Up and Beyond the Labs | From UWE to Space

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Piotr has written yet another excellent article to explore another dimension of science; space. Many scientists dream of doing things on Earth, but if you are interested in expanding your scope and exploring your curiosity, have a read of this article as you begin your scientific journey in space.

The beginning

Biology and Space. Here we go! Launching in 3…2…1…

There is a wide array of disciplines and research areas within biological sciences, and, naturally, there are plenty of career paths that concern themselves with everything earthly. However, there is also yet another path, one that can lead you closer to space and to what may be waiting beyond our habitable planet. Like myself, you may be wondering how one gets from a biology-related course to working in astrobiology or for European Space Agency. Therefore, I will share what I have gleaned from attending January’s Employability Event, From UWE to Space, where Dr Nicol Caplin, Deep Space Exploration Scientist at ESA, shared her own experience in her science journey.

Photo by Richard Gatley from unsplash.

Biology and Space?

A few years ago, I learned about astrobiology for the first time. Any scientist that was described as an astrobiologist appeared to me as some sort of mistic who somehow managed to obtain the title and knowledge that seemed to be imparted within. At the time, I heard little about the discipline, yet I found it intriguing, and I have checked if there is any university offering an undergraduate course in it, yet to no avail. Nowadays, there are still very few dedicated astrobiology courses. However, there are several fascinating PhD programs across the globe. I sometimes happen to mention that I would like to work as an astrobiologist to my friends or family, and what I sometimes hear back spans from ‘Oh, you would like to meet and talk with aliens?’ to my father enquiring about ‘the alien base on the dark side of the moon’ of which he has been informed of its existence by scientists on one of those pseudoscientific documentary series one can find on TV. I then go on to explain what it is that I would most likely do, and a whole new interesting conversation takes place.

Photo by Donald Giannatti form unsplash.

Branching out in science

Astrobiology is a multidisciplinary scientific field and whether you study biological sciences, astronomy, chemistry, or geology, you may be able to find your own niche in this area of work. Nicol studied Environmental Sciences, taking particular interest in plants and radioactivity, and little she knew, she would end up working for European Space Agency (ESA). Unknowingly at the time, certain steps she undertook, enabled her to pursue that path.

Whether you have already set your eyes on the sky and what is beyond, or you’re still searching for what you want from your life and career, I think that Nicol could not stress enough the benefit of making the best of the time you have to complete your degree. Internships were one of the recommendations she made as an option during summertime, as they provided her with invaluable experience. Being interested in plant-related science, she completed an internship with Soil Association, an organic farming charity, in her first year and then with Plant Impact, an agrochemical company in the second year. Another option you might like to consider for your summer is The Summer Scheme, an opportunity to participate in an 8 week summer internship. Not only it will give you a chance to build your skill and confidence, but it is also a paid internship.

Nicol also mentioned another aspect of her career, namely science communication. When studying her PhD, she has decided to pick the Science Communication module, which is great in relation to astrobiology – astrobiology is often a controversial topic, quite complex in its nature and the ability to deliver it to the general public is especially important. Nicol mentioned exciting projects she partook in, among others, Q&A video for school children- Space Rocks, which involved science communication efforts in association with ESA, employing artists and figures from media; and Star Trek convention, where she delivered a presentation about ESA and astrobiology.

Photo by Patrick T’Kindt from unsplash.

Your journey

When it comes to getting your first experience working with European Space Agency (ESA), there are internship opportunities you can read about on ESA’s website, such as ESA Young Graduate Trainees or National Traineeships. However, bear in mind that due to their competitive nature, you may have higher chances to get your spot having completed or nearing completion of a Master’s degree. I do like to think that it is not a rule that is set in stone, and that if there is a brilliant enough mind, they will be able to land their place at such an internship even earlier. Nonetheless, it is certainly an option to consider later as an undergraduate student or aspiring professional.

I have reached out to Nicol after the talk, and she got back to me with a few more tips, putting some of my worries to rest. When starting a degree, especially through a Foundation Year, the prospect of completing it seems dauntingly distant. Nicol reassured me by saying that she herself began her studies with Foundation Year, and similarly to myself, was first in her family to access Higher Education. Being proactive and searching for opportunities throughout the whole studying period will likely yield benefits to those who invest their time and energy.

Photo by Greg Rakozy from unsplash.

