It’s not only students who need to take placements seriously. Lab managers too must adopt a long-term view of their value, suggests George Barsted.
Across both industry and academia, the idea of the Lab of the Future becoming reality edges forward each day. But much of the discussion in terms of innovation and sustainability for the future misses out on a key element: the human. The lab of the future is going to be staffed by students of the present, and they’re often overlooked when it comes to these discussions.
Current undergraduate students are equipped to be more impactful and competent in the lab than before, with undergraduate education more interactive and forwardthinking than before. There is now a heavier emphasis on careers and future study that can stand students in good stead to be able to contribute. Not only is undergraduate involvement helpful for students, improving grades and understanding, but it's also beneficial for industrial and academic environments. Gone are the days of work experience placements just being used to make tea for the team. Internships, placements and years in industry are equipping tomorrow’s chemists with a role today.
Skills gained now are going to influence decisions in the future, leading to more efficient, sustainable and hopefully successful labs
By overcoming the barriers that can hinder early career research in undergraduate education, it enables students to hit the ground running. Employers value hands-on lab experience and it can be gained through years in industry and summer internships. I know first-hand how impactful the opportunity to complete a summer internship was for myself and others in my cohort. It gave me the confidence to engage in research, setting me up for further study and helping me in my career decisions. It made my final year project in the lab far less intimidating and it felt great to be able to contribute to the research of others as well, helping to save them time and energy. Skills gained now are going to influence decisions in the future, leading to more efficient, sustainable and hopefully successful labs.
It’s worth developing programmes for those looking to gain some undergraduate research experience. Reaching out to those in their first and second years, and advertising opportunities specifically over the summer break can be beneficial for companies as well. It allows giving training to prospective students and informing them of potential career options and paths. Seeking those looking for a work placement or internship could be the start of an incredibly successful partnership for the future.
George Barsted is a third-year Chemistry undergraduate at the University of East Anglia and Science Editor on UEA’s student newspaper Concrete