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Making a difference: Masters student reflects on work experience placement

For five weeks during summer 2018, the CONNECTED network team was joined by volunteer final year student, Katie Stevens, a final year Masters student at the University of Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences, who undertook a voluntary work experience placement.

The network team appreciated the time, effort and dedication Katie put into her work with us, and wishes her well for the future.

Katie supplied the following report of her experiences:

Working at CONNECTED over the past five weeks has been really enjoyable. This summer I aimed to get experience of scientific work beyond working in a lab, and this has opened my eyes to many different career opportunities which is really useful as I’m entering my final year of undergraduate study.

Throughout the five weeks I was given lots of different tasks, and worked with Network Team members Dr Nina Ockendon-Powell, Dr Diane Hird and Richard Wyatt.

I collected lots of information on the main crops, diseases, plant viruses and vectors that are of relevance to sub-Saharan Africa. This will be used as the basis of infographics by the network team.

I then analysed the range of expertise within the network member database using these crops, diseases, viruses and vectors as search terms. I also gathered information on agricultural research organisations in several sub-Saharan Africa countries.

Richard Wyatt provided insight into how our website and social media sites are managed and how to best communicate with current and prospective network members, and with other audiences. I also attended a team meeting on the future plans of CONNECTED, event planning and funding. This showed me how much work goes into strategy and planning which is something you aren’t typically taught in lectures but can be an important part of scientific work.

I found my work valuable as not only was it educational and added to my knowledge of plant disease, but tasks felt like they had a purpose to make a difference. For example, collecting information for infographics that can be used by network members in presentations to colleagues, funders or policy makers to highlight the gravity of plant vector-borne disease, and how the network members can help make a change through their work.

The work at CONNECTED is great as everybody seems to be working towards a fantastic end goal which is to help food security in Sub-Saharan Africa and I’ve learnt you can help contribute to this in many ways, not only through research.