Hi, I’m Megan, a Natural Sciences (specialising in Nanoscience) student here at York. I’m currently doing a Placement Year working in the Performance Materials part of Merck Group. I’m a research and development intern in display solutions, within the liquid crystal and reactive mesogens group.
Why did you decide to do a placement?
I wasn’t planning to do one because I didn’t know I could, but I did always want to have the opportunity to work in industry before I graduated. I wanted to find out more about the options available working in science outside of academia and decide what career path would suit me better.
How did you find the opportunity?
I attended a Physics careers day in Sheffield and went to the Merck stall. I showed interest in a summer placement but was disappointed to find out that they don’t run them. After some encouragement that I could do a year in industry (which I was not considering doing as it was not available on my course), I had an informal chat with Stephen. He asked me to come and see the Merck site in Southampton for an interview and emailed the heads of Chemistry and Natural Sciences to ask if I could do a placement year. He interviewed me a month later and then became my placement supervisor!
What’s your typical day?
I spend my time 70:30 in labs : out of labs. In labs I do independent experimental research; I find this very rewarding and varied and I am in control of what I do as well as my productivity. No-one is breathing down my neck or spoon-feeding me, I seek out guidance when I need it but otherwise I do my own problem solving. Out of labs I analyse data, write up work packages (summary lab reports with experimental and data details) and make presentations for team meetings.
What did you get out of it?
I have gained a huge confidence boost and presentation skills that I am proud of. By working independently on my own experiments as part of a larger team; I’ve learnt how to work flexibly and quickly change my priorities, whilst doing effective time planning. Merck has given me a brilliant and positive insight into working in industry with scientists and business people alike. My placement year has put my university life in perspective and I hope I will take final year in my stride – knowing that grades are only a small piece of my employability.
How has it influenced your future career options?
Although I will not be offered a job with Merck, as they are not currently recruiting, I realised that I would really like to work somewhere like Merck in the future. My placement has changed my perspective on my career potential and I’ve realised that I don’t have to be an expert to work in a specific research area. If I am enthusiastic to learn, work hard and ask questions, then I can apply these skills to work in many fields. I think this experience has taught me not to limit my career options and grasp any opportunity; I intend to push myself outside of my comfort zone and apply for positions that I might not feel good enough for.