Profiles of previous gateway bursary winners

Find out what previous successful candidates from the gateway bursary thought of their experiences.

Android developer, Lets Face / TIC TWO, Shanghai

Richard Blumenthal in Shanghai

Name: Richard Blumenthal

Course: Computer Science

Year: 2nd year

Meet Richard...

Richard was sponsored £1,800 by our Gateway Bursary scheme to work in Shanghai, China as an Android Developer over the summer of 2012. Richard found this opportunity through TIC TWO after first hearing about them in an email to his Computer Science account whilst on his industrial placement at Morgan Stanley.

Richard worked for a start-up technology company called LetsFace which provides solutions for the events sector in China. Examples of solutions include: sending invitations, RSVPs and event check-in with tablets. LetsFace also provides a social environment for the attendees where after-event analytics can be extrapolated and sent to the company hosting the event. LetsFace is now setting up its Beijing office and a liaison office in Belgium.

Richard took ownership for converting the company’s mobile app that was created using HTML5 technology into Android's native form; this meant coding was done in Java and XML. Richard also attended the Shanghai Expo with the CEO to provide Wi-Fi advice for when they host an exhibition for ~5,000 attendees. Richard also interviewed contractors to assess their English whilst further developing his Chinese cultural knowledge and Mandarin.

Whilst pitching this idea to us, Richard had 5 main reasons to desire this work experience (as given below):

  • To gain an exceptional reference for the future. Richard was subsequently offered paid work with LetsFace by the CEO. Richard also received a certificate and a fantastic reference from TIC TWO; furthermore, The University of Birmingham awarded Richard with a Gateway Bursary certificate.
  • To further learn about China’s complex culture and language and explore Asia for the first time. Richard greatly improved his Mandarin knowledge and understanding and was able to fully appreciate the importance of using the correct tones when speaking Mandarin to Shanghainese people. Richard also furthered his understanding of Chinese culture and used his time in China as an opportunity to do some local travel and so he explored Japan and Dubai for a few days.
  • To secure a top graduate job for after graduation as statistics show that graduates with experience in an International capacity are far more likely to secure a job in today’s elusive job market. Richard was later offered an opportunity to work for Fujitsu’s National Defence and Security division in a Technical role but declined this offer to work for TOTAL Gas and Power (Oil and Gas super-major) in Canary Wharf, London after later being headhunted for a Business Applications Analyst position.
  • To develop his technical skills. Richard made very good traction with the development of the Android app such as implementing the splash screen, the buttons that animate, getting the live data onto the app, language support, ensuring the program ran efficiently and that the back buttons worked intuitively. All this was done in less than 3 weeks.
  • To apply his technical skills gained at LetsFace on his final year project. Richard’s Final year project scored an outstanding mark and was chosen to be in the Top 8 of the Undergraduate Awards’ programme, a global award. Out of the many thousands of international entries, Richard made it into the ‘Highly Commended’ category and has been invited to receive a certificate in Dublin, Ireland where the Prime Minister of Ireland, Enda Kenny will be present at this summit. For more information, please see the ‘Computer Sciences and Information Technology’ 2013 category. Find out more about his final year project.

If you’d like Richard’s first-hand advice in applying for our Gateway Bursary award or to merely find out more about any of his experiences then Richard is more than happy for people to get in contact with him at:

Journalist Intern, The Sunday Express/The Times, London

Kerrina Gray

Name: Kerrina Gray

Course: English with Creative Writing

Year: 2nd year

Meet Kerrina...

Kerrina worked on two separate placements during her summer vacation; a week each in the offices of two of the biggest newspapers in the UK. Whilst at The Times Kerrina worked in a team creating the newspaper’s Weekend supplement, a celebrity and lifestyle magazine. Her placement at The Sunday Express involved working directly for the News Editor. Some of her tasks on these placements included sourcing, researching and writing her own stories, assisting other journalists with their articles, use of social media, administration and writing contributions to regular features sections.

Kerrina was thrilled when she was named in articles she had written in both newspapers, commenting that it was the highlight of her work experience: “I would say my main achievement was that I managed to secure two bylines, one at each newspaper. Seeing my name in a national newspaper was such a good feeling and made me feel like eventually I could actually achieve my dream and become a journalist at a national newspaper. It was also rewarding that my mentors at both placements felt I was responsible and intelligent enough to put these stories together almost completely independently.

Out of the tasks I was given, researching and writing my own stories was definitely what I most enjoyed. This seemed to be the closest to actually working for each of the newspapers and therefore gave me a real insight into what I could actually be doing if I get a job as a journalist. The News Editor at the Sunday Express even said he was impressed with my writing and felt I would make a brilliant news editor one day.”

There were a range of skills that Kerrina improved whilst on her placements. Her writing skills were challenged as she was creating articles for a national newspaper: “At the Sunday Express the News Editor spent at least half an hour with me going through the previous issue and telling me what sort of subjects they covered. He also gave me in depth feedback on the writing I submitted to him. This was always constructive criticism allowing me to improve whilst still developing my confidence”. Kerrina also saw an improvement in her ability to work under pressure, moving into an office where deadlines were part of her daily working life, as well as her communication skills.

