Name: Rory Cunnison
1. What is your home university, what department and lab are you in?
University of Leicester, MCB, Andrey Revyakin’s Lab
2. What type of studentship are you on? CASE, iCASE, etc.
Non-CASE BBSRC studentship?
3. How did you organise your accommodation for the first year?
I already lived in the city where I wanted to base my PhD (Leicester). Accommodation for the rotations was difficult- Contacting Warwick for my mini-project directly helped a lot in securing a short-term place, because the length of a rotation (3 months) is shorter than any regular estate agent will contractually provide. They found a place near the university that was within driving distance and had good transport links if I didn’t drive. If possible, it is probably better to stay in your “home” city and commute to the mini-project. For the PIPs, arranging accommodation abroad is much more difficult. Organisation of accommodation should be done at a minimum 2-3 months before the start of the internship. Universities in Munich and Germany in general don’t appear to own the accommodation to the same degree as British universities do. This means that it is better to look for private rentals for the short term, with Airbnb and Justlanded as options.
4. How did you manage commuting to UoW for the first term?
Commuting to Warwick is very difficult from Leicester. Catching a train isn’t an option unless you’re willing to spend upwards of 3-4 hours a day on or waiting for trains. Ride sharing with a driver is the best option, meaning you’ll have to meet someone from your home university on the first few days that can drive. If you do drive, consider alternating with others to reduce environmental burden/share costs of fuel.
5. How did you organise your mini-projects?
My mini-projects were organised based on my interests. The “home” project was easy to organise because I was already working in the lab I wished to join. Based on my knowledge of this project, I looked at related labs that could offer me a skill I might not have fully developed so far. After drawing up a shortlist of labs I was interested in, I looked further into the research in the labs (5-10 labs, trawling their websites and recent publications) before settling on 2-3 choices and emailing the PIs. After receiving a response from one, I chose this lab.
6. How did you organise your PIPS?
I initially tried to get a placement in project management at a lab in California, but due to the proximity of the work to research, this was denied. Afterwards, my supervisor contacted a small company that provided DNA constructs to the laboratory and asked if they would be interested in taking on an intern. After a successful skype interview, I was offered an internship there. The placement seemed quite closely linked to my supervisor but if you’re interested in working near to research after your PhD, contacting suppliers of reagents or components to the lab can be a good way to find a range of positions within the scientific industry.
7. Is there anything you wished you'd known before you started?
In terms of the MIBTP training year, be aware that submission deadlines for the projects are the final week of that project and that therefore the last week of the project should be left empty to write and review the material you will submit. Equally, don’t try to fill the initial portion of the training period with a part time job or temporary work. Using the time to revise and rest is a much better option and will provide you with enough time to complete submissions easily. Finally, if something is wrong or you don’t feel supported on the projects or PIPs, let the MIBTP officers know. It’s not a good use of time to spend months waiting for projects to begin when you could be learning and applying new skills.