Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Applying for your own summer research funding

Some organisations offer small bursaries to enable undergraduates to work in a research laboratory during summer vacation. Successfully applying for your own funding looks impressive on your CV. Here are some funding ideas:

· University of Edinburgh - check Scholarships & Funds via College & Schools - (MyEd login). Find a potential supervisor and write a proposal yourself (often with help from the supervisor). College Scholarships are good for summer research funding.

· The Student Experience Grants from UoE are one-off contributions of up to £5,000 to support innovative projects that will enhance students’ social, academic, intellectual, entrepreneurial, sporting or cultural development. Summer lab research is eligible for funding (though need to demonstrate benefit to others) and any current student can apply. Twice yearly deadline.

· Learned Societies and Research Council vacation scholarships/internships e.g: 
Royal Society of Chemistry Analytical Chemistry Summer Studentships for research 
Royal Society of Chemistry Marriott Bequest funding for internships in science journalism. 
Carnegie Trust
Biochemical Society
Medical Research Scotland
Royal Society of Biology - easy to navigate and the funding opportunities listed are not all strictly biology related

For many Societies, you need to be a member to apply for funding.  For some funders you need to be second year or beyond in your degree. The bursaries are administered in myriad ways - sometimes it is YOU who applies once you have found a willing academic (eg the RSC), sometimes it’s the participating academic (eg Medical Research Scotland).

Sometimes you will have to come up with your own research proposal, but the academic will usually be willing to help (if you ask nicely).  There is advice on the process of writing research proposals on the Prospects website (UK centred, aimed at PhD candidates - just need to scale it down a bit for undergrad projects) and also the Northwestern University website (USA centred, but same structure, and aimed at undergrad projects).

Thursday, 21 November 2019

MSc + PhD studentship at Warwick - fully funded

MSc + PhD:
Warwick’s Medical Research Council-funded DTP in Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research - Apply by 28 November  

The following studentships are available for September 2020 entry:

·         Molecular, Cellular and Tissue Dynamics
·         Microbiology and Infection
·         Applied Biomedical Technologies
·         Artificial Intelligence and Data Science
Are you interested in a funded four-year studentship in biomedical research including a one-year MSc course that would provide interdisciplinary training for your PhD, along with research projects in two labs?  Then the Warwick MRC DTP in Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research may be the programme for you.  We are now recruiting for September 2020 entry.

Key features of the programme
You will undertake an MSc year with two terms of taught modules (including frontier methods in biomedical research, physical biology of the cell and programming) and two 11-week lab projects. This is a fully-funded programme, including fees, stipend, consumables and personal conference allowance.  You will also be able to apply for additional funding for high cost and specialist training. You will be part of a friendly and supportive community of MRC DTP students, with regular DTP events such as visiting speaker seminars, skills workshops and student conferences.

Find out more
·         MRC DTP website
·         Funding
·         Microbiology and Infection

Apply by 28 November 2019!  If you have any questions about this programme please email

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

RAEng Engineering leaders scholarships - £5000 for your own personal development!

RAEng Engineering Leaders Scholarship
The Engineering Leaders Scholarship is granted by the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) to students of engineering and related subjects (e.g. maths and physics), that have the potential to become leaders in the engineering industry (they aren’t looking for the finished product). The benefits of the scholarship include:

  • £5,000 over three years for your personal development
  • Entering a network of successful and talented engineers - opportunities for mentoring
  • Past ELS awardees have been to Silicon Valley or found internships in Kenya through the Academy's network
  • ordinarily resident in the UK and eligible to pay 'Home' fees
  • in year 2 or 3 of a 4-year degree
  • in year 2, 3 or 4 of a 5-year degree

***Last year 5 Edinburgh engineering students were successful in gaining a scholarship!  A total of 35 scholarships were awarded across all UK universities***
To apply you must be:
The application deadline is 4pm on Monday 13 January 2020.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Patent Attorney applications and interviews

