The first step to encouraging new generations into the sector is making them aware of the wealth of career opportunities that exist.

The SAIC Summer Internships programme aims to do exactly that. Facilitated by ScotGrad, in collaboration with Skills Development Scotland and AGCS (Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services), it gives life sciences students the chance to spend a three-month paid internship with Scottish aquaculture businesses large or small – or with SAIC itself.

As an intern, you might work on one project or be tasked with a range of activities. Likewise, you could be desk-based or out in the field. Each experience is different, dependent on the hosting organisation. All however, offer an insight into some of the many roles on offer.

Apply for 2018
Interested in applying for an internship – or hosting an intern – over summer 2018? Applications are likely to open at the end of 2017, with a deadline of end of January 2018. Email info@scottishaquaculture for more details.

Meantime, why not read the experiences of some of our 2016 interns below.

Changing perspectives and career paths, Evelyn Chan

It’s amazing how 12 weeks can change your perspective of an industry and perhaps your career path. That’s what happened during my internship with the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC). 

I felt very honoured to be selected for a ScotGrad Life Sciences Internship with SAIC.

Starting with little or no understanding of aquaculture, I gained a wider perspective of the industry as a whole, the Scottish sector and how SAIC is involved.

The first three weeks were intense, filled with project meetings, Board meeting activity, career talks and Aquaculture UK – an event attended by industry, academia and regulators to share knowledge of the key issues facing the sector and work towards the strategic goals.

I then travelled with two of the SAIC team members to the Highlands area to visit some industry partners. Planning such a trip, including the different site visits, might sound simple enough but I had not done it before so it was a real eye-opener. So too were the visits themselves. We went to a feed plant, a processing plant, fish and mussel farms, putting the supply chain into perspective. From feed sizes to oil addition, and from growing fish to fillets you can buy from supermarkets, these visits enlightened me on processes I was not previously aware of.

I noticed just how much I had learned when preparing for the main focus of my internship: a collaborative five-nation project to scope out a new Aquaculture Innovation Network for the Northern Periphery and Arctic (AINNPA).

My involvement in this project included collecting evidence, writing up innovation landscape reports, organising meet-ups and teleconferences with stakeholders. These tasks became easier as my understanding of both the industry and the project itself grew. With the submission of the report coming to an end, I will certainly miss the challenges from the project and the working relationship built up with our partners.

This internship has really given me a perspective of where I could potentially fit within this industry. Having just finished year one at University of Stirling, these three months with SAIC have given me more practical knowledge than expected and I would really encourage any students who are interested in aquaculture or want to see how this sector works to apply for an internship with SAIC.

Thank you very much to everyone on the team for their time and for giving me an insight into the sector. I enjoyed my internship very much and hope that we will cross paths again in the near future.

Gaining experience of science in a company setting, Jess Taylor

Having been with SAIC for just over a year now, finishing my internship feels like a chapter has closed. It ties in well with my finishing of university, marking the start of graduate life.

Summer 2016, I gained my 13 week internship with SAIC through the ScotGrad Life Sciences Internship Scheme. As one of 24 successful interns, out of 475 who applied, I felt there was a lot to live up to. Working at SAIC gave me experience of a company in a science sector whilst still being a small company. It also gave me insight to the Scottish aquaculture industry, which was a sector I’d not ever really seen before.

It was a full-on summer – board meetings and an inaugural consortium event held in Inverness underpinned daily office work such as organising the press clippings book and keeping our various social media channels ticking over. It was great to see our annual review and other publications that I had proofed in print, giving me a feeling of accomplishment after hours of meticulous checking! A highlight was my visit to SSMG’s processing plant in Bellshill – the sheer scale of production, having never been inside a plant like that, amazed me.

After taking some time off to focus on university at the start of the academic year, within a month I was ready to come back. It was a welcome addition to my week and helped drive motivation for my studies. Through my final year, working with SAIC one day a week helped keep me on track but also allowed me to gain much needed experience in science communication, with case studies for our various endeavours and social media promotion in particular coming to the forefront.  Graduating with a First proved to me that drive and commitment can only help – especially in the world of work!

This summer, with this year’s ScotGrad intern Evelyn, I now realise how much I’ve learnt. Going through processes, or pointing out industry members from pictures on our walls with ease, has shown me how far I have come since last June, when I had such a narrow view of the Scottish aquaculture industry. It still strikes me how large yet small the industry seems; this year’s International Cleaner Fish Summit, which had five countries participating and over 200 attendees, really highlighted this for me.

