The British Geological Survey case study

Work experience details

  • Organisation: The British Geological Survey
  • Contact name: Frankie Bean
  • Placement student name: Charlotte Green, 1st year BSc Geology + Geography
  • Placement title: Geochemical Baselines Survey of the Environment (G-BASE) summer placement
  • Dates of placement: June - September 2013
British Geological Survey students working

Nature of the business

Founded in 1835, the British Geological Survey (BGS) is the world's oldest national geological survey and the United Kingdom's premier centre for earth science information and expertise. The BGS provides expert services and impartial advice in all areas of geoscience. Our client base is drawn from the public and private sectors both in the UK and internationally.

Brief description of internship opportunity

The British Geological Survey (BGS) will be recruiting earth and environmental science students for voluntary work, during the 2013 summer vacation, to assist with geochemical sampling in southern England. Fieldwork will involve the systematic collection of geochemical samples for the G-BASE project. Applicants need to have a high degree of commitment to fieldwork, be able to traverse difficult terrain and work in all weather conditions. Sampling is undertaken by students working in pairs and will involve map work, walking long distances, and carrying equipment and samples. Students work a six-day week and will be expected to undertake evening work as necessary. The work will give successful applicants an opportunity to gain valuable experience in the more practical aspects of geology and geochemistry.

Interview with intern

Charlotte Green, 1st year BSc Geology + Geography

What made you apply for the opportunity?

I was quite late applying for work experience, and a lot of the opportunities had closed. However, the BGS thankfully still had theirs open and after searching their website I found it. It was just what I was looking for, as it was related to my course and gave me a chance to work for a well-known organisation.

What were your preconceptions before starting the placement?

As it was offered by the BGS, I assumed it would be well organised, professional and generally an enjoyable learning experience.

What do you hope to develop during the placement (in terms both of any specific understanding and also any employability skills that you wish to develop)?

I hoped to widen my knowledge of aspects of Geology that I was not very familiar with (such as Geochemistry that the placement focused on) and to develop my field skills that will be useful for my course and any future employment in Geology or Earth Sciences.

What are / were your first impressions?

It was a lot of physical hard work! However, it was also very rewarding and I really felt like I was contributing to a useful project.

Please provide an outline of your duties

Our duties included being in the field from 8am to around 5/6pm during the week, (Half day on Saturday) collecting water, pan mineral concentrate and sediment samples from various streams (mostly 1st or 2nd order streams) then walking on foot to the next site (we had roughly 7/8 sites per day). The equipment we used to collect these samples was a sieve kit that we carried with us. At each site we had to fill in a field card that included various information about the site such as land use, contamination and so on.

Please provide an overview of your progress as you have gone through the placement (what you are up to, how the tasks are going, what support you’re getting, what the rest of the team are like)

As we began to work faster, the number of sites increased each day to meet the needs of the project. The support was great; if there were issues with our work they would be flagged up and the office team would help us to correct them and improve. They were well organised and it would have been so much more difficult without their help.

Your thoughts at the end (how it went, whether it met your expectations, were your preconceptions appropriate or naïve, how it may have influenced your outlook with a view to graduate career options and working in this sector)

It was more difficult than I imagined in terms of physical work at the start, however it gradually became easier as we grew as a team, improved our skills and became stronger.

My preconceptions were correct as the project was organised, ran quite smoothly and it was an enjoyable experience.

The experience made me realise that taking part in fieldwork and physically collecting data is definitely the sort of career I would like to go into. Taking part in useful projects such as GBASE is rewarding.

What skills have you developed during your internship?

I have developed various skills ranging from improving on general skills such as teamwork, communication, data input and organisation, to more course specific skills such as geological mapping, map reading and geochemistry.

Following this experience, have you identified any skills or experiences you need to develop further for your future career?

I have identified that Geologists need to improve their decision making skills as future careers in the subject will need to make definitive decisions based on what they see in front of them, instead of relying on others.

How do you think your experiences will benefit you in the future when selecting and applying for work experience or graduate positions?

I would think that my experience working for a well-known organisation (such as the BGS) and the fact that my work was related to Geology will improve my CV and make my skills more desirable for future employers, hopefully making them choose me above others.

What would you encourage any of your peers seeking similar opportunities next year to consider (in terms of application and also what to do when undertaking a placement)?

I would say apply early; look for opportunities in the first semester. If you can’t find anything don’t worry and keep looking from time to time as some opportunities open later. Bigger and more well-known companies will have tons of applications, so really try to make yourself stand out; if it requires a CV to apply, tailor it to fit the requirements of the placement as best you can.

When undertaking a placement, always be organised, professional and remember that the experience is there to help you and improve your skills for future employment. However, it is also a learning experience to be enjoyed so make the most of it.

Posted on Thursday 21st November 2013