If you are thinking of applying for trainee patent attorney positions, the information below might be of use to you (taken from
They have good guidance on CVs and applications, - see here.
INTERVIEWS: The main questions during the interview will be specifically related to why you would like to enter the profession, and why the particular position on offer is of interest to you. To make the best impression to the interviewer, try and make the answers you give as personal as possible and not something that you have read on the internet. Interviewers want to hear something different, rather than the same answer they have heard many times before. Below are a list of questions that are likely to come up during the interview:
  • Why do you want to be a patent attorney / trade mark attorney?
  • What are the typical duties of a patent attorney / trade mark attorney?
  • What is the examination process of becoming a UK/Chartered Patent Attorney and a European Patent Attorney / Registered Trade Mark Attorney?
  • When/where did you hear about the profession?
  • What were the positives and negatives of your degree?
  • Explain some of the projects that you worked on in more detail…
  • What interests you about the position with…?
  • Why are you interested in working in this location?
  • What do you know about the company?
As always, if you have an interview coming up, try and book a practice interview in the Careers Service beforehand. We have loads of resources on our website about interviews, as well as Interview Trainer on MyCareerHub. Interview Trainer lets you video/audio record yourself answering selected questions, then you can cringe while you play it back to yourself, and get some generalised feedback at the same time.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Train to be a chemistry teacher - £28k bursary

The Royal Society of Chemistry are awarding £28,000 tax-free funding to 130 talented individuals entering chemistry teacher training in England in the 2020/21 academic year. Note that Chemical Engineering students are usually deemed to have enough Chemistry from their degree to teach it.

Applications open on 31 October 2019 and will close on 26 July 2020. Its a a rolling application process, however 26 July 2020 is the final date for applications for the next academic year. You can apply at any time in the year, but remember the number of scholarships is limited, so it may benefit you to apply earlier.

This Initial Teacher Training Scholarship scheme is run in partnership with the Department of Education.
Note: It's as clear as mud regarding the residency eligibility: The Get into Teaching website states:  

To receive a bursary or scholarship you must be entitled to support under the Student Finance England criteria. Residents of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will need to be entitled for support as set out by your country’s student finance body (Student Finance Wales, Student Awards Agency Scotland or Student Finance NI). Both elements will be assessed by your teacher training provider.

I think this means that if you are say, Scottish and training in England, SAAS would have to pay something towards your funding and the RSC make up the rest. You also have to reassure them that you have every intention of staying in England to teach after you qualify (but they cannot demand the money back if you don't!). 

For all queries relating to RSC Teacher training scholarships
+44 (0) 1223 438326
Send us an email

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

PhDs in industry - the UK, Europe and beyond

Around this time of year, many students start thinking - Industry or PhD? PhD or Industry?  How about a PhD IN Industry? It's a lot more common than you might think, though it can be hard to find out exactly how to go about it.

For Engineers, a good starting point would be the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and their industrial doctorate centres. Some are flexible with the undergraduate degree they accept eg a life/physical sciences degree is fine for Systems Approach in Oxford, or Bioprocess Engineering at UCL.

For Chemists, The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Industrial CASE PhDs are a good starting point - - there is a list of some of the industrial partners including GSK, Unilever, Nestle, AstraZeneca, Croda.

You can also get industry PhDs in mainland Europe - particularly France, Germany, Spain and Sweden. Here is a map that links to the relevant organisations in each of these countries.  In France, for example it is CIFRE, though the CIFRE site does not say anything particularly useful about the PhD opportunities available. However, looking on Indeed France was fruitful. Searching on "CIFRE" there yielded loads of opportunities.

Alternatively, you could find good universities for PhDs in UK, Europe and beyond using FindaPhD  - then you can narrow down which ones have industrial input just by reading the description. Some countries are keener on industry based PhDs than others - eg Australia is forward thinking on the subject, while there is little information on industry based PhDs in USA (perhaps because the first year or two of an American PhD consists of taught courses with exams).

For further information on the industrial PhD scene in the UK, please see my previous blogpost on standard PhD/CDT/DTP/iCASE/CTPs.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

The Pharmaceutical Industry - lab careers AND non-lab careers.

