My summer internship experience
Ewa, fourth year, BEng (Hons) Chemical Engineering
The summer is fast approaching, and you may be wondering how to spend this time. There are many possibilities to use these months, including doing a placement or internship.
But you may be wondering: is it worth the effort? Let me share my experience of a summer internship that I did last year with the School of Engineering at the University of Edinburgh.
My internship project
Most of summer internships at School of Engineering are research-based, but there are also some more teaching-oriented options.
One of these was my internship, supervised by Dr Simone Dimartino, the title of which was “Experimental separation of proteins and biomolecules for the Chemical Engineering 3 Laboratories and the Biotechnology and Bioprocess Engineering 5 course”.
This long, quite technical title didn’t really explain well what I was doing!
So basically, my main aim was to design a new experiment for third year chemical engineering students to do in their laboratory sessions, using AKTA Go – a small and compact liquid chromatography system. I’m sure you are all wondering what liquid chromatography is. Let me explain a little bit…
In general, chromatography is a technique that can be used to separate mixtures. The need to isolate individual proteins and purify mixtures to the highest quality is really important in the pharmaceutical industry.
All pharmaceutical products have purity standards that need to be met in order to be deemed safe for consumers, and this is where liquid chromatography comes in.
Chromatography is also used in the food and beverage industry for quality control, in medicine to find drug compounds in urine or other body fluids. Or in the chemical industry, forensic science and environment analysis.
What I learned
That is enough about the chromatography, what about my experience? I think that it was an amazing opportunity that taught me a lot of useful skills.
I had to apply the knowledge that I gained throughout my whole degree. I also had to learn completely new things and research new information. That was my first time working with an academic supervisor and I learnt a lot, which was very useful especially during the fourth year projects that followed.
Moreover, I met and worked with many interesting people like lab technicians, lecturers, other students doing internships and even industry people from company producing AKTA. I worked with Gordon and Sean – lab technicians in the chemical engineering teaching labs, who helped me a lot with everyday lab problems.
This experience enabled me to see the university from different perspective. I could discover what it takes to develop teaching and how it is approached.
I was always keen on bioengineering and medical applications of chemical engineering. My internship project was working mostly on a desalting step, which separates the inorganic salts from organic compounds like proteins and biomolecules. This is often the last step in purification of medicines.
This time showed me that I am truly interested in this field and I can lead my career in this direction.
Was it worth it?
Summing up, if you are wondering if summer internships are even worth the effort of writing the application, I can reassure you, they definitely are.
You will be surprised how much you can learn in just two months. By doing an internship or placement, you can explore different industries and job prospects to find something which suits you.
Even if you realise at the end of the summer that you are not really interested in this field, you will have valuable experience and something to add to your CV. And next summer you can try something else.
Finally, the School’s summer internships are paid, so it’s a good way to earn some money, which is a really nice addition to the overall experience.
Find out more
The School of Engineering offer a minimum of 20 summer internships each year for School of Engineering undergraduate students from second to penultimate years. These open for application in February each year. Further information for existing students can be found on the ETO Hub.
The School summer internship programme is only one of a number run through the University which students can apply to. There is also: