Undertaking a science communication internship during a pandemic

 27 August 2020   Institute News

Each summer, the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences (LMS) offers five undergraduate students a chance to delve into the world of research, and one the chance to explore science communication.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Grants, Engagement and Communications (GECo) team opened their doors, virtually, for a science communication Intern this summer. The student who took up the role was Lauren Green from the University of Southampton.

Throughout her 7-week studentship, Lauren was involved in a variety of projects, from running a social media campaign, producing articles for the LMS website, virtually attending the 2020 Parliamentary Links Day and getting involved in the latest LMS engagement project, a Picture of Health. We spoke to Lauren to hear more about her experience.

What did you get up to over the last  7 weeks?

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my summer studentship, with each day being varied and challenging. I have had the opportunity to get involved in numerous engagement projects with the GECo team. These have included: the ‘Wall of Variables’ – a collaboration between LMS and Ark Burlington Danes Academy; A Picture of Health; and the Suffrage Science women in science awards scheme. I loved helping create Suffrage Science articles for the LMS website, exploring how these amazing female scientists achieved so much.

Even though my studentship was remote, I was also able to engage with the 2020 Parliamentary Links Day, the Royal Society’s Summer showcase, and even attended an Imperial Lates event, which was fantastic. I also led my own social media project.

What did you enjoy most about your studentship?

My highlight, was leading a social media project for the LMS called ‘Summer of Science’. This involved liaising with researchers, and discovering the ground-breaking science being conducted at the Institute.

The studentship has provided me with numerous skills, such as project management skills, which I have not had the opportunity to develop at university. I have also enjoyed learning how to convey complex science to the public in an engaging manner, which is an invaluable skill which I will be able to use in future careers, as well as my degree.

What did you find most challenging during your studentship?

The biggest challenge for me was completing this studentship remotely. Never venturing into the office to meet the GECo team or being able to ask questions in person came with challenges. But I always felt supported throughout my placement by Sophie Arthur and Susan Watts. I was also paired with a 3rd year PhD student, Eren Akademir, in my first week, and he helped me to understand more about the Institute.

Overcoming hurdles with remote working has increased my resilience and self-motivation, which places me in a great position for any future challenges I will encounter, both during my degree and future career.

Was your studentship different to what you anticipated?

Going into my studentship, I didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t sure what I would be able to do from home. I had anticipated writing a couple of articles and playing a support role within the team, but my experience was much more than that. Throughout my studentship I always felt part of the team and everything I did was working towards a bigger picture. Being an undergraduate student with limited experience, I was surprised when I was given the responsibility of leading a social media campaign, with supervision, on behalf of the LMS. My role was never ‘just an intern’ and I loved being able to muck in with the team.

How do you think your experience might have differed if you had been working in the office?

My studentship experience was definitely unique. With the UK in lockdown, and limited social interaction possible,  I was unable to participate in engagement planning in person. However, I was able to complete my studentship with minimal disruption. I engaged in a variety of projects and produced articles for the LMS website, such as Biomedical Pictures of the Day, just as I would have done if in the office. I am very fortunate that these unprecedented times did not impact my studentship to a large extent, enabling me to fully submerse myself in the world of GECo.

Where do you hope your career goes in the future?

This amazing experience has given me an insight into what a career in science communication involves, as well as opening my eyes to the range of career opportunities within public engagement. I have loved discovering research in multiple departments and communicating this to a wider audience. I am excited to finish my degree and pursue a career in science communication and public engagement.

I would highly recommend this experience with MRC LMS to any student who is interested in communication, or anyone who is not sure if a career in research is for them. It is an incredibly rewarding experience, and you will discover a different side to science.