By Kerry Montgomery (Psychology Pathway, University of Sheffield)
Kerry recently completed an internship with The Katie Piper Foundation, and reflects on her experience in the report below:
The WRDTC Company Internship Scheme is designed to give researchers the opportunity to develop research skills whilst providing support to a host organisation to work on specific piece of work. For a small charity the internship was a valuable resource to enable a researcher to work full time on a project. The Katie Piper Foundation has been developing an online peer support forum over the last few years for people living with burns and scars. Following a discussion with the charity services manager the charity thought an internship would be a great opportunity. The internship was an exciting project, to support the charity to launch the first UK online peer support forum for people with burns and scars. My PhD is in the area of visible difference and developing interventions to reduce distress. The internship provided me with a great opportunity to develop my research skills in this area.
The main aim of the internship was to assist in developing the content and testing the online forum. This involved working with IT developers, psychologists, and also with people living with burns and scars who would be using the forum. Throughout my time working with the charity I developed an understanding of how online interventions for people living with long term visible health problems are developed and the specific challenges that this type of delivery brings. I carried out a scoping exercise to identify how forums are developed and managed. I contacted national charities, joined a forum moderator group and reviewed academic literature. I then had to put the findings into a report for charity trustees which outlined the forum management strategies we had chosen and our rationale for selection, using examples of how other charities operated. Writing reports for trustees was a useful exercise for me as it allowed me to practice writing reports for funding requests. During the internship my supervisor recommended that we evaluate the usability of the forum so the internship also involved putting together a research proposal to do this. The proposed evaluation has led to my supervisor and I setting up a new collaboration with a colleague at the University of Nottingham. This should enable us to provide detailed feedback on the peer support platform and may also enable us to seek further funding bids in collaboration with The Katie Piper Foundation to extend the peer support platform.
I would definitely recommend an internship to PhD researchers, it has been a valuable experience which has enabled me to develop skills which are not only highly transferable to my PhD but also has provided me with the opportunity to gain additional skills as working independently as an applied researcher. Good support is crucial and I was very well supported during my internship by the charity and my academic supervisor. Working in a busy charity allowed me to see how charities run day to day and the challenges they can face. This was a project I felt very strongly about, and I felt a sense of achievement meeting the internship aims.
ESRC-funded PGRs can apply to the WR DTC for funding under the Company Internship Scheme (see WR DTC administration guide).
A PhD Student Internship Scheme is also available at Sheffield.
PGRs in York are eligible to apply for part-time opportunities offered by the Student Internship Bureau.