Please read this before starting to plan your placement
Although we can offer guidance, finding your PIPS placement is a student-led process. This will give you valuable experience when finding work in your future career.
Important things to take into account:
- Undertake your PIPS placement at a suitable time during the 2nd or 3rd year of your PhD. You will need to formally complete your taught first year before going on your PIPS (marks will be ratified end of September of your first year).
- Your placement must last 60 days in duration. University/PIPS organisation closure days and SWBio DTP cohort activities are included in these 60 days.
- Placements can be full or part-time but student experience suggests that you will get most out of your PIPS if it is full-time. If you are studying part-time, the duration should be calculated on a pro-rata basis.
- It is expected that Annual Progress Monitoring (APM) takes precedence over the placement, therefore, the APM submission deadlines and meetings should be taken into account when deciding on dates for the placement. If it is unavoidable that the APM submission deadline coincides with the placement, it is normally expected that the required work is submitted prior to starting the placement or during the placement by the original deadline. If the APM meeting coincides with the placement, it is the student's responsibility to alert their postgraduate administrator in a timely manner to discuss further.
- Your placement must not be directly related to your PhD project. PIPS are intended to help you understand how your research and professional skills can be used in a more broadly relevant context. Research roles in academia are not appropriate, even in an area unrelated to your PhD project.
- Your placement should provide experience at a level appropriate for a postgraduate student. Placements should be projects that are well planned and managed.
- There are a few pieces of paperwork that need to be completed at different stages of the PIPS process (job description, legal agreement, BBSRC and SWBio DTP PIPS reports – refer to sections below for these documents). It can take up to 3 months to have your job description approved and legal agreement signed by all parties, so please allow extra time for this paperwork to be completed.
- You can carry out your placement at two different organisations as long as the time at both organisations totals 3 months or 60 days.
- You are not allowed to receive a salary during your placement. This goes against the funder's terms and conditions. Instead, you will receive your stipend throughout and either your PIPS budget or your PIPS organisation can provide support for accommodation/travel.
As you will remain a student during your PIPS placement, your stipend will continue as normal. There is also a 'fieldwork budget' available in addition to your student RTSG, to cover travel and accommodation costs associated with your PIPS. Your PIPS organisation may help to subsidise these costs. All costs directly incurred as part of the placement project should be met by the PIPS organisation.
Your fieldwork budget is as follows:
- £1,000 for your PIPS placement – this covers costs associated with accommodation and travel
- £920 for fieldwork – this covers costs associated with fieldwork/conferences.
You have flexibility within your fieldwork budget, so if you underspend in your PIPS budget, you will have extra money to spend on fieldwork/conferences and vice versa. If you exceed your fieldwork budget, you can use your RTSG to cover these costs, but this must be in consultation with your supervisor.
To cover expense costs related to your PIPS placement, please label the activity very clearly as 'fieldwork budget'. If you need any advice or guidance related to accessing your fieldwork budget, please contact your local institutional finance team.
Planning your placement
The SWBio DTP Careers Conference will be held each year at the University of Bath for all DTP students to attend. The conference will take place in June each year, allowing students to start thinking about their placement at an early stage and to help students with organising their placements.The aims of the conference are to:
- Introduce the PIPS concept
- Provide you with the skills to find your placement and support you during your placement
- Provide information about PIPS opportunities
As part of the SWBio DTP, you are expected to attend the Careers Conference each year of your studies. The programme is curated to give you the information and tools that will help you to get the most out of your placement and empower you for your career beyond higher education.
“Students did some really exciting and engaging placements, it really showed what a great opportunity the PIPS can be.”
“Thanks again for organising. PIPS has been such a great experience for me, it's been nice to tell about my experience.”
Once you’ve attended the Annual Careers Conference, you may be starting to get an idea of the type of placement you would like to do. It is now time to start thinking about what exactly you would like to get out of your placement and what sort of experience might benefit you the most. After the conference you should have the confidence and information you need to contact potential host organisations.
Where to begin
- Organisation: Consider the type of working environment and sector you would prefer; small organisation or global corporation? Public or Private sector?
- Role: What type of role would suit your skillset? Do you work best independently, as part of a team, or as a leader?
- Location: Where would you like to live? City or country, home or abroad?
