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PIPS Case Studies

Our students carry out a wide range of exciting professional internships during their PhD training programme doing activities that interest them and in several cases lead to ongoing interaction. We have highlighted some of the internships here.

Cathal Meehan (2017 student)

lCathal undertook his placement in the Moroccan capital of Rabat, working with the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). Cathal was given the opportunity to chose where within the organisation he wanted to work during his placement, which enabled him to gain experience within the areas that interested him the most. He decided to work mainly with agronomists and breeders involved with wheat and barley to see how scientific research was being translated to improve the livelihood of smallholder famers.

The placement involved a number of different tasks, from designing trials to test various cereal lines, to conducting regular visits to Marchouch, one of ICARDA’s major field research sites and attending the annual meeting of all of the directors of the CGIAR (ICARDA is 1 of 15 organisations in the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research - CGIAR).

During his time off, Cathal also got to take trips across the diverse culture and landscape of Morocco, which were organised regularly with staff and others he'd met in Morocco; journeying from the humble rural farms of the atlas plateau to the bustling medinas of Marrakech, and from the Rif mountains to the eternal Sahara Desert.

Cathal said, "By far I felt the biggest advantage of being at one the CGIAR’s main centres was engaging with other plant scientists who knew what prospects were out there for adventurous young scientists. The insights they gave me into the industry and real-world application of new agricultural technologies was absolutely invaluable. Building these connections and learning the lay of the land this early in my PhD will allow me to tailor my research and skill development to pursue a fulfilling career in food security."

Curtis Oliver-Smith (2016 student)

Curtis spent 3-months working at the Royal Society for his PIPS, within the public affairs team. During the placement, he was able to attend the Annual Links day (27thJune 2017) event in Parliament. During his placement he also worked on the Royal Society’s annual Summer Science Exhibition. This event was the main focus of his work in the Public Affairs team. He was tasked with inviting MPs to the event that within their constituency, holds one of the institutions taking part in the 22 exhibits. In doing so he communicated with the lead researchers of the exhibits, mailed and maintained contact with around 30 MPs, created a press release for the attending MP’s, organised the photography and created briefings on both the researchers and MPs. With the general election being called so close to the event and the change in MP’s, this became a challenging and tall order on a very tight schedule. Curtis commented, " I hold the Summer Science Exhibition close to my heart and I am very proud of the important role I have played. Overall, I have loved the fast paced environment and the office life, but most of all I am hugely grateful to the Public Affairs team for having me, what a great bunch of excitable, but professional people they are! It’s been an honour and pleasure and I hope to return in the future."

Daniel Cooper (2015 student)

Daniel's PIPS was conducted at "Equinox Graphics Ltd." a 3D design company based in Trumpington, Cambridge, who specialise in providing scientific animations and images to the space and medical industry. His first month was spent training with specialist software (Luxology's Modo, and Adobe After Effects), the second applying learned concepts to help the company with current work (for the BBC and for Cambridge's Pint of Science event) and the third month working on a personal project - an animated journey into hippocampal synaptic transmission in collaboration with Prof. Bruno Frenguelli at the University of Warwick. The work environment was stimulating and enjoyable, and he was allowed full freedom in his choice of personal project and received excellent training.

Daniel stated, "I am happy with my time away at my PIPS, have learned many useful and unique skills that will allow me to communicate my research more effectively in the future and am proud of the work I have been allowed to accomplish!"

Esther Ogunniyi (2013 cohort)


Esther carried out her placement at the HGCA. The aim of her placement was to gain an insight into the activities carried out by the HGCA in helping cereals and oilseed growers in the UK. To achieve this aim, Esther was actively involved in attending meetings such as research manager meetings, science forum meetings and departmental meetings. She also managed the analysis and interpretation of questionnaires used in formulating research plans for 2015 – 2019. In addition to that, Esther was privileged to do literature review on soil information available to growers in UK; this is intended to serve as base line information for reviewing RB209 fertilizer manual in the near future. During her placement, she also visited one of the HGCA trial fields and a Biodiversity Farm in Wellingborough, Northants. The trial fields provide information used in compiling cereal ‘Recommended List’ for growers.

Elise Facer-Childs (2013 cohort)

Elise carried out her PIP at an occupational psychology firm in West London called Team Focus Limited ( This was because she was interested in how a business runs and also how psychology could interlink with her research interests. Her roles within Team Focus involved various different components within the business including digital marketing, market research, increasing social media coverage, website design and creation, client account management, training administration and psychometric testing.

Overall Elise feels like her PIP was extremely successful and useful for both the company and herself. It helped her understand more about the possibilities in industry and the integration of research and business. It was a fantastic opportunity given by BBSRC that she really enjoyed.

Kathryn Styles (2012 cohort)

Kathryn did her three month placement at the World Health Organization in Geneva working in the department of ‘Essential Medicines and Health Products’, proofreading the 2013 Priority Medicines for Europe and the World Update Report and associated background papers. During this internship Kathryn attended World Health Day as well as the 66th World Health Assembly held in the UN palace.

Claire Stoker (2012 Cohort)claire.jpg

Claire completed her 3 month placement with the British Society for Plant Pathology (BSPP). The BSPP was founded in 1981 for the study and advancement of plant pathology. During her placement, Claire joined their outreach team, for which she attended the UK Plant Science Conference 2013 in Dundee. Claire put together a report about the conference which was published on the BSPP website .


Andrew Tock (2012 Cohort)

andrew.jpgPhoto: Joseph Buwule

Andrew spent 3 months on placement in Uganda with the Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International (CABI). CABI is a UK-based non-profit organisation that helps resource-poor farmers in developing countries to increase yields by preventing crop losses to pests, diseases and environmental stresses. Andrew's role involved monitoring the performance of the CABI plant clinics by assessing different aspects of their operations, such as the quality of diagnoses and advice, staff communication, organisation and record keeping. For more information you can watch Andrew's research video and read his blog.


You can read about additional PIPS experiences on the MIBTP Blog: