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The Internship of a Naked Engineer

By Charis Bronze

Engineer? Yes.
Naked? Not in the way you might think…

Most engineering students are advised to take part in an industrial placement during their studies. This helps to develop skills, network with professionals and most importantly give the experience of a working environment. This is so we’re not just “another engineering grad with acceptable grades who has done some extra curricular stuff,” like everyone else.

When we graduate we want to get a job, right?! We want to succeed. We want to be noticed. We need to stand out from the crowd.

And that’s exactly what I set out to do: to be different… and naked.

The Naked Scientists
My internship wasn’t your typical industry-based placement. It was with a science radio show and podcast called the NakedScientists, based at Cambridge University, but who broadcast across the world. This is a group of science communicators who strip science of its figurative “clothes” to explain it in a simple yet effective way so it’s more easily understood.

the_naked_scientists,_logo.png

I would describe myself as a keen podcast listener. Particular favourites include Criminal, This American Life and The Infinite Monkey Cage hosted by Robin Ince and Prof Brian Cox.

Picture1Me and my pal, Bri. #scienceselfie

So when I found out that the Naked Scientists had a placement programme – I jumped at the chance to apply. I feel that so many people aren’t aware of what engineering is because they don’t understand it, and this was the perfect opportunity for me to learn how to make it accessible.

The Interview
The interview was fast-paced, high pressured and short.

I was interviewed as an expert on a newly published science paper and had to develop an experiment for a radio show. This was with no planning and hardly any time. How was this possible in the time frame I was given?!

Competency-based questions were asked too, but all in all, the interview lasted just 20 minutes. Those short minutes were probably some of the most stressful I had encountered in my life to date, but I found it invigorating. At the time, I had no idea whether I had done well or failed miserably, but I knew I wanted to do more.

The Placement
The placement was two months long and based in Cambridge. I felt as though I had only just recovered from the interview when I was thrown in at the deep end again.

For the first week at least, I felt unsupported. Being plunged into the work was the quickest way to learn, but this did make me nervous. I was expected to produce written and recorded interviews that I had edited each week as well as organising and producing a whole show at the end of my time there.

Whilst I still felt a lot of pressure throughout the studentship to meet deadlines and to improve the creativity of my work; even though I hate to admit it now, being thrown in at the deep end of the pool certainly helped me to swim.

I had some amazing opportunities to meet and interview some hugely successful individuals. I also had the chance to shadow a colleague on one of her pre-recorded pieces at Airbus Defence to meet the engineer working on the Mars Rover. This was definitely one of the highlights of my time at the Naked Scientists as I had the chance to meet Bruno himself! Cue awkward selfie with Bruno, the Mars Rover…

Picture2

My Show
My show was based on electric vehicles and their futures and was a little different to most of the other episodes. My show coincided with a television news piece that BBC Look East were organising to test a Tesla supercar.

I therefore based my show around this Tesla news segment so that it could be used for television and radio. I was given much more responsibility than most students as I had to work closely with the Look East news team to make sure that their reporting was scientifically correct and was given the task of negotiating and organising the free usage of an airfield for the piece.

The pieces I organised for my show included:

  • A face-to-face interview with Matthew Pencharz, the Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy in London about how London’s pollution levels compare to those of other cities around the world.
  • A face-to-face pre-recorded interview with Ben Barratt, a researcher from King’s College London about the technology he uses to measure the levels of pollution we breathe in.
  • A live interview with Peter Cowley, the resident tech expert for the Naked Scientists explaining whether electric cars are up to scratch.
  • The pre-recorded time trial of the Tesla supercar with the BBC Look East team.
  • A live interview with Prof Clare Grey from the University of Cambridge explaining her brand new lithium air battery and how this could affect vehicles of the future.
  • A pre-recorded interview with Alex Schey, CEO and co-founder of Vantage Power – a company retrofitting buses with hybrid diesel engines that dramatically reduce emissions.

Picture3Photo taken from the Tesla filming day

What did I learn?
This internship has given me the confidence to work hard and believe in myself. I have learned that I am a much more organised person now than I ever was before and that you can never dream big enough. Who would have thought at the start of my internship that I would have interviewed the Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy in London and negotiated and persuaded an airfield owner to allow my team to use their property for free?

The internship was a very steep learning curve. I found it challenging yet stimulating, even though I felt that I was just about keeping my head above the water. I’d like to think that my time at the Naked Scientists started and finished in a similar manner: fast-paced, high pressured and short – but totally worth it.

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