- Timing: When you would like to carry out your placement? (You must agree with your supervisor a suitable timeframe to carry out your placement)
Advertised vacancies can be found in a variety of places, including traditional job websites, institutional career websites and at local careers services. Keep an eye on the SWBio DTP PIPS blog, where all the latest PIPS opportunities can be found (this is updated regularly).
Former PIPS hosts
PIPS hosts that have previously hosted a student can give you an idea of organisation you could contact directly. You can see former PIPS hosts via our Student placement Database and our past PIPS logo cloud.
Applying directly to companies
You are also free to apply directly to companies that you are interested in. You could:
- Send an email directly to a key member of staff at an organisation you are interested in working for. It has more chance of success if you have a name to address your enquiry to. You should attach the SWBio DTP PIPS letter which outlines the scheme (many organisations will not have heard of it before).
- Speak to your local institution careers service. They may be able to provide you with contacts with an interest in PIPS.
- Use contacts you may have secured through networking, past work experience or your supervisor. Networking events are often a good way to meet new contacts and increase your chances of hearing about potential placements—this can be at events, on LinkedIn, or in everyday life.
Searching for a suitable PIPS placement is a student led process, however you should make the most of the careers services available to you at your home institutions (links below). Trained staff are available to provide valuable advice, both for securing your PIPS placement and your future career.
For Students based at Research Organisations, please refer to your registered university's Careers Service, or speak with your local Implementation Group Representative.
A PIPS placement is your chance to try something new and to develop your skills in areas other than research. Remember:The experience is intended to help you understand how your research skills can be used in a broader professional context. Consequently research roles in academia are not appropriate, even in an area unrelated to your PhD project.Here are some examples of the types of placements you could apply for : Read about the past experiences of other SWBio DTP students who have completed their PIPS.
PIPS can be taken abroad, but any extra costs associated with this must be met through your RTSG/fieldwork budgets (after discussion with your supervisor) or via the PIPS organisation. There may also be funding pots that you can apply for through your host institution. It is likely that most students will be able to carry out good quality placements locally.If you are thinking of doing your placement abroad, have you considered the following?
- The cost
- If a visa, travel insurance or heath insurance is needed
- Do I need to alert my registered university to the fact that I am travelling abroad?
You can find lists of international job vacancies, placement opportunities and country-specific career information on GoinGlobal. Each university has its own set of guidelines about studying and working abroad. Please refer to their websites:
For advice and guidance, please view the relevant embassy website. Also consult your PIPS supervisor as they may be able to provide some guidance.
- Needed for a placement outside the UK.
- PhD students are eligible for university travel insurance and we would strongly recommend using this. Alternatively book travel insurance via a reputable company.
When travelling to EU states:
- You will need to obtain a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) that is specifically for studying abroad purposes as a student (Refer to 'UK students going to the EU' section). This will be a paper application.
- This is free and can be obtained through the NHS choices website.
- Entitlement to a UK GHIC is not based on nationality but residency.
When travelling to non-EU states:
- This will vary from country to country so further advice will need to be sought.
- When undertaking placements in the USA – additional healthcare insurance is most likely required.
Bristol Students: University of Bristol have recently made available SafeZone, a safety app to use when travelling overseas.
It is still expected that you complete your PIPS placement during this current pandemic, so flexibility and mitigation needs to be at your forefront when organising your placement. It is also acceptable to undertake your placement remotely, either for the full or part of the duration.
Things that may help with organising and completing your placement:
- If you are planning on undertaking your placement in person, is there a plan B for it to be undertaken remotely if further restrictions are imposed?
- Do your PIPS organisation have a COVID-19 risk assessment in place? It is likely that this will need to be reviewed by your registered university.
- Keep abreast of advice provided by your registered university on undertaking placements. There may be additional approval steps needed if there are tighter restrictions (e.g. approval via your Head of School)
- Look at the Government advice website
- Ensure you have travel insurance in place.
- Check travel and accommodation cancellation policies before booking.
- Recommend looking for organisations that are recruiting either for employees or interns. This is a good sign that they have the capacity to take on new people.
- You may want to consider whether flexible start dates are possible.
- Importantly, be realistic about what can be achieved under these current circumstances!
Before you go on your placement it is essential that you have the following in place:
Legal agreement – this needs to be signed by the relevant person from all three parties (you, the student, your PIPS organisation and your registered university). This is a legally binding document, so please ensure you take the time to read through. Any questions or queries about the agreement, please ask.
