SAIC Scholars aims to make studying for an aquaculture-related MSc a whole lot more do-able, offering funded places at four Scottish universities.

Key to each funded place is that students undertake their MSc applied research project on an industry-identified issue, giving them a heightened awareness of the challenges and opportunities faced by the sector.

Adding to this, the SAIC Scholars initiative also hosts a series of industry perspectives workshops throughout the academic year whereby aquaculture MSc students can hear direct from industry, make valuable connections for the future and forge ties with their peers at other universities.

Eligible courses
Students can choose from nine MSc programmes at four different Scottish universities:

Find out more
To find out more about the benefits of SAIC Scholars support, read about the experiences of some of the 2016/17 class.

Interested in applying? Contact the postgraduate admissions department for your preferred MSc programme to check your eligibility and for details on how to apply.

Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology, Sean Robertson

SAIC Scholar: Sean Robertson
MSc programme: Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology, University of Aberdeen

Q: When did you first become interested in aquaculture?
A: It was during the last couple of years of my undergraduate degree in Marine Biology. There were some aquaculture modules which highlighted how important the industry is for Scotland and even internationally, and could play a keep role in the world’s future of food security. I saw it as a good sector to get into while it’s growing and there’s a lot of new business to be made.

As the next natural step on from that, I saw the Applied Marine and Fisheries Ecology MSc and the SAIC scholars programme as an important first foot in the door into the sector and a chance to gain experience I might not otherwise get.

Q: How did being a SAIC Scholar help towards that?
A: For me, the SAIC-hosted industry perspectives workshops were key. They were an opportunity to glean insights and knowledge that my fisheries-based MSc programme didn’t cover, and as such increased my understanding of how the industry operates and its ambitions for the future.

Also, the workshops were also an opportunity to meet people I might not otherwise have met or have been able to get one-to-one time with. I was able to walk up to and talk to the industry speakers and have a conversation and ask for advice, and they were happy to be approached.

Q: Another key element of the SAIC Scholars initiative is the requirement to do your MSc project with an aquaculture company. How was that?
A: It was a wonderful experience. My MSc programme was more ecology-based, whereas my project – which was with Marine Scotland and looked at Neoparamoeba perurans – was more laboratory-based, creating a good balance.

It was also great to have the opportunity to apply my academic knowledge in an industry setting. Where elements of the project weren’t working out as expected or needed refining, I was able to take a step back and identify why or what else I needed to investigate for the overall goals to be achieved. I developed a lot of skills during the project that will be valuable for my future work as a scientist, but are also trans-disciplinary.

Q: All of which has to stand you in good stead going forward, surely?
A: Undoubtedly. I feel I am a lot more employable than I would have been had I not done an industry-based research project. I’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone at Marine Scotland for hosting me and being so helpful during my time in the lab. Particularly to Dr Una McCarthy for agreeing to supervise my project there!

I’d also like say thank you to SAIC. I’ve gained so much knowledge that I wouldn’t otherwise had I not been a part of the SAIC Scholars programme, particularly through the industry perspectives workshops.

Q: What one piece of advice would you give someone applying to become a SAIC Scholar?
A: Make the most of the association with SAIC. Talk to them, find out what’s on and where. For example, what industry events are coming up and could you attend? Talk to industry speakers at the workshops. They are more than willing to help but they aren’t going to email you out of the blue, so you have to make first contact. Also see if there are any conferences that you’d like to go to, and if you have any ideas just go and discuss them!

Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology, Matt Jackson

SAIC Scholar: Matt Jackson
MSc programme: Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology, Heriot-Watt University

Q: What first sparked your interest in aquaculture?
A. I took a year out during my undergraduate degree in Marine Science at Ulster University to go on the Erasmus exchange programme where I met a PhD student who was looking at aquaculture – particularly, the effects of different feeds. A few conversations later and I was hooked.

Q: So why choose an MSc in Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology?
A: In truth, the funded place had a big part to play. I was looking around at different MSc courses and emailed the course director at Heriot-Watt to ask about possible funding opportunities. He let me know that funded places were available on the Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology programme through SAIC Scholars, and that made the prospect of a MSc a whole lot more possible.

Q: One mandatory element of SAIC Scholars funding is an applied research project with industry. Can you tell us a bit about your project?
A: I was lucky enough to work with not one but three companies: Nevis Marine and Sterner AquaTech in the UK, and Canadian firm GIS Gas Infusion Systems Inc. We were looking into an oxygenator that dissolves oxygen in water and seeing how it could change oxidative stress levels among rainbow trout juveniles. If effective, it could be used both on well-boats and farms.

Q: Did your course work help prepare you for your project?
A: Definitely – it was great to be able to apply the academic learnings from the lecture theatre and lab to the project. The different assays I learned from an ecotoxicology module were particularly useful.

