Research Internships Vs. Summer Studentships

Ever wondered what is the difference between a Research Internship and a Summer Studentship? In this post, Laura Riggall answers this question highlighting her experiences of both.

Laura RiggallBoth internships and studentships within the Faculty of Biological Sciences are fantastic opportunities to participate in; by completing either (or both) you can gain and improve a wide range of key skills, absorb new knowledge, push yourself to do things you haven’t done before, and overall boost your employability and credibility. So what exactly are the differences between internships and studentships, and what can each add to your CV? This article will define both internships and studentships, discuss what is available, and give examples of both by describing the projects I participated in.

What is an internship?

An internship is a temporary position within an organisation, whereby the intern gains skills, experience, further understanding and to boost employability, in exchange for conducting work. An internship can lead to a job offer by the same company, as interns have already gained experience, understand the workings of the company and require less training. Internships can be paid or voluntary, and range in time commitments, from being flexible to full time work. Within the Faculty of Biological Sciences, internships are completed during term-time. My internship looked great on my CV, and was brought up in my studentship and placement interview competency questions!

Available internships

Within the Faculty of Biological Sciences a range of educational and curriculum enhancement internships are available. These can be found under the Biological Sciences Undergraduate School area via the Portal. The internships on offer vary, and include public engagement and in vivo sciences internships, faculty initiatives and more, and most are paid. To apply, an application form is provided. Here I stated the internship I wanted to complete, highlighted the particular skills and attributes I had that would make me an ideal intern (innovation, independence and team working skills, as well as IT skills – especially good for the internship I wanted), as well as what I hoped to gain.

My research internship

During my first year I was an intern, and during my second year an intern supervisor, for the project PRELO: Podcasting Research to Enhance Learning Opportunities, a novel internship that aims to record internal and external research seminars and publish them so that students and staff alike could use the podcasts as a learning tool, or simply for interest. PRELO is the first scheme of its kind within the faculty aiming to build a library of material. Currently, PRELO has recorded a variety of seminars, from animal rights to cancer research to sports performance enhancement, and the project is on going with the library of podcasts constantly updated.

What is a summer studentship?

A summer studentship is a position available over the summer vacation within an organisation. Most studentships within the faculty are laboratory-based projects, with some others requiring work within hospitals or to perform literature-based research. A studentship is a chance to perform academic research, and to greatly boost skills, learn new laboratory and analysis techniques, and be part of a research team. A studentship will boost your employability and make you a very desirable candidate for postgraduate study. Studentships are full time, and as a scientific research body funds projects, a salary is provided. Again my studentship was great for placement interviews, and will almost certainly be influential when I begin PhD applications!

Available studentships

The faculty newsletter will alert you to available studentships. The application procedure for studentships varies to that of internships; I submitted a CV and cover letter, and was subsequently chosen for interview. Again, as with internships, I highlighted in my cover letter why I wanted to complete a studentship, what I would bring to the project (passion, fresh ideas), the skills and experience that made me suitable (previous lab experience and my internship), and what I hoped to gain from the project (research experience, new skills and laboratory techniques).

My summer studentship

I researched the project ‘Identifying and Promoting Neurogenesis in the Spinal Cord’, the aim being to identify new cells within the spinal cord, what cell types these new cells become, and consider how we could potentially manipulate this process. This project was based on novel research in neuroscience; by understanding neurogenesis we could ultimately manipulate cell regeneration to treat disorders such as multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury, therefore establishing this area of research of great importance.


Overall, internships and studentships are excellent opportunities to participate in. Not only will you develop personally by gaining new skills and add to your experiences, you will bring something new to the project and really make a difference to the department the project is based in, and to the faculty overall. You will particularly boost your employability and postgraduate potential: both were influential in gaining my industrial placement, and I am certain both will boost my PhD applications. To conclude, keep your eye out for the opportunities available, and make sure you get your applications checked by your tutors and by the Careers Centre.

If you are looking for some further advice about research internships or summer studentships or need help with the application process, remember to use the Careers Centre drop-in.

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Filed under Advice, Develop your employability, Work Experience

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