If you think you would like to work in the pharmaceutical industry but just do not know in what capacity (and there are loads of different areas), here are two careers webinars from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) that you might find interesting.....

1. Lab based roles in the pharmaceutical industry

2. Careers outside research in the pharmaceutical industry

Just an hour each and you get a good overview from both sides of the street.

Also, GSK have a short interactive quiz you can try, to try to find the most suitable role for you within GSK, depending on your skills and interests. Worth a try to get you thinking, but don't take it as gospel, there may be other roles that suit you, not just the ones that the quiz suggests.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Case Study - chemical engineer - nucleargrads

Heather Patterson
MEng Chemical Engineering 
University of Edinburgh 2016

What did you do immediately after university?
I graduated with a Master’s in Chemical Engineering in 2016. I originally took a year off to go travelling, whilst applying for jobs, without much of an idea of what I really wanted to do. I then came across the nucleargraduates programme, which offered the flexibility and variety I was looking for.

Brief overview of nucleargrads?
nucleargraduates has been designed and created by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). This is a public body set up by the Government to ensure the safe, accelerated and affordable clean up of the UK’s civil nuclear legacy. nucleargraduates is wholly funded by organisations from across the UK nuclear industry. Graduates are paired with one of these organisations prior to starting the programme. Chemistry and Chemical engineering graduates are encouraged to apply.

The training?
The nucleargrads programme consists of several ‘secondments’ carried out in different companies across the nuclear industry, so I can’t really describe a typical week, as it’s different for everyone. You first start at your ‘sponsor’ company (mine is the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA)) for the first 8 – 9 months and then you move on to other companies for the remainder of the two years. I spent time at Magnox (a company owned by the NDA which is responsible for decommissioning old Magnox nuclear reactors), Frazer-Nash Consultancy (where I was able to do some work with a non-nuclear focus), and finished up my time at EDF working on the new nuclear power plant being built at Hinkley Point C.

What did you do on the secondments?
The nature of my secondments has varied. At the NDA, I worked on mostly strategy development with no technical work; at Magnox I got the opportunity to work on process engineering & environmental work important at nuclear sites; at Frazer-Nash, the work was purely technical and varied (I learnt how to use so many new bits of software); and at EDF, the work was more chemistry focused, with an engineering element. I’ve therefore used various parts of my degree at work, but I’ve really been given the opportunity to learn on the job.

How does nucleargrads support your continuing professional development?
As a nucleargrad, you get to manage your own Continuing Professional Development (CPD) budgets, outside of the ‘Core Training’ (think Commercial Awareness, Intro to Project Management, Leadership skills training etc) that all grads are mandated to do. For example, I’ve gone to Berlin for a conference, become a Mental Health First Aider, and taken online IChemE courses. On top of this, there are two other significant parts of the graduate scheme. One is the ‘SME Challenge’, where we in teams had to set up a small business and run it over the course of the scheme. My team made a children’s book, which turned out to be extremely worthwhile but stressful at times. The other significant part is the International trip, which every cohort of grads gets to go on. Our cohort went to Ukraine & visited Chernobyl, which was an amazing experience & reinforced the importance of safety in our industry.

What are the best parts of the job?
The best parts to me are the flexibility and the variety but this may not be ideal for everyone. The camaraderie between the grads is also a huge plus.

And the worst?
At times, the workload can be quite high with all the extras that the programme has to offer, and occasionally the placements can be lacklustre – especially if your new line manager isn’t well prepared for you (but this could happen anywhere and avoidable if you plan well ahead).

With your crystal ball, what is the future for nuclear energy?
The nuclear industry is always looking out for new people, especially with the huge amount of decommissioning work being carried out at Sellafield (they’ll be decommissioning for the next 100 years or so!), HPC being built and the prospect of other new plants at Sizewell and elsewhere. For anyone wanting to get into the nuclear industry, there are many different routes – not just nucleargraduates. My advice if you want to get involved is to just be flexible, do your research (look into the Young Generation Network (YGN) for example), and apply to different nuclear companies directly, not just nucleargrads.

