Work experience for Biological Science students

If you are considering a career in research or a PhD, it is advantageous to gain work experience in a research/laboratory during your degree.
  • 12 month ‘industrial/professional’ placements
    Combining a placement year with your degree is an excellent way of getting substantial professional experience, and many degree programmes at Manchester include this opportunity. N.B. Some companies only offer 12 month programmes for undergraduates to experience laboratory research. The School of Biological Sciences has strict criteria for participating in an industrial/professional placement (e.g. academic performance in year one) and a deadline for transferring to a “with industrial/professional experience” degree programme. Speak to your Academic Advisor or the Student Support Office for more information.
  • ‘Learning Through Research’ Student experience internships
    Research internships aimed at students who want to explore what an academic career might look like. They will involve working alongside an academic member of staff or other researcher undertaking a specific research-orientated project at the university.

Summer research studentships/bursaries

Some organisations and learned societies offer bursaries to enable undergraduates to work in a research laboratory during the summer vacation. Bursaries typically provide student support for around 6-10 weeks, and sometimes a sum for research expenses. Many bursaries are aimed specifically at undergraduate students in their penultimate year of study but others have broader criteria and may also be open to postgraduates. In addition, some organisations offer awards to fund course-related projects or fieldwork, typically ecology or wildlife related.
General advice about applying for studentships
  • For some studentships you’ll need to find a potential supervisor for the summer, usually a member of the society offering the funding. Start by talking to your Academic Advisor/Tutor or to a member of academic staff whose research you find of interest.
  • Researchers working in popular areas may be inundated with requests, so get in early! Consider some less obvious areas of research as this might improve your chances, you could also approach research staff at other universities.
  • Some learned societies have a list on their website of those who received an award in the past, some name the student but some also name the supervisor. Although academic staff may have supervised summer students in the past, they are under no obligation to do so.
  • Use lists of PhD projects, at Manchester and elsewhere to identify academic research staff you could approach to host you for a summer studentship or other work experience.
  • Remember that academic researchers are busy people. Be politely persistent: don’t give up if your first email is ignored, but don’t be a pest either. They’ll favour students who they believe are capable of undertaking a PhD project in the future, who would be useful to have around the laboratory, who are easy to manage and who won’t need constant supervision.
  • Be aware that staff in your Faculty may have access to your academic results. In the absence of any other information about your capabilities, these could affect any decision they make.

Finding your own scientific work experience

It may also be possible to self-arrange your own work experience. The lists below bring together a range of bioscience employers. Use these lists to approach organisations to ask for a placement, work experience or even advice on how to find a placement. This can be a useful way to get relevant work experience if you have a specific area of research in mind. Check out our advice on Networking and using social media for the basics on finding hidden opportunities for jobs and experience.

Students on ‘with industrial/professional experience’ programmes can find guidance on self-arranging a placement on the SBS Placements community site on Blackboard. N.B. All placements must be approved by the School of Biological Sciences before you make a formal application. If in doubt, contact the Placement Office for further advice.
  • When contacting organisations direct, approach a laboratory or research manager rather than Human Resources. E.g. look for contact information in job adverts or LinkedIn.
  • Include your practical experience on your CV: potential supervisors may be wary if they think you will need a lot of training first. E.g. understanding of good laboratory practice, specific lab techniques, equipment you can use, recording results, H&S, licences, data handling and analysis, grades for practical modules etc.
  • Scientific employers value the following behaviours: ability to learn quickly, attention to detail/accuracy, good written/oral communication, can work without constant supervision, problem solving ability, gets on with people, and reliable and trustworthy.

Useful resources for your own creative job search

Life and pharmaceutical sciences

  • Bionow Bioscience, biomedical and life sciences, drug discovery and development in the north of England.
  • UK Life Sciences Membership Associations List of organisations including the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry and the UK Bioindustry Association.
  • UK Science Parks Association Links to science parks across the UK e.g. Manchester Science Park.
  • Alderley Park Science and innovation park, home to companies engaged in life science and medicines research.

Research centres, institutes and public sector

  • UK Research Councils Check each Research Council for lists of its funded institutes. Government research centres and institutes are normally funded , at least in part, by one.
  • AIRTO Membership organisation for a number of commercial and government funded research organisations and institutes.
  • UKAS Lists accredited organisations for medical laboratory services in the UK (both NHS and private) from Andrology to Virology.
  • The NHS Supply Chain site Preferred suppliers for services including diagnostic services. Use to find suppliers of equipment, test kits and outsourced services.