Doing an internship as a History PhD student
Doing an internship as a History PhD student is both a curse and a blessing. It’s a curse in that now, at the end of the internship, I have a lot of PhD-related work to do. Still I am grateful in that, over this past month, I gained invaluable working experience doing this internship.
I applied for a marketing trainee internship at EMBL-EBI, one of Europe’s leading bioinformatics institutes. Located close to my home in Cambridge, it was a great fit. I was a bit skeptical when I sent in my application, as I had no science background other than my knowledge from high school (I still wish I had time to take more biology, chemistry, and physics!). Still, having two history degrees under my belt meant I was adept at learning and communicating information that was outside of my field. Despite my concerns, I was asked to interview and started work about a month afterwards.
Everyone that I met and had the chance to work with were extremely friendly, open, and helpful. It was really nice to do different types of problem solving not related to my PhD — although I quickly noted that the application is the same, in terms of identifying and solving problems efficiently. I also learned a lot about bioinformatics, genetics, and what biocurators do for a living! As an internship, it was very intense, as it really stretched my general knowledge of life sciences and enabled me to engage with people who do science.
My role here at HTTP has been a bit of everything (as my fellow members know), and so I was able to provide useful advice on what I already know about social media marketing to the team with which I was working. In addition, I learned a lot from them about group dynamics, collaboration, and collective problem solving. I also learned further marketing skills, practised my photography at events, and worked on my CSS.
If you are looking to do an internship, at any degree level, having some hands-on experience to do with your own personal interests may be useful. When applying for this internship, I did not fully realize how much working on a project like HTTP can buffer up your CV, showing your employer that you’re not a hermit historian living in a dusty library! It shows your dedication, motivation and commitment to a project to see it through.
While I was an undergraduate, I missed out on internships. I already had my hands full with studying, volunteering, working two campus jobs, and studying abroad in Oxford. As such, this was a useful learning experience that taught me not to underestimate my own potential, whilst highlighting skills to improve for my own career development. Hopefully I am afforded similar opportunities in the future, so that I can work with institutes and companies as great as EMBL-EBI.