In this blog post, Aimee Morse discusses undertaking an internship during your PhD.
Finding an internship
There are numerous internships on offer with various organisations. The DTP works specifically in partnership with several organisations across Wales who have developed internship opportunities and the UKRI run internship programmes in partnership with organisations across the UK.
Internships are advertised in the monthly DTP newsletter, so keep an eye on the section if you’re keen to apply for one. This is how I found out about my internship with the Wales Centre for Public Policy, so it’s definitely worth reading!;You can also speak to your supervisors regarding internships in your research area. My supervisors mentioned colleagues in other organisations running internships, though they always encouraged me to choose the right one for me, at a time which worked for me.
How I knew the internship was for me
First and foremost, I talked it through with my supervisors. We discussed how I would make the internship work best for me. I chose to conduct a project in a similar field to my PhD research topic; however, it may be possible to choose something in a different field that may still complement your PhD theories and/or methodologies.
I had to make sure the internship would not clash with my PhD fieldwork commitments, and felt that three months would be the best length. My internship fell right within the 2021 lockdown; however, this did not affect my experience and I was surrounded (virtually) by a team of supportive colleagues who were always on hand to answer questions and share their thoughts on my work. Having a short, interesting project to focus on throughout that time really helped my overall approach to my PhD; submitting a completed report allowed me to return to my PhD work confident that I could overcome the stops and starts of the last 18-months to complete my thesis too!
Compiling a successful application
I have now completed two internship applications, and in both setting aside ample time to complete the application process was crucial. Some, such as the UKRI Globalink Exchange Scheme (which I was unfortunately unable to complete given international travel restrictions), may require you to access application portals through a supervisor or institutional account (Je-S in this case). If this is the case, schedule in a meeting with your supervisor to ensure you can get the application uploaded on time!
I would recommend speaking to potential supervisors from the organisation offering the internship. Discussing project ideas with them allows you to understand what they expect of their interns, and whether your work will be a good fit with theirs. This also provides you with an opportunity to talk through their application process and the documents you will be required to submit. Getting to know a potential supervisor in an initial call can also help during the interview process and as you settle into your work with a new organisation, as you won’t be faced with a screen or office full of completely unfamiliar faces.
My experience at the Wales Centre for Public Policy
It was really interesting to learn more about the work of the Centre and how they support policy-making and public service delivery across Wales. Though it was strange not to set foot in their offices, I was made to feel welcome by the team and their support made the virtual experience well worthwhile. Working with the Research Team allowed me to develop my current competencies and consider how I can best apply them in a new team context.
During my time at the Centre I researched agricultural policy in Wales and explored how collaborative working can help farmers achieve their sustainability goals. This involved telephone interviews with farmers and partners of a Sustainable Management Scheme funded group in north Wales. Conducting this research, and producing several outputs, boosted my confidence in delivering on short-term projects. I’d recommend exploring the different dissemination options available for your work – before my internship I had never considered producing a podcast, but thanks to the team and my podcast participants I now have a podcast episode to complement my written outputs!
Your internship experience will vary depending on the organisation with which you are working. However, overall, you can expect to:
- Develop your competencies, particularly in relation to working in a team.
- Develop networks with policymakers, practitioners and other researchers.
- Gain an understanding of how your research might be used in ‘real-world’ situations.
- Finish your project with at least one output, such as a report, which may contribute to your PhD or be used and referenced by your internship host organisation in their work.
I would strongly encourage you to consider completing an internship as part of your PhD. If you have any questions about my own internship experience, you are welcome to get in touch with me (firstname.lastname@example.org / @06aims on Twitter)
Aimee has also written a report detailing the specifics of her time with the Wales Centre for Public Policy, which you can read by clicking here.