Daisy Lints, Biomedical Sciences student, did a research internship last summer as part of the Mitacs Globalink Research Internships programme. Read all about it here…
My application journey
I always thought internships were solely for those studying courses like Economics and Finance and, as a Biomedical Sciences student, they didn’t even cross my mind. However, at the end of August 2020, an email landed in my inbox from the Careers Service advertising a summer science research internship at a Canadian university. It almost seemed too good to be true: a 12-week placement with a top scientist in Canada, engaging in world class research all whilst receiving a generous stipend. Without a moment’s doubt, I hit the ‘Apply’ button and quickly got started. Once I had submitted my CV, a copy of my academic transcript and a reference from my Personal Tutor, I had the task of choosing seven research projects out of the hundreds on the company’s portal. Using an algorithm to allocate interns to a supervisor, I was thrilled to be invited to an interview with a researcher at the Université de Montréal. Consisting of a series of short questions, the interview flew by and I was delighted to receive an offer just a few weeks later.
Despite the promising news of the COVID-19 vaccine, cases were still high and come March 2021, it was confirmed my internship would be virtual – my summer in Montréal was over before it had even begun. Despite this disappointing turn of events (not to mention the 5-hour time difference!), my supervisor was amazing, reassuring me he would still be able to host me and that I would still receive valuable experience, albeit from my bedroom in Edinburgh. Although not the summer in the lab I was hoping for, we came to a mutual agreement for me to conduct online research over the course of the 12 weeks.
Day in the life
My supervisor and his assistant set me three projects over the 12 weeks I was at my internship, within the scope of their research on liver disease and hepatic encephalopathy, topics my supervisor had always wanted to research himself but never had the time to. I spent four weeks or so researching each project, coming up with an overview, questions and hypotheses around the topic, which I would then present to the laboratory group. A team of 20, made up of lab directors, lab assistants and PhD students, this seemed like an extreme feat to be faced with, but I really feel it has benefitted my presentation skills. When I was not researching my topic, I attended the biweekly Journal Clubs with the team, consisting of one member presenting their critique of a scientific paper related to the lab’s research over Zoom.
This internship bestowed me with so much. French was the first language for around half of the team, so having to really refine my written and verbal communication skills to overcome this is something that will benefit me in my final year of university and beyond. Crucially, it provided me with connections in the field – in fact, I am still in regular contact with my supervisor. He has offered to host me if I want to return for another summer (in person this time!) or even a postgraduate degree. Finally, the chance to be involved in actual scientific research outside a lecture theatre was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and one I will cherish for a long time.
Advice to other students
Be prepared to work hard. My internship was full time which was a slight shock to the system after a year of online classes. I was expected to be a member of the laboratory and contribute accordingly. Despite my intern status (or ‘stagiaire’, as the Canadian French say), I was always treated as an equal in the team and had to keep up with the pace of their research. However, do not be afraid to ask for help if you need it – you are not expected to know everything! Nonetheless, an internship is such a good opportunity to get an exclusive insight into a particular field. Now more than ever, graduates are entering such a competitive job market and an internship will give you an essential talking point in interviews. Finally, just apply! As I said before, I wasn’t even considering an internship and certainly wasn’t expecting my application to be successful. Although not the summer in the sun I imagined, my internship was an incredible experience.
Does the Mitacs Globalink Research Internships Programme interest you?
Edinburgh University is working with Mitacs to offer students the opportunity to participate in the 2023 Mitacs Globalink Research Internship Programme. The supervised 12-week scheme, during the summer of 2023, will be an in-person opportunity in Canada. As a successful intern, you will participate in research projects under the supervision of outstanding academic mentors. It is a great opportunity to get international research experience on your CV and experience the many educational, social, and recreational opportunities Canada has to offer.
If you are eligible to take part in the programme, the Internships and Work Experience Team will be in touch with you in July 2022, sharing a form to register your interest.