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The Big Picture

Eve completed a Year in Industry with Phorest, a spin out of the photonics group at the University of York. “I support postdoctoral researchers and Phd students in their research, and specifically to the end of developing a type of next generation biosensor that’s being developed by Phorest. It’s quite a multi-disciplinary environment, so it is interesting being a small part of that. I quite enjoy the biology and chemistry sides!”

“Point-of-care diagnostics and near-patient testing are poised to revolutionise healthcare. Current solutions are too expensive or too cumbersome to be used outside the clinic, and do not meet patient’s needs. Phorest is developing a disruptive, hand-held technology for near-patient testing and monitoring that is sensitive, quantified, multiplexed and cost-efficient.” Phorest

Eve hadn’t originally signed up to do a Year in Industry: “I was kind of fishing between second and third year, for a summer project or something, but this just seemed the right mix of outside my comfort zone and in the direction I want to be while still being attached to physics. I’m very glad that I took that gamble!”

The year in industry has been quite different to being at Uni; “Usually in physics labs, for example, you kind of pursue one goal very clearly but in this case the goal is changing, and it’s more about looking for what the problems are with this platform and for this technology and working to investigate them. It’s a very nonlinear way of investigating or doing science but it is the way that real research kind of works. It’s something that hopefully, one day will have real world applications and will make a real world impact.”

Eve’s Role

The role is split between the office and the lab: “After running experiments in the lab, which generate huge amounts of data,  I’ll spend entire days in the office doing data analysis or writing up results.”

“It’s quite satisfying to be able to be independent and find results and explore things for yourself a little bit. Obviously, I have people saying, ‘this is what you need to look into’ but I have the kind of freedom to look down certain avenues and just go and get that data myself and say, here’s what I found because I can handle the whole thing from end to end.”

Everybody’s working together and collaborating, it was a very friendly place to work.” Being based in York and in a University spin-out provides a good stepping stone between University and the world of work. “It definitely kind of gave a lot of insight into that world.”

The Learning Curve

The physics degree has given Eve a good scientific background which was important for the role; “because it’s so multi-disciplinary, there was quite a learning curve but it was definitely a positive one.”

The placement has also allowed Eve to develop many new skills around using specialist equipment, handling chemicals and being more hands on; “A lot of physics tends to be just kind of theory or data analysis. And I think generally just getting the chance to apply everything that I learnt in my degree up to that point has been good. It’s one thing to learn and take in information but actually getting to practise and do actual research was a good skill to develop. Presenting data was a massive part of things, I presented my results plenty of times and so that definitely kind of helped to build that confidence level.”

Eve’s Impact

“I hope I added something! I think I definitely brought up a lot of areas that need to be improved and maybe pave the way for people in the future. There are actual sensors being used and tested and it is exciting, it is actually getting to the point where it’s being commercially used. It’s great to be able to be a small part of that.”

The Application Process

Eve submitted her CV and then had an interview a couple of weeks later, “then on the day of the interview, I got offered the position!” Things moved quickly after that, switching from starting third year to starting the placement year instead. But the benefit of this being a spin-out and attached to the university made this process easier. “I think it definitely helps that it was in York. If it had been a placement outside of York I probably wouldn’t have applied, because I already had accommodation sorted out here.”

Eve also had the opportunity to do an induction session before starting “so I could get a feel of what the work could be like, and I think that pretty much shut down any kind of worries because I was like, I’m on the right track. This is what I think it is.”

What about Nerves?

“I think I was initially a bit nervous because of how quickly it all came about, but I think that was something that more excited me. I was nervous that it was slightly out of my comfort zone. If I didn’t like it I was now stuck for a year doing something I didn’t like but luckily I think that faded pretty quickly, I realised that this was something I was going to enjoy. It was fun to kind of jump into a new thing.”

Next Steps

Returning to University Eve says, “I definitely feel a lot more prepared for my final year in terms of confidence and experience. It’ll probably be a little weird at first, coming back to being a student and not having the same 9 to 5 routine anymore. But I think it’s definitely given me a lot more confidence and experience. So I think, the same as going into my placement, I’m a little bit apprehensive coming out of it as well. But I think hopefully, that’ll be another kind of quick adjustment.”

Another result of the placement is that Eve is staying with Phorest for her final year project. “I’ll be going back to the same group, I’ll literally be working in the same area, in the same technology with the same people. This custom project definitely suits more the direction I want to go in.”

The Final Word

Would Eve recommend a year in industry? “I realize that my placement is kind of quite unique, because it’s a very small group but in this kind of field in particular I think a placement is a very positive opportunity. It’s something that will inform you of the world beyond third year and bring in a lot of useful skills, so I definitely recommend it.”

It was not Eve’s original intention to do a year in industry but then this opportunity presented itself “I definitely took a risk. And I’m glad that it ended up working out, I guess it definitely could have gone differently. But a year isn’t a very long time in the grand scheme of things. I think even if I had hated it, it still would have told me something, that this isn’t actually an area that I want to go into. So it’s still kind of a good experience.”

And one last tip, “I definitely realised that I like the routine of having to stick to a schedule and work a certain amount of hours in a day. While you’re studying you don’t really know when to start and stop, but I think if I keep up a kind of similar schedule and compartmentalise when I’m studying and when I’m not I think that will definitely help.”

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