Final Thoughts

Considering that astrobiology is so broad, getting experience in many areas will allow you to later put the transferable skills you have gained to your advantage and improve your standings in recruiters’ eyes. Even if you do something that seems unrelated to astrobiology itself, like joining carting or poetry club, or a blogging team, you may still gain skills that could be translated into future roles, such as team working, team management, writing and presentation skills, etc. There are also societies and clubs outside of university that may align with your interests and which you may wish to join, and they are all but an online search away.

If you find yourself not knowing much about astrobiology, or you know someone who is eager to know more, have a look at the following astrobiology primer from NASA: https://astrobiology.nasa.gov/education/primer/ . It outlines current pursuits within the field and is directed at a young scientist who may be interested in this fascinating aspect of science.

Thank you for reading.

Written by Piotr Sordyl

Hello, my name is Piotr (I can assure you it is not as difficult to pronounce as it may seem) and I am a mature, international student on Foundation Year Biological Sciences course. I am originally from Poland, however, Bristol has been my home for over 7 years now (which sometimes makes me stagger when asked where I am from).


I take great pleasure in weaving tales, and so I have been writing and working on ideas for novels. I am interested in neuroscience, zoology, astrobiology, planetary science, to name a few and I intend to use the knowledge gained through my studies to write books, popularizing it to a wider audience.


I run roleplay games sessions for my friends, collaboratively telling stories that become alive in our shared imagination. I am also an aspiring violinist, learning how to take my first steps.

From the editors: Thank your taking the time to read this excellent article from Piotr, a great summary of one of the DAS Monthly Employability seminars. We hope this has piqued your curiosity and expanded your awareness of how much you can do in the sciences.

Please do share with those you think need some inspiration and reach out to us if you would like to share one of your interest on this blog platform. You can get in touch with us via email – ScienceFutures@uwe.ac.uk and also connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Enjoy your Easter holiday and see you next time!

Science Futures 2020 – Promoting Diverse Careers in the Sciences

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Happy new year and welcome to the Department of Applied Science Employability Blog. Our first article was on Sandwich Placements and Internships written by our Associate editor and current MSc Public Health student Jessica Griffith and published in December. On Wednesday, 22nd January 2020 the annual Science Futures fair will be taking place at UWE Bristol, Exhibition and Conference Centre, Frenchay Campus. This is an incredible event and one of the largest careers and employability events in the UK particularly in the applied sciences field.

Who is it for?

The event is open to all undergraduate, masters, PhD and postdoctoral researchers in the department, as well as graduates seeking further careers support. This year, Science Futures will also see students attend from other colleges and Universities. We are expecting students from Weston College, Bath Spa University, Cardiff Metropolitan University and possibly from other institutions. This offers opportunity for networking, developing new friendships and learning from your peers.

Why Science futures?

Science Futures is such an important event in the calendar for students and the department and is at the heart of the student journey. Understanding the diverse career pathways that you can explore as a student is important in decision making whether to continue or change career choices. The opportunity to meet and interact with employers is also very useful to provide a window into what the world of work is really like.

As an undergraduate student, I did not have anything like the Science Futures fair and the closest science recruitment event I remember was the National Recruitment Fairs which were often far to travel to and not subject or field specific. At UWE Bristol, we have the annual Meet the Employers fair every October however Science futures is developed with the field of Applied/Life/Bio Sciences in mind.

What to expect at Science Futures 2020?

The new iteration of the Science Futures fair is designed to enable 1-1 interaction between our students and staff with employers, provide career advice through panel discussions, provide opportunities for networking between current students and alumni and promotion of postgraduate programmes and conversion courses (for students looking to move away from the basic sciences into other fields).

I am really looking forward to our annual Science Futures event this week. It is great to meet so many of our alumni, working for great organisations and companies  who come back to UWE to support our event and they give great advice to our students.
Dr Lyn Newton, Head of Department (Department of Applied Sciences)

Some of the programmes we have exhibiting this year include

MSc Biomedical Science

MSc Forensic Science

MSc Advanced Wildlife Conservation in Practice

MRes Applied Science

MSc Public Health

MSc Environmental Health

MSc Physician Associate Studies

MSc Rehabilitation

Secondary Science PGCE

You can see details of each of the programmes and the entry criteria. You will also get the chance to meet the programme leaders at the event.