Q: Working with industry is very different to learning in the lecture theatre or lab. Was it a beneficial experience?
A: Hugely. Through my interactions with the different companies, I’ve made new contacts and gained a greater insight into how the industry works.In terms of the project specifically, Ian Armstrong of Nevis Marine was particularly helpful, asking questions that wouldn’t have occurred to me and pushing me for greater detail.

I also learned how to problem solve, as there can be a number of issues that crop up – such as with the experiment itself and setting it up. All in all, it’s made me want to stay focused on – and working in – aquaculture.

Q: What would your advice be to someone considering applying to become a SAIC Scholar?
A: Go for it – but go into it with an open mind and consider all the opportunities on offer.

Aquaculture Business Management, Dan Mulqueen

SAIC Scholar: Dan Mulqueen
MSc programme: Aquaculture Business Management, University of Stirling

Q: Why Aquaculture Business Management?
A: I guess it’s the area that interests me most about the sector – the business side of things. I want to get out there and work within the industry. So, whilst Sustainable Aquaculture is possibly the MSc programme that the University of Stirling is best known for, Aquaculture Business Management felt like the best fit for me.

That said, there was still a part of me that was nervous about staying on and studying for another year, instead of getting a job. It definitely paid off though, helping me build connections with the industry and mold myself into the sort of candidate that today’s employers are looking for.

Q: How has being a SAIC Scholar helped?
A: In lots of different ways: from the requirement to work with industry on my MSc project, and the series of industry-focused workshops which helped increase my understanding of the wider challenges and opportunities faced by the sector, to the interaction with SAIC who were on hand throughout to share their expertise and help in any way they could.

Q: Without revealing anything commercially sensitive, what can you tell us about your industry project?
A: Well, I worked with Nevis Marine and GIS Gas Infusion Systems looking at the potential of a new compact oxygenation device that offers all sorts of possibilities for achieving optimum water conditions, increasing feeding rates and improving overall fish health. Effectively, it was a similar project to that undertaken by fellow SAIC Scholar Matt Jackson, only I was looking at it from the business angle of a cost benefit analysis.

Q: How did you find working with a mix of academic and industry partners?
The staff at the Institute of Aquaculture were hugely helpful, pointing me in the right direction of the relevant literature and offering their personal expertise. The industry partners were equally approachable. Ian Armstrong from Nevis Marine, who I hadn’t met previously, was really open and easy to talk to, and actively encouraged me to keep in touch. I’m hoping to stay in touch and that he might even become a bit of a mentor figure going forwards.

Q: Speaking of going forwards, what’s next?
A: I definitely want to stay in aquaculture. At the moment, I’m thinking supply chain or a feed company, but definitely something business-related and involving the supply chain sector – it’s a part of the industry that is absolutely crucial.

Q: Would you recommend applying to become a SAIC Scholar to others?
A: Absolutely. It pays for your fees, which accounts for a big chunk of the expense of an extra year’s study. But I’d also say don’t just see it as a scholarship, see it as an opportunity to get to know the industry. Go to the workshops, talk to the guest speakers. They’ve taken time out to be there, you’ve taken time out to be there, so you are on mutual ground in wanting to speak to one another.

Oh – and don’t forget to introduce yourself to the SAIC team too. They’re genuinely enthused about encouraging new blood into the sector and will do whatever they can to help you.

Geotechnical Engineering, Andrei Negrila

SAIC Scholar: Andrei Negrila
MSc programme: Geotechnical Engineering, University of Dundee

Q. Tell us how you came to be a SAIC Scholar.
A. I was already interested in the course content of the MSc in Geotechnical Engineering, then I found out via the university application page that there were funded places available via the SAIC Scholars programme. That opportunity of a funded place, combined with the fact that the mandatory applied research project would be a great way to gain experience of the industry, helped make my decision.

Q: What can you tell us about your project with industry?
A: I was based with AquaMoor looking at comparative mooring designs and novel drag anchors which are used to keep cages and mooring systems in place – research that will be of interest to companies that want to move farms further offshore and need to investigate the challenges that come with that.

Q: What were some of the key takeaways from your project work?
A: Well, I learned more about the industry as a whole: for example, how and where salmon is farmed in Scotland. In terms of the engineering side of things specifically, I learned about the difference that shape and design can have on the efficiency of anchors – something I was only able to realise after being involved in building them. It was real hands-on learning and quite different to the more lecture-based coursework of my MSc programme.

Q: Included within the SAIC Scholars programme is a series of industry perspectives workshops. How useful did you find those
A. Very. Each workshop covered a different theme, be it the full value chain, health and welfare or production and engineering, giving me a broader insight into the sector than purely the technical side of cage and mooring design that I’m more familiar with.

Q: Would you recommend applying to become a SAIC Scholar?
A. I would, particularly because there are lots of different courses available – each of which comes with a range of opportunities to hear from, and get involved with, industry. An MSc course only last one year, so you need to get out and grab the opportunities to meet companies in order to build connections for the future.