Among the benefits of undertaking a science degree is the opportunity to network and connect with other scientists and to learn from experts in the diverse scientific fields. As students, you get to read articles published by authors from across the globe and your recommended textbooks are also written by scientists engaged in all sorts of cool stuff.
Before the days of online networking sites, apps and social media, it was much harder to connect with these leading figures and notable scientists.
What has changed?
We now have the internet and all the notable scientific professional societies have developed platforms where scientists from across the globe can connect, network and collaborate with others who share mutual interests.
Is there any value to being a member of a professional society as a student?
Yes, some of the courses on offer in the applied/life sciences field are accredited by professional bodies e.g. Royal Society of Biology, Institute of biomedical Sciences, Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences etc. For those that do not offer accreditation, there are many other benefits.
Regardless of your level of study or scientific field, it is of value to you as a student to be a member of a professional body. Firstly, it looks great on your CV and can often be a point of discussion during interviews.
Joining a professional society gives you access to magazines about the society, regular updates about events, conferences, volunteering opportunities, job opportunities and grants. Several UK societies offer summer bursaries of grants which allow second year students to undertake summer placements at their institution for about 8-12 weeks. For a student, this provides invaluable experience and many students who are successful in undertaking these internships/placements are able to demonstrate work experience and research experience on their CVs.
Better still, some of these internships lead to opportunities to present at conferences and can also contribute to published articles – imagine yourself as the author of a paper presented at a conference or on a journal article…this is for many what being a scientist is about.
For postgraduate and PhD students, professional societies play an important role in your career development.
Personally, I attribute a lot of my career progress to being connected to a wide network of researchers who I would not have been able to access without relevant professional society networking opportunities.
Several societies offer PhD studentships annually or grants for PhD students who are undergoing hardship or grants for self-funded students who need support. There are also many early career grants to help students at all levels to engage in research or scientific endeavour.
Meeting some of your scientific heroes or role models in the field is always exciting and a good reason to engage with professional bodies. I have met many of mine, I hope you get to meet yours as well through your professional society networks.
Do I need to be an expert to join?
No, many of these societies have different levels of membership starting from the student member category. This is really important as these societies and professional bodies recognise the value of having the future of the science among their ranks.
Students of today are the experts of tomorrow.
What if I don’t want to be a researcher?
Being a member of a professional society is not only relevant to those seeking research opportunities, most societies recognise that and cater for diverse member interests. While some students may not be interested in research, some may be creative or like to run school events etc. these societies welcome all types of members.
But there are many societies, how do I know which to join?
While there are many societies (which is great), for students this can also present some confusion as to which may be more relevant or not. My advice, speak to your personal tutor or your course leader and ask them to recommend a society or two based on your course or your interests. Many of your tutors are already members of professional bodies and maintain their membership.
Helping you decide
I have produced a list of professional societies (not exhaustive) which you can have a look at. If you are a student in the School of Applied Sciences, I would encourage you to chat to your personal tutor or any member of staff you interact with and ask for advice on which societies they recommend.
You may also benefit from an article I wrote years ago on why you should join a society. I include the link here for anyone who would like to learn more.
Enjoy reading and don’t forget to leave us a comment.
This article was written by Dr Emmanuel Adukwu, Deputy Head, School of Applied Sciences. If you have any question about this article or want to write a blog article, get in touch with us.