PhD Internships: Equipping Researchers for Career Success

Three-month internships further increase knowledge, skills and aspirations of Faraday Institution PhD cohort researchers, and provide industry partners with a route for securing future talent.

The national need for PhD-trained energy storage researchers to work in automotive and other mobility sectors, battery manufacturing, and R&D start-ups, policy, and a myriad of other settings is evident and growing. To support a UK domestic battery manufacturing industry and its value chain there will be a demand for an estimated 4,500 trained researchers in R&D in the UK by 2040. Recent discussions with leading industrial partners affirm that the demand for PhD trained researchers with battery technology expertise, an appreciation for industrial requirements and a breadth of transferable skills is present and will continue to grow.

The unique Faraday Institution PhD training programme seeks to increase the knowledge, skills and aspirations of early career researchers and aims to deliver future industry R&D staffing needs as well as strengthen university research groups in energy storage. The battery industry workforce of the future will need to draw on the skills of all sectors of the community, and as part of its commitment to diversifying and widening the pool of talent initiatives to increase diversity through recruitment and other practices are a central pillar to the Faraday Institution’s educational programmes.

By the numbers
4500Trained battery researchers needed in the UK to support battery manufacturing (2040)
150Newly qualified UK-based PhDs in battery research needed per year to 2025
250Newly qualified UK-based PhDs in battery research needed per year to 2030

Central to the commitment to their professional career development, Faraday Institution PhD cohort researchers have the opportunity to undertake an internship to give them a valuable experience in a different academic, industry or policy making setting. Researchers are encouraged to take a proactive role in setting up their own internships, and are given training in, for example, building their researcher identity, interview technique, and how to gain trust and rapport, to equip them with the skills and confidence to do so. Internships typically last 3 months and take place in the third year of the four-year PhD programme.

The aims of the internships include:

  • furthering the career development aims of the individual
  • increasing knowledge, skills and aspirations
  • giving clarity about next career steps
  • providing insight of a different setting or work environment
  • strengthening professional networks
  • applying skills in a different context

An internship may enable:

  • the opportunity to work with an industry partner
  • access to equipment or facility that would otherwise not be available
  • collaboration with a different academic group or institution
  • exploration of a related area such as supply chain or economic forecasting relating to batteries
  • experience of policy making

Benefits to the internship provider include:

  • working with an experienced Faraday Institution PhD researcher
  • potentially securing future talent for the business, institution, or organisation
  • further develop lasting links into leading battery research groups at UK universities

Examples of types of internship experiences are given below.

Internships in the automotive and battery manufacturing industries

The Faraday Institution has over 50 industrial partners working in collaboration with battery researchers in UK academic institutions, providing a wide pool of organisations that could offer valuable placement opportunities.

Industry internships are proving both popular and valuable to both interns and providers alike. Dana Thompson spent 3-months working with the battery team at Jaguar Land Rover. Read her story here.

Industrial partners the Faraday Institution is working with to provide internships include:

  • AMTE Power
  • Jaguar Land Rover
  • Williams Advanced Engineering

Dana is such a talented young lady and our experience was so positive that we would be very keen to host similar secondments from the Faraday Institution in the future.” Dr Valentina Gentili, Senior Battery Technical Specialist, Cell Technology, Jaguar Land Rover

Being there, meeting everyone, and seeing how fast-paced and exciting industry is has made me realise that this is something I could do in the future.” Dana Thompson, Faraday Institution PhD Researcher, ReLiB project, University of Leicester.

Policy Internships

A number of Faraday Institution PhD Researchers have valued the opportunity to experience working in a policy setting to apply their knowledge and skills in a different context. Louis Dawson, who is focusing on legal aspects of recycling of batteries for his PhD, completed an internship with the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology and has subsequently secured experience working for the Welsh Government. Read his story here.

Policy related internships have been provided by:

  • Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology
  • UKRI Policy Internship at the House of Commons – Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Select Committee

I see myself, be it in academia or in a policy setting like parliament, always wanting to make a real-life difference.” Louis Dawson, PhD Researcher, ReLiB Project, University of Birmingham.

Techno-economic analysis and supply chain focused internships

An appreciation of the complexities of the battery supply chain and the economic context for the battery sector has been the internship focus for some Faraday Institution PhD Researchers. Aaron Wade spent an initial 3-months internship working with Exawatt and has continued to work part-time in their team as he completes his PhD. Read his story here.

Internship providers in this sector include:

  • Benchmark Mineral Intelligence
  • Exawatt
  • Rho Motion

Aaron really impressed the team with his ability to get up to speed rapidly with our methods and principles of technoeconomic analysis, which were well outside his academic experience. He quickly became an integral part of our battery storage team, and has played a critical role in helping to develop our detailed battery cost and performance forecasting models. On the strength of Aaron’s excellent work during his internship, we were delighted to offer him part-time employment from August 2021.” Simon Price, CEO of Exawatt

Academia and R&D start-up internships

Spending time in a different research group or in a start-up research and development setting is proving beneficial to other researchers. Victor Riesgo Gonzalez worked with Lambda Energy for 3-months. Find out about his experience here.

I became aware of opportunities and options that I didn’t realise I had.” Victor Riesgo Gonzalez, PhD Researcher, Degradation Project, University of Cambridge.

We are grateful to all the individuals and organisations who provide internships for the Faraday Institution PhD Researchers.

Could you get involved?

Would you like to partner with us on this initiative? Please contact Fran Long, Head of Training and Talent Development to explore this further.

 

Watch the video to find out more about the success of the first cohort of the Faraday Institution PhD programme: 

Case study published June 2022.

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