I can see the impact I’ve had on the office – not just through the pictures I’ve put up in the stairway, or the map of our international partners that is in a meeting room, but through our social media where our main Facebook page has triple-digit likes and we now have a second dedicated skills page; through case studies online showcasing SAIC’s conference grant scheme, the SAIC Scholars programme, and even the new management course that started this year.

My year with SAIC has helped cement to me that I want to go down the science communication route – which makes me excited to start my Masters in Science Communication and Public Engagement next academic year. Through my year in Marketing and Communications for SAIC, I’ve gained an appreciation for how much work goes in to crafting a 140-character tweet!

It’ll be bittersweet to finish up – relaxing to have some time off before I go back to academia, but sad that I will be leaving a fantastic team behind. I can’t thank the team enough for the past year, I’m going to miss them!

Extending the shelf-life of mussels, Dan Mulqueen

Summer 2016 saw me undertake my second internship with the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC), having completed a ScotGrad Life Sciences internship with SAIC the year before.

That first internship in 2015 was a real turning point for me, helping me realise that I would be better suited to a career within industry as opposed to academia. I embarked on my fourth and final year of a BSc Hons in Marine Science at the Scottish Association of Marine Science (SAMS) feeling focused and highly motivated.

I had learnt an incredible amount about the Scottish aquaculture industry during my first internship and was involved in a variety of tasks and activities, ranging from in-house literature reviews to getting out and about to visit industry and academia. As networking goes, it was invaluable – and has already proved beneficial to me in my, albeit short, career within the aquaculture industry.

This summer, I had a completely different yet equally insightful experience. Having expressed an interest to be more involved in the industry side of aquaculture, I was offered the chance to be based at the Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group (SSMG). There, I worked on an industry-led project, originally developed for the Sustainable Aquaculture MSc programme at the University of Stirling, to help encourage the application of problem-solving science to industry issues.

The aim of my project was to investigate new ways of preparing and packaging live mussels for transportation to customers – amongst them, many of the UK’s major supermarket chains.

Month one
Much of my first month was spent familiarising myself with the business and how it worked: from learning about the subtle variations between mussels sourced from different locations, through to the distribution network used.

I also made a site visit to a mussel farm on Scotland’s west coast and, once back at SSMG, learned how to complete intake assessments. This is something that has to be done for each and every delivery of mussels in order to establish key information about the batch: for example, the number of broken shells, the amount of extraneous matter and the quantity with barnacles and tubeworms on the outside of the mussel shells.

Month two
Once familiar with the processing of live mussels, I began comparing packaging styles and their impact on the shelf life of mussels. Here, the close supervision of Dr Stefano Carboni from the University of Stirling proved invaluable. Through his expertise and the facilities available to him at the Institute of Aquaculture, I was able to delve further into my research and achieve more rigorously-tested results.

Month three
Through my research I found that a small change to the preferred method of packaging would significantly improve the shelf life of mussels – a key finding that led to further trials into the benefits of such a change for customers.

Related to this, I was also involved in making assessments on the shelf life for retained samples of live mussels sent out to customers: collecting data, recognising trends in mussel quality and identifying potential reasons for these.

The combined result of this work was a marked improvement in the quality of the mussels at the end of their shelf life and a noticeable drop in the number of complaints about the products; something that can only strengthen customers’ already positive perceptions of Scottish mussels and SSMG.

Looking back
Looking back, my second summer internship with SAIC has given me a great insight into the commercial side of the Scottish aquaculture industry. I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute, particularly the hands-on aspect and the fact that no two weeks are the same. The daily taste panel isn’t too bad either!

Boosting sustainable aquaculture through collaboration, Mena Kirmani

As my time here at SAIC comes to a close, I have continued to get involved in great experiences right up to my last few days. Meeting with representatives from Tesco and the Sustainable Aquaculture Research Group at the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture (IoA) being just one of things I’ve been doing. Looking back, my internship has gone far too fast for comfort.

Leading retailers can be actively involved in aquaculture research and development, as I had learned from a SAIC meeting with the Tesco Sustainable Fish Farming Group. Collaborations such as these can contribute to a more efficient industry that involves all those who are willing to contribute: from SMEs, regulators and retailers, to multi-national companies and the government.