I’ve secured my placement, what do I need to do now?
- Fill out a job description this will outline the main purpose of your placement and your key responsibilities. Some sections will need to be completed by the host supervisor.
- Send the job description to the SWBio DTP Hub (email@example.com) for approval in order to ensure the placement will provide you enough scope for professional development and meets the requirements.
- Once suitability is approved, a SWBio DTP legal agreement will be issued by your registered university to your PIPS host who will then need to approve it with their legal team before it is signed. This can take up to 2-3 months so please ensure that you factor in this timescale. This must be signed before you can commence your placement.
- Check with your institution whether you need to complete a risk assessment for your placement.
- If the placement is abroad, look through our 'taking your PIPS abroad' section for advice and guidance.
Exeter students: You will also need to ensure that your contact details on ExeHub are correct when you go on placement and amended to your term time address upon your return to your studies.
Research Organisation based students: you will need to set up paperwork with your registered university.
Student Induction Checklist
Make sure that your PIPS supervisor spends some time with you to run through key things on your first day. To help with this, you can use this Student Induction Checklist as a guide.
Keeping in touch
Within the first fortnight of your placement you will be contacted by the SWBio DTP Hub to see how you are getting on.
While on placement it is your responsibility to maintain contact with your main supervisor (Rothamsted or lead supervisor respectively). It is standard institutional practice for this to be at least once a month. Your supervisor will be keen to hear from you! Contact can be kept by email, in person, virtually or telephone.
For Exeter Students this should be at least once a month and should be recorded in MyPGR. Contact can be kept by email, in person, virtually or telephone.
During your placement you are required to set up a visit with your main supervisor (Rothamsted supervisor or lead supervisor of registered university respectively). This is an informal visit with the primary aim of monitoring your progress and welfare. It may be necessary to obtain the correct permissions from your PIPS organisation to authorise your visitor’s access. To prepare for this visit please complete the visit preparation form.
A visitor's report form will need to be filled out by your visitor and there are some sections you will need to complete ahead of the visit. This will then be retained by the SWBio DTP Hub.
However if your placement is not close to your host institution, this meeting can take place virtually (preferred) or telephone. If the supervisor cannot visit at all then it is the responsibility of the second supervisor (academic supervisor or other lead supervisor respectively).
We normally expect the visit to take place at a mid-point of your placement. However, if you are undertaking multiple PIPS or they are spaced out, please choose a suitable point at which you would find this visit most beneficial. It is also your responsibility to make sure your PIPS supervisor is aware of this visit and what is expected.
Depending on the timing of your PIPS, it may conflict with DTP cohort activities. You will need to make your PIPS host supervisor aware of any such events in advance of the placement.
Although you will not be on campus, you are still a student. This means that you will still have access to all the facilities and services that would normally be available to you at your host institution.
Health and Safety
Whilst on PIPS make sure that you receive adequate information, instruction, training and supervision from your PIPS organisation. If you feel you are not receiving any of these things please get in contact with your registered university as the placement provider could be in breach of contract.
If you have an accident while on placement, you must report this to the SWBio DTP Hub and your registered university immediately.
Due to the short length of the placement, it is not recommended to take holiday during this time. However, if you decide to, please discuss with your PIPS supervisor prior to starting, and this will be captured in the PIPS legal agreement.
University or PIPS organisation closure days and cohort activities are included in the 60 days of your placement. There is not a set length for your holiday but it will have to be agreed with your PIPS supervisor and the extra time added onto your 60 days.
Set personal goals
Some placements may be very structured, whilst others may not. It is a good idea to set some personal goals at the start of your placement to give yourself something to aim for.
These could include:
- Learning new skills that will look good on your CV
- Making contacts within the organisation
- Finding out about roles available for graduate students
- Using your initiative on a project
It will give you a sense of accomplishment once you have achieved your goals and make you more motivated. Remember not to set unrealistic goals that are unattainable!
Create a good impression
How you present yourself at work can leave a lasting impression. Things you need to think about include:-
- respect for your colleagues and your work
- meeting deadlines and carrying out your responsibilities effectively
- maintaining a professional attitude at all times
- dressing appropriately
Have regular meetings with your PIPS supervisor
Having regular meetings may be difficult but it is important to try and uphold. Meetings with your supervisor will allow you to talk about your experience and will give you the opportunity to discuss any difficulties you may be having.
