Graduates & Students

Lessons learned during my summer internship

Claire Richmond, a current student at the University of St Andrews, reflects on what she learnt during her summer internship at Tissue Solutions through the Scottish Life Sciences Internship Programme 2017.

Published: 07/08/2017

As I approach the final week of my internship as a Business Development Intern at Tissue Solutions Ltd, I feel that it is important for me to reflect upon what I have learned.

First of all, I must say that Tissue Solutions was a fantastic place to work. Everyone was incredibly friendly and helpful and made me feel welcome. Their work ethic was incredible and the interest in their work was clear.

In terms of my role in the company, it is fair to say that I had no idea what to expect going into the internship. My job as a Business Development Intern involved finding new contacts for the company, offering our services, and subsequently generating enquiries and sales. This was an entirely new area of work for me. However, I was delighted to take up the opportunity to give it a go and learn something new.

I ended up learning a lot of new things, more than I expected that I would. It would take me too long to list all of these, so I will focus on just a few of the key lessons I learned.

 

Lesson 1: Asking for help

The first, and perhaps the most important thing I learned is that it is okay to ask for help. Again, this is not something I am used to doing. My default attitude is that I should always know what to do, or at least be able to work it out for myself, and that people would look down on asking for help. This is simply not true. Asking questions minimises mistakes, and shows a certain quality of being proactive which is favourable. It is better to ask questions and increase your understanding than to stay silent and remain in the dark. This lesson is a particularly important for me, and it is something I believe I can now carry into other aspects of my life.

 

Lesson 2: Dealing with rejection

In a similar vein, I learned that dealing with rejection is something that I must get used to. I have been lucky enough in my life so far to succeed with ease in school, university and work. This made the lack of responses to my emails and the dead enquiries a hard pill to swallow. However, I quickly learned not to be disheartened. If I were to wallow in every rejection, I would get nothing done. Rejection is not the end of the world, and how you deal with it is the most important thing. Being able to bounce back, learn about why certain approaches did not work, and adapt is a better learning experience than initial success.

 

Lesson 3: Understanding the sector

An exciting lesson for me is that the life science sector is much more vibrant and intricate than I ever could have imagined. I have come into contact with companies, and found out about diseases, treatments and medical jargon that I never even knew existed.

The role of a biobank is an integral one to researchers. The aspects of procurement, ethics and transfer of human tissues are very complex, and for researchers to do this alone on top of carrying out their own research is a difficult task. With companies like Tissue Solutions, who have their own ethically approved sources and logistics in place, this lightens the load for researchers and allows them to focus on what matters most to them: their research. And, of course, being able to use human tissue to animal models is of course favourable. Thus, the quality and speed of research increases.

 

Lesson 4: Brushing up on my language skills!

I even got the chance to practice my French and Spanish by reading some international company website descriptions. I had my trusty WordReference tab on my computer while doing this: for some reason, they didn’t teach me the words for “liver” and “spleen” in first year university French… So, not only was I learning scientific jargon, I was also learning foreign scientific jargon. This could prove useful to me in the future.

 

Future plans 

So, in light of these lessons, is business my calling? The truth is that I am still not sure. I thoroughly enjoyed this internship and being involved in business, which was not something I expected I would. However, there is so much more for me to learn. This internship has given me a desire to look wider and experience more areas of the life science sector. For example, I would love to gain more lab experience outside of my required lab hours for my university course. In particular, I would like to gain experience in the area of Neuroscience: my degree programme and main passion.

The one thing that I am absolutely sure of is that no matter what I end up doing in the future, I believe that I am destined to work in the life science sector. Being in contact with so many companies doing so much interesting research has given me a hunger and drive to learn more about how the advancement of science can improve and enrich people’s lives, particularly in the case of treating disease. With research so fascinating and worthwhile, how could I do anything else?

I would like to thank everyone at Tissue Solutions, in particular Derek McFerran and Morag McFarlane, for taking me on as an intern and giving me their help and guidance in the last ten weeks. I am incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity. I would also like to thank everyone at Skills Development Scotland and ScotGrad, especially Kelly Barbour, for bringing the Life Sciences Internship Programme into existence. I believe that it is so important to give younger life science students a chance to experience the world of work. This has been a fantastic opportunity and I strongly encourage others to apply for opportunities!

 

 

Written by Claire Richmond, 2017 intern at Tissue Solutions