Thursday, 21 May 2015

Work Experience

Here's the lowdown on what it's like to do work experience in physics at UCD, astrophysics in Trinity, Biochemistry in DCU, journalism in The Irish Times, nanotech in AMBER (Trinity) and a commercial lab. As you can tell, I got a lot out of TY.

These are listed in chronological order. 

Biochemistry at DCU (October/November 2013)

This was my first work experience session in TY, so I was disorganized and had to grab something last minute. I ended up attending college lectures in DCU in a Biochemistry class. It was their first year, so I already understood what they were talking about (enzymes). I was there for a week, i.e. three days of the course, but that only ended up being two days because the lecturer didn't turn up one of the days.

It was alright, and I'm looking forward to college. I hope there's not too much of that introductory stuff though. 

I was accepted for work experience at IBM, but sadly couldn't get transport so that was out the window. If anyone's done the TY programme there, let me know how you got on in the comments or on Twitter.

UCD Physics

I applied to this one time and completely forgot it, only for my science teacher to make an announcement saying a mysterious someone had applied for the UCD TY Physics programme and been accepted. I went just in case so it must have been me.

Anyway, this one was amazing, I loved it. Five days in UCD (which has a wonderful science department), doing loads of different things. I'm sure I'm leaving lots of things out, but some elements I loved were the talks (loads, including past winner of Young Scientist and CERN scientist, and Tony Scott, founder of YS). We got talks on particle physics, vision, radioactivity, lots of things. Spectacularly interesting, I took loads of notes. 

We also did trips, including visits to Blackrock Clinic and an important space observatory (unfortunately, the telescopes were down for repair that day and it was raining. We had biscuits and hot chocolate instead). 

My favourite trip was to Blackrock Clinic, where we got to go down to the basement and learn about radioisotope tracers and go into the room with the cyclotron. Very cool. We made rockets and did experiments with superconductors using liquid nitrogen. Also, every morning at break we had biscuits in a cosy room at the university. 

Bonus: I made some really good friends. Shoutout to Niamh, Grainne and Andrew!

The Irish Times (February 2014)

I did a week here. To get work experience at The Irish Times, you need a contact there and/or an exceptional application. I had a distant contact. 

Like UCD Physics, this one wasn't really actual work experience, it was more a programme. We spent time in all the departments, including Editorial, Finance, IT, Marketing, and Advertising. It was very cool. The computers had a little room all to themselves that the guy said had been designed to suit the computers, so it was cold etc. he also taught us about video game development. In Advertising we learned about prices for companies to place ads in The Irish Times in different sizes and locations. 

Finance was actually more interesting than I thought it would be, and I was the only one who could guess how much the CPM on the Irish Times website ad banner was (yay blogging). We came up with ideas for some things and had our work make it into the magazine. At one point, I and a few others went out with a journalist to doorstep Ruairi Quinn, I.e. Grab him coming out the door for a sound bite. I feel sorry for publicists. It was cool though, and I think the resulting article was on the front page the next day. It was an event about cyber bullying. 

We had to present a feature article we'd written at the end of the week. We also attended a board meeting of the journalists.

Bonus: free tea and copies of newspaper, cool people, boyfriend, that game of chess on the last day, fancy name cards and fancy lobby and generally fancy everything, view of the city from the seventh floor cafeteria.

I had a wonderful time, although I did get thoroughly lost and soaked getting there and back. 

Fitz Scientific Labs (February 2014)

This was my second and last school-mandated term of work experience. I chose a local analytical chemistry lab and worked there for two weeks. This was my only work experience where I was really working and doing the everyday jobs rather than being treated specially and shown around. It was awesome. Over the two weeks, I did a lot of dilutions, colorimetry, measuring various things very very precisely, sorting chemicals, washing and washing and washing, and generally being a lab technician. I loved it and was endlessly fascinated. The work was quite repetitive, so I think if I'd been there for more than a month I wouldn't have been so excited, but it was amazing for a few weeks. Love. I learned a lot of basic lab skills that were really handy and got a start on my YS project. 

Trinity Astrophysics

This was only one day long and was another programme. It occurred during fits so I took a day off for it. The same poor teacher had to run around looking for me to tell me I got accepted. Anyway, it was pretty good. We went up onto the roof and looked through the telescope, and catalogued sunspots. 

I think I would've preferred to do the Nanoscience option, considering my project. 

I saw Eric Finch's Powers of 10 lecture here, I think, possibly for the second time because it might've been at UCD too. It's a famous lecture, going from astrophysics to nanotech and beyond. 

AMBER - Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research (November 2014)

Although this was a TY programme, I actually did it in fifth year. I was in the institute anyway working on my project so they just invited me along. This was really great, although I didn't get the full benefit from it because I only attended some parts (for instance, I skipped the Powers of 10 lecture and the Maker workshop because I was working in the lab). We toured labs at AMBER and CRANN, got a very cool lecture from this woman about graphene and did lots of trips. I loved the trips to RCSI and especially St. James' Hospital. We went to the Tissue Engineering labs at RCSI and got lectures and tours there, which were awesome. I loved going to St. James', because we toured the basement labs and there I met AJ and Laura Kickham, who are part of a research group I'll hopefully be working with on my project in future. AJ had been to CTYI too, which was awesome. We also had a commercialisation talk, among others. 

Great experience. 


Most of my work experience wasn't real work experience, but it was still fantastic and gave me a lot of valuable contacts and experience. Definitely one of the best parts of TY. My advice is to take whatever work experience you can get, even if it's outside your school's official dates, because this is more important and your school will probably understand. 

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