Plant Health Studentships: opportunities for undergrads and providers

This post was originally published on the Royal Society of Biology’s blog on 9 January 2017.

Dr Celia Knight FRSB, plant science education and employability consultant, shares her thoughts on undergraduate opportunities.

What does a summer studentship mean to an undergraduate?

When considering whether to undertake a summer research studentship, placement, internship or work experience, undergraduates might wonder:

  • Does applying for a research studentship mean you have to know you want to do a PhD?
  • If you are an intern, should you expect to be paid?
  • Do placements mean you do a year out or year abroad?
  • Does work experience mean you don’t want an academic career?

Sometimes the answer to these questions is ‘yes’ – but it doesn’t have to be!

Are summer studentships worth the effort for the providers: universities, research institutes or industries?

Image: University of Leeds

What about the providers of undergraduate opportunities – what do these words mean to them?  They may be thinking:

  • An undergraduate research studentship, or similar such program, may only last 8-10 weeks, so will there be reduced value in hosting a student for such a short time period.
  • Undergraduates are likely to be inexperienced; might it be better to offer these opportunities to graduates?

Again, sometimes the answer to these questions is ‘yes’, but it doesn’t have to be!

Many undergraduates are ready to make the most of their university experience from day one. The experiences they take on and develop during their degree can be the start of creative new solutions of benefit to the student and the provider.

Whatever the label (studentship, internship, placement or work experience), giving undergraduates a chance to experience research in its broadest sense first hand, whilst encouraging them to follow their interests and seek opportunities outside of their coursework, offers exciting potential.

Plant Health Undergraduate Summer Studentships

Image: University of Leeds

A new initiative funded by Defra and coordinated by the RSB is offering four undergraduate studentships in plant health to be carried out during the summer of 2017.  Defra have identified six plant health research themes for which they would like to increase capacity and capability and are inviting applications from academics to host an undergraduate studentship.

The UKPSF and RSB are appealing to their extensive academic, employment and education networks to attract the best applications, first from the institution bidding to host the studentship (deadline 20 January 2017), then to the undergraduates wishing to apply for one of these opportunities (details of the successful projects will be advertised in February 2017).

Still unsure as to whether you should apply? Here are a few more reasons to consider:

  • These studentships will introduce undergraduates to a range of research skills and how they might apply these to their future career.
  • They offer a secure, worthwhile opportunity to try new and potentially interdisciplinary ideas aimed at addressing priority research needs in plant health.
  • They help to identify early career talent.

We look forward to trialling this initiative during 2017: updates to follow!

Get in touch with UKPSF if you have any queries. 

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