Your supervisor may also be able to offer advice and help you progress and improve as an individual. This is also a perfect time to ask for feedback!
Have a positive attitude
You may well be given tasks you do not find very interesting as part of your internship, such as data entry or filing, but the key is to complete all tasks with equal levels of enthusiasm and professionalism.
Make sure you avoid negativity – do not complain, be rude or appear close-minded. Your attitude to your work will be instantly noticed by your colleagues.
Always be willing to learn
Take every opportunity you get to attend meetings/conferences/events/workshops which will give you the chance to increase your knowledge, network and build working relationships.
Do not be afraid to ask questions
Undertaking an internship is a learning experience and you are not expected to know everything. Seek advice and ask questions when you come across things you do not understand. Checking something you are unsure of before you do it will ensure you complete your tasks to the best of your ability.
Use your initiative
Employers always like to see employees take the initiative and tackle problems themselves. Problem-solving will help you become more confident in your work and you will find your internship more rewarding.
It’s very important to try and network with your colleagues during your placement. They can be a great source of job-hunting advice and can offer you a range of helpful tips on how to progress in your career.
Specific networking sessions can take place at conferences or work events, but do not forget the importance of being sociable each day in the workplace. Having a chat with someone in the canteen, joining a company sports team or attending a work social event will show that you are a good communicator and a team player, skills that are often seen as very desirable by employers.
End your placement on a high note
As you reach the end of your placement remember to show appreciation for the opportunity you’ve been given by the staff at the company. Remember, you may want to contact them in the future for a reference or even a job!
Undertaking a placement may be your first encounter of employment or it may be that you already have some working experience. Either way, please ensure you conduct yourself professionally at all times with an understanding of the standards and expectations of your PIPS organisation.
You should not begin discussions with any potential PIPS host until you are clear about when you are able to undertake your placement. Once you have agreed with your PIPS host to undertake an placement with a defined job description and start and finish dates, you are expected to undertake that placement. It will not be seen as acceptable professional practice to withdraw from either preliminary or advanced negotiations for anything other than genuinely unforeseen circumstances.
Once your placement has finished, the SWBio DTP Hub will contact your PIPS supervisor for post placement feedback.
There are also a few things that you will need to do:
Complete your BBSRC PIPS report
You will be required to complete a report for BBSRC. This is a requirement of your funding. The PIPS placement report is accessed via a link that is unique to each student.
To obtain a link, each student should email PIPS@bbsrc.ac.uk with the text ‘Please email me a link to the BBSRC DTP PIPS Internship Report’ in the subject field. Do check your junk mail if you have not received the form to your inbox. Only the BBSRC will see this report. You are required to complete this within 3 months of completion of your internship. BBSRC have produced a guidance document to help in completing their report and you can also view an example BBSRC feedback report.
SWBio DTP Student Feedback Form
In addition to the report for BBSRC, you will also need to complete the SWBio DTP PIPS report. This is a set of questions to find out about your placement and the experience you had. Some of the questions may be similar to your BBSRC PIPS report but this is retained by BBSRC and not shared further.
Present at the Careers Conference
After completing your PIPS, you will be required to give a short presentation of your experience at the first Careers Conference following completion of your placement. This will be in a similar format to the conferences you have previously attended.
Note: Some PIPS organisations may have certain confidentiality requirements. Please ensure you have a conversation with your PIPS organisation so you are fully confident in what you are able to disclose in your presentation/reports.
Claiming back expenses
Once you have completed your placement, remember to claim back any expenses. Please follow the normal procedure at your institution, clearly outlining that the cost is related to your PIPS placement.
Here are some useful tips from SWBio DTP students after undertaking their PIPS and returning back to their research group:
"Don’t assume you will remember anything – you’ll be in a different headspace after 3 months of doing something else"
"Plan in chunks – returning back to a project as big as a PhD can be daunting after time away"
“Talk to your supervisors, lab mates, etc. about your experience – this is useful for reflection and so they get a better idea of where you’re at now”
“You’ll have learned things about yourself during your placement– use this knowledge going forward – you might think about changing your routine, working style, or how you approach supervision meetings”
“Review your Gantt chart and shift things about if necessary”