DAS Monthly Employability Seminar: Finding Funding in STEM

Posted on

Following the March Department of Applied Sciences Monthly Employability seminar, Sophie, one of our writers, has excellently summarised and captured the essence of the talk delivered. If you are in search for or are suspecting you may need funding in the future, this article is definitely for you. Enjoy and be enriched as you read.

An essential part

Funding. The dreaded F word in the world of science and the topic of the March Monthly Employability Seminar. This talk was hosted by Dr David Fernandez – a primatologist and conservation biologist, and Dr Alex Greenhough – a cancer biologist and principal investigator on projects funded by a number of institutions, as well as being a frequent grant reviewer himself. Both lecturers were well versed in what it takes to be awarded funding, having both received grants from a vast number of various sources.

Places to start

Dr Fernandez started off the talk by explaining the different types of funding available from charities, government bodies and international organisations having various money pots. He then listed the steps for a successful proposal, which, as someone who loves writing lists, is very useful for, and of which I will keep for, any future applications (so that I can satisfyingly tick each section off one-by-one).

Writing a funding bid is all about selling your story. You are probably, and hopefully, extremely passionate about your research proposal and this is more than likely the biggest setback you are facing in launching your project. Use your passion to convince the organisation that this project is exciting, innovative and needed.

Photo by Shane from unsplash.

Things you need

You must have a clearly defined goal that is achievable so funders can easily understand what you intend for this project to accomplish. In addition to this, there needs to be a consistent message throughout; keep your idea simple and strong – don’t let them forget what the project is about.

You also need to demonstrate your ability to prove you can actually conduct the work. Do you have experience on this topic or will you be bringing in collaborators who do? Having experts involved reassures funders that you will be able to achieve what you set out to do. Therefore, if you are just starting out in the research world, using someone who already has a name for themselves will most likely provide you with an advantage. Your budget also needs to be feasible and realistic; make sure to check what can and can’t be covered by the funding and that you can justify every expense you deem as being necessary (you may want to get some insight on this from those who have had experience with funding before).

The final few stages bring the whole bid together by making sure your writing is clear, can be understood by non-experts of this topic, and ensure that you have adhered to the grant application guidelines. This applies even to things that may seem trivial, such as using a specific font size, layout etc. Funding is almost always highly competitive and if you can’t follow instructions, you probably won’t get the funding (first impressions of your application really do matter!). Finally, linking back to the first point, be convincing. You understand why your project is one of the most incredible things in the world, but they don’t, so tell them.

Photo by Clay Banks from unsplash.

A smart approach

Both Dr Fernandez and Dr Greenhough expressed other important factors that are required for a successful funding campaign. One examples of this is finding the right funding body. This may seem obvious, but often projects do not meet all of the funding requirements and so this will waste yours, and the reviewer’s time.

The second top tip was about writing the proposal. These things, like everything in science, take a lot of time. Everything mentioned in your bid has to have a purpose and be completely accurate. There are questions you need to ask yourself: have you met their criteria? Are there any spelling or grammatical errors? Is your proposal reasonable, realistic, and correct? Dr Greenhough reiterated all of these points in his top tips for getting funding and provided us with an insight into how the grants are assessed and why they fail. These were simple, yet crucial, things such as checking if the project has already been done or assessing whether it is unrealistic – such as when someone asked for too little money for their project!

As an undergraduate looking for a Master’s degree, information like this is invaluable. Unfortunately, from personal experience I have found it to be near impossible to obtain funding for a Master’s project. Despite this, I know there will be many times in my life where I will have to spend my evenings calculating costs and filling out forms, trying to persuade people that my project is a worthy investment.

Photo by Andrew Neel from unsplash.

Final thoughts

Finding funding is a long, tedious and potentially frustrating experience. Dr Greenhough touched on the fact that you will get rejections, everyone does, but with everything in life, you have to keep persevering. This is the most important lesson I took away from the talk. Having the structure to write a funding bid is extremely important, but being prepared for reality and rejection is not only necessary, but reassuring to know it’s just an extra hurdle you have to face.

Finally, thank you to David and Alex for taking the time to share their insider knowledge, and to the Department of Applied Sciences for organising such a useful talk.

Thank you for reading.

Written by Sophie Harris

Edited by Jessica Griffith

Sophie Harris


Sophie is in her third and final year at the University of the West of England studying Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Science. She is the creator of Peculiar Pangolins, a blog dedicated to all things pangolins related and has been invited to Uganda to see Chester Zoo’s Giant Ground Pangolin project.

Whilst on a six-month internship monitoring wildlife on a game reserve in South Africa, she fell in love with the world’s most trafficked mammal, the pangolin. After being fortunate enough to see one in the wild, she decided to apply to university, to help these illusive creatures. She was also the creator and President of the Wildlife & Environment Society in my first and second years.

In Sophie’s spare time she can be found in nature reserves, mostly looking for birds to add to her list, or climbing, either indoors or out, depending on the weather.

Note from the editor: Thank you for taking the time to read this article. We hope you feel more informed and assured that whilst the journey to obtaining funding in launch of your project can often take some time, with perseverance, you can successfully secure funding and lift your project off the ground.

As always, we welcome new contributions to our blog, whether it’s by sending us an article or joining our team of writers. If you are interested, please do get in touch with us by emailing ScienceFutures@uwe.ac.uk. You can also connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter

Until next time, take care and enjoy your summer!

Science Futures 2020 – Promoting Diverse Careers in the Sciences

Posted on

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