Dr Trevor Telfer from the IoA was able to show me the range of work that the Sustainable Aquaculture Research Group do both here in Scotland and internationally. I was fascinated by the way they use modelling and spatial data to investigate the potential impacts of aquaculture production and development on the environment, and how their work is used to inform important decisions around the world.

Before embarking on my internship I hoped to get some worthwhile experience in a new industry to help me explore the opportunities are available in the marine world – and I wasn’t disappointed. I was able to explore the aquaculture industry landscape in Scotland and beyond, meet different kinds of experts and professionals who work in the industry, and become a valued member of a team. Team SAIC are very well connected, which has allowed me to make contacts who could be important for me in the years to come.

The opportunities that this internship has given me have pleasantly surprised me as a previously non aquaculture-savvy person, and I would encourage anyone who is even the slightest bit curious about aquaculture to apply. I was very well supported and can assure you that anyone else would be too.

A huge thank you to SAIC and their many contacts within and outwith the industry for their friendliness, time and support. It has been an absolute pleasure.

Seeing the links between aquaculture and engineering, Holly McIntosh

As someone who has been set on going into engineering for the past three years, I have always been aware of a range of its applications from building bridges to designing robots. However it was only when I had the opportunity of work experience with the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre that I understood just how wide a variety of paths it offers.

For example, during my time at SAIC I visited the Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group to see the work they do there. I saw how mussels and oysters are cleaned and prepared to be sent out to major supermarkets across the country. I was particularly impressed by the mechanisation of the process, which opened my eyes to a whole new side of engineering that I had not thought about before.

From the machines that cleaned the barnacles from the shells of the mussels, to the systems for packaging, it was clear how large a role engineering plays in getting the mussels from the sea to the plate.

In salmon farming too, I heard about some of the solutions to problems that engineering offers – from controlling sea-lice using ultrasound, to how to design a salmon farm able to withstand whatever the weather throws at it.

The other thing I found impressive over my days at SAIC was the huge amount of research that goes into every aspect of farming fish.

At the Institute of Aquaculture, Sam Houston, a 2nd year PhD student at the University of Stirling, showed us around and told us about his research work on feed ingredients for bass and bream.

My previous work experience had been at two major engineering companies, both of which had thousands of people working at the site where I was based. I am sure that in each of these companies people work together in a similar way, however at SAIC I was able to get a close up view of both this and how every piece of work fed into another. It was very interesting to see how people from across a huge range of disciplines were working together on products and solutions.

All in all, my time at SAIC has really opened my eyes to the wide variety of engineering applications throughout many industries, including, of course, aquaculture. After my work experience I am hugely excited to study at university and then go into a career, whether it be a ‘traditional’ engineering role or in an industry I never expected to work in.

Seeing the bigger picture, Joanna Gosling

My third and final month at SAIC has been the busiest yet and was kick-started by the University of Stirling’s student-run aquaculture careers day. Thank you to all those who were involved as I came out of it with a real idea of what to expect from a career in aquaculture, where the skills gaps are and how I could progress if I prove myself to be keen and able.

Representatives from SSPO, EWOS (Cargill), Tesco, Pharmaq, Fishguard, AKVA, Alltech and Marine Scotland (to name a few) all gave inspiring talks about their career paths. If you are interested in a career in aquaculture I suggest you get to the next aquaculture careers day at the University.

The weeks that followed were spent travelling to Glasgow and London for various meetings. The Aquaculture Common Issues Group meeting gave me a fantastic insight into the key factors limiting the sustainable growth of aquaculture on a global scale; Grant Stentiford from CEFAS gave a particularly informative talk on this topic.

Then it was back up to Glasgow for a BBSRC/NERC workshop which aimed to bring together consortium ideas for a UK Aquaculture network (or networks). I have been involved in co-ordinating the University of Stirling’s bid to host a network and I was pleased to see that the consortium members from industry and academia were both animated and engaged in the discussion.

A high point of this month was meeting the aquaculture managers from major retailers in the UK, which I wouldn’t have had the chance to do had it not been for the SAIC internship. I gained a whole new perspective on the aquaculture supply chain and what life is like as a retail aquaculture manager.

Thank you SAIC for investing so much time, effort and resources into my professional development. In the short-term, I have gained some valuable perspectives about where my PhD fits into the big picture; in the long-term, I have gained important skills and knowledge that I will use throughout my career in aquaculture. Hopefully it won’t be long before we cross paths again!