Why do you think you were successful in your application?
The grads in my cohort are hugely varied in terms of personality, work and life experiences. So I can’t pinpoint any one thing that got me the job over anyone else. I will say that nucleargraduates really values soft skills as well as the technical stuff, probably more so. I think that if you have a variety of experiences that you can pull from (be that academics, societies, work experience etc), you are a good communicator, aren’t afraid to ask questions and are genuinely interested in the industry, you have a great shot of getting a spot on the grad scheme.

Note: nucleargrads recruit a wide variety of scientists and engineers - there are further Case Studies on their website eg CHEMISTRY, ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE and (coming soon) CHEMICAL ENGINEERING

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

CMS - international law firm - keen to attract non-law graduates

I went on an employer visit to law firm CMS (Edinburgh and worldwide) a couple of weeks ago. They were keen to emphasise that they want to recruit non-law students (they will put you through training) to work as lawyers in the firm. Below is a summary of my findings.

CMS previously called Cameron McKenna, merged two years ago with Navarro Olswang to become CMS, international law firm. 6th largest in the world by head count, more than 8000 staff.

Sector specialisms: Energy, Financial Services, Infrastructure and Project Finance, Lifesciences and Healthcare, Real Estate and Technology, Media and Telecommunications. Really big on Technology – clients are blue chip companies, but also oversaw a technology deal for NHS. Have a few specialists in tax and intellectual property, but don’t have training schemes for them, only for law.

Diversity: Really want to broaden demographics and are keen to attract non law graduates. The aim is 50:50 law:non-law, and can meet this in England, but difficult to reach this target in Scotland. They mentioned that career-changing engineers and scientists do very well there as they have implicit understanding of both client needs and analytical skills. Not hierarchical (and I did witness evidence of this when I was there), and believe they are more supportive of their staff than most other global law firms. Also have a 6 year (studying for the Solicitors Qualifying Exam 1& 2) apprenticeship scheme in partnership with the University of Law. This is for school leavers, non law grads and career changers. Only available in Sheffield and London in 2019 but will expand in future.

Method of Recruitment: They have a paid one week Easter course called First Steps for students in 1st and 2nd year - this is not compulsory to gain a training contract. Then they have “The Academy” which is a paid 3 week summer course for 2nd (England), 3rd and 4th years. They do not recruit graduates directly, only through the Academy. The Academy is actually compulsory for all – graduates (law and non-law), apprenticeships, career changers. The first week is in London, weeks 2 and 3 can be throughout the UK.

Numbers: From around 2000 total applications (for First Steps, Academy or Apprenticeships), they all go through same selection. 1500 will get through the application form, 600 will get through the Critical Thinking test (Watson Glaser), 300 will get through the video interview and progress to the Assessment Centre. From this 300, around 225 will be made an offer of some kind (either First Steps, Academy, Apprenticeships). Approximately 100 of the 225 will be put forward for the Academy and nearly all (ca. 95 of the 100) will be offered the training contract at the end of the 3 weeks.

Funding: If offered a training contract, get the professional diploma funded (if you already have the diploma, you get your fees reimbursed). 

Scottish non law graduates: Scottish non-law graduates need to undertake their training contract in England/Wales, as CMS do not support the Scottish 2 year Accelerated Law degree + one year  Diploma in Legal Practice (DLP), only the England/Wales one year law conversion CPE/GDL + one year Legal Practice Course (LPC).

Scottish Law graduates can have a CMS training contract anywhere in UK, undertaking either DLP or LPC.

Recruitment Stages (for all):

·       Application Form – no direct skills questions, only space for work experience, interests, university etc. Need to demonstrate within these that you have:

1.     Attention to Detail
2.     Initiative/Creativity
3.     Client Focus
4.     Commercial Awareness
5.     People Skills
6.     Planning & Organising
7.     Drive & Resilience
8.     A passion for CMS
Also ask about current issues in law, and the attributes a good lawyer needs to have.

·       Critical Thinking – divided into 5 sections. CMS (and many other) law firms use the Watson Glaser test. Can practice on Need around 75% to pass.