When asked to comment on her overall feelings on her work experience placements Kerrina recognised how important this had been to her. She was happy that she had relevant experience she could put on her CV and talk about in interviews, and in addition: “most importantly work experience enables you to gain the contacts which are so important in journalism. At both my placements I managed to gain email addresses and phone numbers of journalists. I feel contacts will help me to secure more work experience placements and hopefully eventually a job, they will also allow me to get more experience throughout the year.”

Kerrina has been such a success that she has an open invitation to return next year!

Research Associate, School of Mechanical Engineering, University of Birmingham 

Khadijat Olorunlambe

Name: Khadijat Olorunlambe 

Course: Mechanical Engineering

Year: 3rd year

Meet Khadijat...

Working as a Research Associate at the School of Mechanical Engineering, Khadijat was part of a research team working under Dr Karl Dearn reviewing the tribology of Polyether ether ketone (PEEK) as a bearing material in cervical total disc arthroplasty. Her specific duties included; designing research exercises, conducting and analysing the results of these exercises, reviewing previous literature, preparing samples and writing reports on her findings.

When asked what she felt was her main achievement on the placement Khadijat highlighted that she had gained extra curricula experience in a research field related to her chosen career path: “Because I have been able to develop the skills required of a good scientific researcher, it will set me apart when I apply for a place on the NHS Scientist Training Programme. To be a qualified Clinical Engineer I have to be able to successfully conduct research studies; all scientific researchers possess the skill to use the outcome of their literature review to explain what their research is all about.”

Khadijat indentified a number of skills that she was able to improve as a result of her placement. Of her technical skills she said: “During the project I have been able to develop most of the skills a scientific researcher has to possess in order to be able to do a good research study. I learned how to operate the machinery needed to carry out the experiment, as well as how to use information gathered during a literature review to come up with an experimental method and a matrix to determine what kind of results I hope to achieve.”

In addition to this Khadijat was able to improve several of her other skills. Her ability to analyse information was tested as she completed her literature review, as well as her report writing skills. As the research project was set over the summer she learned how to work to deadlines, and as part of a research team Khadijat also progressed her team working and communication skills.

Khadijat is extremely happy with her work experience placement and believes it has given her valuable experience, improved her skills and helped to focus her career goals. In her own words: “The experience has increased my interest in getting a doctoral degree in the future because I enjoyed the whole process of doing a literature review and performing experiments to test a series of hypotheses. I hope to implement all the research skills I have gained during the work experience in my academic studies and hopefully in the future as a Clinical Engineer.”

Trainee Engineer, Atkins Global, UAE

Sara Ali

Name: Sara Ali 

Course: Civil Engineering

Year: 2nd year

Meet Sara...

Sara spent her time at Atkins Global as a Trainee Engineer in the Underground and Tunnelling team. Working alongside senior engineers and her team supervisor Sara was involved in the investigation of construction sites at the inception of a new project, assessing samples of rock and soil on the site. Her specific tasks during this time included entering and investigating data from the collected samples using specialist software, creating mathematical models detailing the properties of the samples, writing reports based on these findings and finally designing shallow foundations that would work within the parameters of the soil and rock on site.

When asked about the highlight of her time at Atkins, Sara said: “One of the most enjoyable things about my placement was gaining an appreciation to what I had learned at university. All the soil properties that were introduced during lectures now had an implication during design. I also never fully appreciated at university how as an engineer you had to be able to speak the language of the electrical, structural, geotechnical and mechanical engineers, the architects and everyone else involved in the building of a structure.

By my second week I was already given work that was going to be added to reports that were being sent off for an infrastructure project in Doha, Qatar. This was definitely an achievement even if it may have been the smallest part of reports. Also, due to me having responsibilities, other people within my team were relying on my data/plots in order to continue with their respective sections.
However stressful that was, it was good feeling to know that I was a contributing member of a team and not just a spare part.”

Sara developed many skills whilst on her placement and recognised the less technical abilities that were vital to being a successful engineer. She identified that her organisational skills were challenged due to the multiple projects she would work on at any one time; Sara also took part in some in house training at Atkins which required to her to network with other staff and improved her ability to build relationships and communicate. On a technical level Sara learned a great deal about foundation and tunnel design; subjects that she will be covering in her third year which she will have real industrial experience in.

When asked to summarise her experience at Atkins, Sara immediately commented on the enormous benefits of taking such a placement. In her own words: “Now that I have a better understanding of the sectors involved I now know what kinds of projects I find interesting so hopefully, upon graduation, I should be able to choose the right jobs to apply for and not blindly apply to all graduate roles. From my experience working for Atkins it seems like a great company to work for with long term goals that seem exciting; this is the kind of company I would like to work with upon graduation.”

An interesting side note to this is that Sara was the first placement student that her office had taken on, and after their experience with her have decided to create a formalised internship programme from 2013 onwards.