Academic and research experience
An area of work experience that might be regarded as a less obvious option is academia. However, if you are thinking about undertaking a research led Masters or a PhD, a vacation placement within an academic department can be incredibly beneficial. Departments occasionally accommodate students but this very much depends on factors such as funding and available support. Research councils and charitable trusts do spasmodically provide funding for research institutions that are prepared to host students seeking experience. A useful resource in this respect is the Nuffield Foundation; they provide information on undergraduate research buraries for scientists who wish to gain summer research experience. Funding amounts and closing dates vary; some opportunities require a lab leader or placement supervisor wishing to apply for a grant to be members of the relevant society or already in receipt of a grant from that organisation. The Royal Society of Chemistry, for example, provides buraries of up to £180 per week for a maximum of 8 weeks but the application has to be submitted by an appropriate supervisor on behalf of the student. The closing date for the RSC scheme is typically during February.
The Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC) provide paid vacation placements at Rutherford Appleton Research Lab in Oxfordshire. Research includes materials and structures, light sources, astronomy and particle physics; consequently opportunities are particularly relevant to physics, engineering and computing students.
There are two interesting programmes in existence that offer students of certain disciplines the chance to gain academic research experience overseas: RISE and IAESTE. RISE presents opportunities for biology, chemistry, physics, earth sciences and engineering students to work with research groups in academic institutions in Germany. The IAESTE programme is available primarily to science and technology students and offers placement opportunities in research instiutions, public bodies and commercial organisations.
If you are interested in gaining academic research experience the key starting point is to speak with someone within your department. Even if funding is not available, voluntary work experience is occasionally feasible and represents an excellent means of enhancing your research skills while supporting the work of the department.