Specifically, you will benefit from the following;

  • Expert speakers from different applied science related fields including a lot of our alumni who have excelled in different fields in Science and beyond the Sciences
  • Careers fair with employers and professional societies
  • Wall of work highlighting live opportunities you can apply for

In addition, for students who have attended my professional development workshops e.g. LinkedIn and others, you would remember the discussions about joining a professional society. Being a member of a professional society is very important for all students in the sciences and if you look at the DAS Employability programme (2019-2020) on Blackboard, we have provided a list of suggested professional organisations you could join, with many offering FREE memberships. By the way, many offer fantastic benefits such as grants for conferences, funding for public engagement events, PhD studentships etc.

How can you get the most from the Science futures programme?

  • Use the Career Fair Plus app (Identify the exhibitors and employers you’d like to network with.
  • Be Punctual (arrive on time), and dress smartly (you never know who you might be speaking to on the day)
  • Network (engage) with the exhibitors and speakers
  • Prepare questions you would like to ask the panelists
  • Have digital/physical copies of your most recent CV and be ready to share CV with exhibitors, speakers and guests (not all delegates are exhibitors)
  • Have an up-to-date LinkedIn Profile
  • Create your own business cards (easy to do for cheap – visit Bizay and Vistaprint)

Who are the exhibitors this year?

We have a great list of exhibitors attending in 2020, the largest we have ever had at the Science Futures programme and much more than the national biology/applied science events nationally.

Our exhibitors are listed on the Careers Fair Plus App (here) with some in the picture below…..

Some of the employers exhibiting at the Science Futures 2020

Who are our speakers?

To sum up the quality of our speakers in 2020, you’d need to google them online or look up their profiles online to see how good they are. Our speakers work at great organisations and are very talented individuals. We have two keynote speakers this year – Dr Sabrina Roberts and Solomia Boretska.

Dr Roberts is a Senior Scientific Policy Advisor at the Food standards Agency. The Food Standards Agency is a “non-ministerial government department of the Government of the United Kingdom…responsible for protecting public health in relation to food in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.” She currently represents the UK at EU working group meetings and the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCOPAFF) meetings in Brussels and votes on behalf of the UK in this policy area.

Solomia was a UWE student studying Biomedical Science between 2011 and 2015. Following her degree, she taught herself to code after struggling to find job opportunities and secured a research position at UCL, which led her to an MRes in Neurotechnology at Imperial College London. She is now the CEO and co-founder of Tempo Market, a company that is driven by sustainability to provide easy access to camping equipment when you need it, without the need for storage or cleaning.

You can find out about all the panelists on the Careers Fairs App (Careers Fair Plus). Also, following some of the feedback from students last year, we are trialling out sessions so you can get the opportunity to attend more than one panel talk. You can see the list of the talks below

14:15         Session A – Careers panel discussion I

  • Careers in Sustainable Futures and Sustainable Environments
  •  Careers in Biopharma, Biotech and Health
  • Careers Beyond the Lab Coats & Science
  • *Employer Consultation & Networking (Session for employers and staff only)

15.05 Session B – Careers panel discussion II

  • Careers in Research in Academia
  •  Placement and Summer Internships (Student panel: FROME)
  • Careers Beyond the Lab Coats & Science (Repeat panel)
  • *Developing your Career at UWE Bristol (Research, Teaching and KE – Staff Workshop only)

Science Futures Fair is a fantastic opportunity to engage with employers, alumni and postgraduate tutors to explore what the next steps in your life can be. Whether you know exactly where you’re heading, or just looking for ideas & inspiration, there will be something there for you. Hope you enjoy the day and I look forward to seeing you there!
Dr Antony Hill, Academic Director and Deputy Head of Department

My appreciation goes to the UWE Employer engagement team particularly Imogen Hirst and Zuliza Mackenzie (Placement intern) who have worked tirelessly with me to put this programme together and for their creative and dynamic approaches to enabling and ensuring that Science Futures 2020 is s success.

To all our speakers, employers and to you the students we look forward to seeing you at #ScienceFutures2020 and we hope you enjoy the event.

To follow our updates, you can connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter. Remember, you can also write for us if you have any personal stories to share or any interesting Careers or Employability information.

Article written by Dr Emmanuel Adukwu, Department lead for Employability and Coordinator of the Science Futures event. You can follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter