A Queen’s University Belfast student is gaining international experience and new skills this summer on a remote internship with the British Council’s IAESTE programme.
IAESTE (International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience) is the largest global mobility programme for STEM students in the world. In Northern Ireland it is funded by the Department for the Economy and delivered by the British Council.
Caroline Campbell recently completed her final year of a biomedical science degree at Queen’s University Belfast. She had planned to take up an IAESTE internship at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas over the summer. However, Covid-19 restrictions meant that she was unable to travel to the USA.
Instead, Baylor College offered Caroline a structured nine-week remote internship involving virtual scientific research into breast cancer.
Caroline, who is from Coalisland in County Tyrone, had never spoken to anyone from the USA before starting her remote internship. The opportunity has allowed her to virtually network with leading US academics involved in biomedical research.
Over the course of nine weeks, Caroline has been participating in daily interactive seminars as part of Baylor College’s SMART summer programme for undergraduates. Topics have included neuroscience, genetics, immunovirology and infectious diseases.
She has virtual weekly meetings with her supervisor, Baylor College professor Dr Jeffrey Rosen, and attends daily online research discussion groups with students from across the USA.
Caroline Campbell said: “This experience has nurtured my love of science and exposed me to the latest research techniques and breast cancer breakthroughs. I have heard from a range of academics who have shared their personal stories of how they got into science. I will be graduating this summer and these positive stories have given me a real boost. It is also interesting to get an insight into the American perspective on professional development. I can see myself making use of the tips I have received on things like informational interviews and developing a professional web presence.”
Caroline’s remote internship comes at a time when many organisations are shifting to new online ways of working in response to Covid-19.
A further seven students from Queen’s University Belfast have participated in Baylor College’s remote seminar series.
Jonathan Stewart, Director of the British Council Northern Ireland, said: “It is fantastic to see how the prestigious IAESTE programme has adapted so quickly in the current circumstances to still provide quality opportunities for our university students to gain an international experience. The remote internships help to provide Northern Ireland students with new technical skills while also experiencing a different culture and ways of working from a US employer.”
Economy Minister Diane Dodds said: “International experience and cross-cultural skills are increasingly sought after by employers, and remote working is likely to become more common. I am delighted that IAESTE has responded to current challenges and continues to offer Northern Ireland students the chance to develop professionally and boost their employability prospects through remote internships.”
This summer 15 students from Northern Ireland are undertaking remote internships with organisations in the USA, India, Bangladesh and Poland. Their subject areas include biomedical science, business and marketing, computer science, aerospace engineering and chemical engineering.