·       Video: Written questions appear on the screen (6 in total). Given 1 minute to prepare and 1 min to record. Video cuts you off after 1 minute. Cannot delete and re-record.

·       Assessment Centre: 45 minute interview with partner (competences and strengths described on website). Written case study (might be current issues in legal sector), followed by discussion with partner. Group exercise (4 or 5 candidates) + panel presentation. Meet trainees (informal but they ask you questions like “What would your superpower be” “Who would you like to get stuck in a lift with”) and they are asked their opinion of candidates. Office Tour. Offered First Steps/Academy/ Apprenticeship if successful.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

International Quant Championships - report by chemistry student Matt Markham

Matt Markham, now in his 3rd year of a Chemistry degree here at Edinburgh decided to do something a bit different recently and entered a "Quant" competition. He didn't expect to get very far but ended up coming 2nd in the whole of the UK. A great example of pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone and trying things out for size. You might want to think about doing something different too-  after all, what's the worst that could happen?

  • How did you hear about the International Quant Championships competition? My flatmate is a computer science student and he showed me an email he had received -  It was a circular inviting students to take part in the 2019 International Quant Championship (IQC), organised by WorldQuant, a hedge fund which specialises in quantitative trading. I decided to give it a go!
  • What is Quantitaive Trading? Quantitative trading is buying and selling of securities based on computer pricing models. The competition involved making, testing and submitting these models. Higher scores were awarded to ones that made more money, were consistent in their returns and traded with a lower frequency. The competition ran through exam season, ending just before my final exam.
  • Was the competition time-consuming in the first instance? It seemed an interesting opportunity and so for the next few weeks I made algorithms, fitting the time in where I could in the evenings alongside revision for my second-year exams. It was only an hour here and an hour there initially but previous experience in similar areas allowed me to quickly become familiar with the platform. I’d previously used Quantopian a bit, a platform for creating trading algorithms using the Python programming language and had some other experience recreationally using Python.
  • Were you expecting success? I ended up focusing more on the exams and the competition was at the back of my mind as the first stage came to a close, I assumed I hadn’t made it through, having only joined halfway through the competition. It wasn’t until a week or so later that I got an email through congratulating me on making it through to the second round. If I remember rightly it was about the top 200 or so teams from the UK had made it through to the second stage. This time I decided to really give it some effort.
  • How did you prepare for the next stage? I picked up a book - The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham, and crawled through investing pages on Wikipedia and Investopedia  as well as using WorldQuant’s own learning resources to improve my knowledge base. For the next month or so, I committed to producing as many alphas as I could. Working a full-time job and using their platform, Websim, in the evenings. I slowly saw my score improve and I crawled my way up the leader board. When the out of sample testing had come through in the following weeks, I had moved through to sixth place on the U.K. leaderboard.
  • What happened at the Final? The next challenge was to present three of my algorithm ideas to WorldQuant executives at the national final, held at the Lansdowne club in London. It was held on a Wednesday, which fell in the middle of a weeklong family holiday in France. With some apologies to my parents, I booked a set of return flights to London and put together some slides both before and during the holiday. The final was exciting, but I was quietly confident. I figured that most teams would get bogged down in the technicalities of the code they had written and that instead I should be focusing on the broader ideas which had inspired each algorithm. I had 3 slides, one for each algorithm. Each with a chart and almost no text to avoid the age-old trap of reading from the slides.The judges seemed to be impressed, and I was awarded second place.
  • How did chemistry help? I think being a chemistry student helped me during the development process. The goal was to create algorithms that were unique in their approach and the first two years of my degree had provided me with analytical ability but allowed for a fresh perspective when thinking of original ideas for algorithms.Quantitative finance seems a natural fit to people working within chemistry. The degree focuses heavily on data analysis and this translates well to looking at pricing and stock data, as well as cultivating the manner of thinking required.
  • What were the other contestants like?  Most were economic students (some who now work at investment banks), as well as computer science, but also including a surprisingly high proportion of chemistry students.
  • What next? There’ll be an IQC 2020. WorldQuant plans to advertise directly to chemistry students this time and it would be great to see more participants from Edinburgh.