EVOLVE is a unique inspiring programme where students embark on a journey tailored to the individual. It is designed to give them workplace experience of policy making, media/outreach, industrial research, or research within international academic institutions to meet a specific goal decided by the student.
Examples of such goals include engagement in the early stages of commercialisation of research they have pioneered, stimulating a new line of research not linked to their PhD or hosting an art exhibition for the general public to highlight the impact of research.
A given EVOLVE journey will not consist of one placement but instead a series of placements and mentoring interactions designed to support the EVOLVE goal. EVOLVE has been supported by over 30 affiliates to date. These include SMEs, scientific consultants, media companies, government policy units, museums, business development units and industry. EVOLVE will run alongside the PhD component of the CDT programme and will commence with the students producing a personal development plan.
Nathan Barlow - Nature Publishing, UK
"Ultimately helped me formulate my own research structure to produce publishable and novel experimental data"
For my work placement, I spent a week at Nature Research; 1 day at Nature Reviews, 2 days at Nature Chemistry, and 2 days at Nature Plants. This was a valuable experience as I learned deeper insights into the academic publishing process, which ultimately helped me formulate my own research structure to produce publishable and novel experimental data. From this experience I became fully aware of the importance of understanding and defining the intended readership/audience and choosing the appropriate journal for submitting academic manuscripts. Furthermore, I gained useful experience editing accepted journals and assessing new submissions for intellectual merit. Though only a short time was spent at this publishing office, a great deal was learned and has bolstered academic experience at Imperial College London.
James Hindley - Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan
"building my professional network and beginning a longer-term collaboration between Imperial and Tokyo Tech"
I'm keen to pursue a career in academic research and wanted to use the Evolve programme to further this aim. I undertook a 1-month placement in the laboratory of Professor Takafumi Ueno at Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan. This enabled me to learn about the exciting field of protein crystal engineering as well as experience working and living abroad. My Evolve journey was invaluable; not only through developing knowledge of a new field but also building my professional network and beginning a longer-term collaboration between Imperial and Tokyo Tech. The programme reinforced my ambition of working abroad in the future and has influenced my career plans post-PhD. I would recommend every ICB-CDT student to undertake their own Evolve journey; it's a unique opportunity for both personal and professional development.
Maeve Kavanagh - IBM Research, USA
"I learned more about artificial intelligence and developed my programming skills"
I was lucky to have the opportunity to work on a four-week research project at IBM Research in New York as my EVOLVE Journey. This was a chance for me to live in the US and work for a large multinational company, both of which were exciting new experiences for me. Whilst at IBM I completed a mini research project for their drug discovery team, through this project I learned more about artificial intelligence and developed my programming skills. I also presented my PhD research findings to the team I was working with and had some interesting discussions with them about my work. The internship allowed me to build my professional network which has been very valuable, as a result of which I have secured a placement on a longer internship in the same team for the summer. I found working in a non-academic research environment enjoyable and I feel the experience will help me to evaluate my career options more clearly once I have completed my PhD. Overall, the four-week placement was very interesting and the experience I gained there is a valuable addition to my CV.
Eloise Morecroft - Boult Wade Tennant Patent Lawyers, UK
"I was able to gain invaluable insights into what being a patent attorney means and the work they undertake daily"
I spent two weeks at the patent attorney firm Boult Wade Tennant for my Evolve journey. The first week I spent there coincided with their Summer Vacation Scheme where I joined a group of participants undertaking classroom-based activities such as workshops and presentations and also some social events. The second week I was able to work independently on tasks given to me such as practicing writing patent claims. Throughout the two weeks I was able to gain invaluable insights into what being a patent attorney means and the work they undertake daily.
Euan Pyle - HALOmem Interdisciplinary Research Centre, Germany
"The main positive aspect of this time was working and living in a country outside the UK, forcing me to move outside my comfort zone "
For my EVOLVE placement, I spent a month (10th September-5th October 2018) working for a lab in the HALOmem research centre in Halle, which is just North of Leipzig in Germany. I worked in a lab which is investigating how lipids interact with membrane proteins using a variety of techniques with a focus on chemical cross-linking mass spectrometry (CX-MS) and lipidomics methods. I was trained in, and carried out, a number of experiments which analysed membrane proteins using CX-MS and lipidomics. The main positive aspect of this time was working and living in a country outside the UK, forcing me to move outside my comfort zone. It was also good to experience a slightly different work culture from outside London. The techniques that I learnt also helped expand my skills. One thing that could have made my time a bit better is if I spent more time looking for more suitable accommodation (as the place I stayed in had limited cooking facilities) and if I had a bit more time to settle in - but overall it was a positive experience.
Mark Wilkinson - National Centre for Biotechnology, Spain
"Alongside wet-lab work, I gained experience in using a variety of data analysis packages, which I am already applying to other projects"
For my Evolve journey, I went to the laboratory of Prof Jose Maria Valpuesta at the CNB in Madrid, Spain, to gain expertise in cryo electron microscopy. Jose Maria’s work over the past ~20 years has focussed on the human homologue of a protein that I am aiming to characterise from the parasite that causes malaria, meaning I was working within a laboratory with specific expertise in my protein. This experience was invaluable and enabled me to learn how to visually identify the protein and gain insight into a variety of alternative approaches that are used for purification for macromolecular complexes. I became fully competent in preparing and visualising samples using negative stain EM as well as treatment, preparation and freezing of grids for cryoEM. Alongside wet-lab work, I gained experience in using a variety of data analysis packages, which I am already applying to other projects within the lab back in the UK. Similarly, since returning, I am working alongside another PhD student at Imperial to help enhance their project by applying what I have learnt at the CNB. In addition to gaining expertise in the lab, it was also a fantastic opportunity to build on my conversational Spanish, which significantly improved over the month. I also gave a departmental seminar at the CNB where I gained much feedback about my project going into the final year of my PhD.