From a postdoc: how could supervising a studentship benefit your professional development?

Posted on January 7, 2021   by Dr Rebecca Weiser

Each year, the Microbiology Society awards a number of grants that enable undergraduates to work on microbiological research projects during the summer vacation and provide early and mid-career scientists with the opportunity to gain supervision experience. Over the next few months, we’ll be posting a series of blogs from members who were awarded Harry Smith Vacation Studentships in 2020. This week is postdoctoral researcher Dr Rebecca Weiser, Cardiff University. Rebecca recently supervised undergraduate student Maya Wright during her summer project which investigated bacteriophages as biocontrol agents for Burkholderia plant diseases. 

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iStock/Olivier le Moal
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© Rebecca Weiser

Receiving the Harry Smith Vacation Studentship means a great deal to me. It is the largest amount of independent external funding I have received to date and has given me practice and confidence in writing grant applications. As an early career researcher, it is difficult to devote time to your own research ideas when you are working full-time on another project. This award has allowed me to explore my interest in Burkholderia bacteriophages and gain supervision experience at the same time. It was a pleasure working with Maya and she has generated some preliminary data that I hope to expand on and use in a future grant application. 

The award will enhance my funding track record but also helped me develop other skills that I need to become an independent researcher in the future. Planning and budgeting an 8-week summer project was a really useful experience that also involved considering what was realistic for an undergraduate student (not someone of my career stage) to achieve. Teaching Maya the background to the project, bioinformatics and lab techniques improved my communication skills. Although Maya was an excellent student, she had limited microbiology experience so I had to make sure I didn’t overlook details that might seem obvious to me as a more experienced microbiology researcher. Finally, managing my own workload and overseeing the summer project improved my time management. I am very grateful to the Microbiology Society for offering opportunities like these to early career researchers, it has been a valuable and rewarding experience that I’m sure will benefit my career. 

Find out more about how supervising a vacation studentship student could benefit your professional development here.  

Applications for our 2021 scheme are now open and will close on 17 February 2021. Find out more and apply on our website here. For any questions, please contact [email protected]