have chosen larger cities in the UK. So you've got to think about where you want to be placed, what you want to get out of the project and what skills you think you can apply to that.
I gained a lot of help from the Careers Network. I attended CV clinics and talked through with the Careers Department about my CV and how my application process would go and came back with revisions and gained a lot of help from them.
By undertaking a placement year I have developed a range of transferable skills, from time-management to teamwork, from leadership to solving problems and beginning to understand and take responsibility for my own actions. I was involved in many different aspects of conservation. So from the fieldwork and collecting the data, to the data analysis and then into the final report making. So we were able to follow a project from the planning to the final execution, which was a great experience.
I was given the great opportunity to write a couple of different scientific papers which were published in both Greek and Mediterranean science conferences. I was then given the opportunity to go to the conference and present the data to a wide audience of scientific academic. It meant that I was able to interact with a lot of more knowledgeable people and get their experience and feedback on my own work and also gain guidance in what sort of career choice I should make and the opportunities that I could take.
Following my placement year I have a much greater understanding for the field of science I want to get into and so I'm applying for internships and jobs in marine conservation across the world but also keeping my options open looking for Masters and PhDs based in the area.
Following my extraordinary experience in Greece, I'd definitely recommend taking the opportunity to travel abroad and experience new cultures and communities.
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