Placement in a Pandemic

Hi, I’m Isobel, an Aerospace Engineering undergraduate student currently doing a year-long placement for Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). Following on from my previous blog, I wanted to discuss some of the things that have changed for me in my work as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, as well as more generally some of the skills and experiences that I have gained by doing a placement year.

An image of a student sat at a desk and working on a laptop
Continuing to work hard even though I have to stay at home

What has it been like to work from home?

I’ve been rather lucky that the transition to working from home was relatively straight-forward for me. A lot of the work done at STFC is high-level research in the fields of nuclear physics, astronomy and material science, and this often requires the presence of staff on site to run experiments and gather data at our large research facilities and laboratories. However, as an Instrument Design Engineer, my role is almost completely computer based, running simulations of potential designs of instruments and comparing the results using data analysis software.

This has meant that I have been able to carry out pretty much all of my day-to-day tasks easily from home, using my laptop and my broadband to connect remotely to my desktop at work and access all of my files and programs via the internet.

An image of a laptop and screen being used for remote working
The simple setup I have that allows me to work from home

While there were a few teething problems at first in getting this remote access set up properly, I have since been able to keep up well with my workload and make sure that I am still getting as much done as possible despite not being allowed on site. STFC has also made very good use of Zoom (as a lot of people have in the current situation), which has allowed me to have regular meetings with my team and keep them informed of my progress and any challenges I have faced.

Has it been easy to maintain friendships with my colleagues and peers during lockdown?

It certainly has been difficult at times not being able to see my friends and fellow placement students every day at work. But we have worked out ways to stay in contact and make sure that none of us are getting overly isolated during the lockdown.

From sending regular texts and pictures to each other via Facebook, to having our weekly Dungeons and Dragons sessions via Zoom instead of in person, it has been a big help to morale to maintain these interactions and made a difficult situation a lot more bearable.

What have I gained during my year working in industry?

It really has been such a valuable experience to spend a year out on placement, and it is definitely something that I would recommend to anyone who has the opportunity to do so.

Not only have I learned a great deal of technical knowledge in a really interesting field, but I have also developed a lot of my transferable skills, from my analysis and computer coding abilities to my communication and report writing.

Additionally, just having the exposure to a professional work environment has been incredibly useful, and I now have a much better idea of what to expect from life after university. Overall, I have gained a lot of fantastic experience from my placement, and I’m sure it will help me a lot in my future studies and then after that in my career.