What does a successful ‘virtual internship’ look like?

James O’Keeffe, a high school student in the UK, and Sasha (Alexander) Vikegard, a first-year chemistry undergraduate in Sweden, chose to work on a ‘pilot’, virtual intern program at Malvern Panalytical this summer. Both these aspiring scientists had hoped to work in a lab to develop their experimental skills and to get a taste of a career path in their chosen subject of interest, bio/chemistry.  

The pandemic put an end to that. We had an opportunity to help and to test an idea of how we might develop internships going forward that are both rewarding for the students and provide value to our company. 

This is what it looked like. 

The project was divided into 3, 1-week blocks when the 2 young interns were left to collaborate with each other and study the literature that was freely available on the internet. At the end of each, they would present their findings to a panel of scientists who would ask them questions and help answer any questions they might have. This panel had appearances from Eddie Esposito, Verna Frasca, Natalia Markova, David Kersh, and Ben Pattison. All of which are highly experienced, career scientists. 

James O’Keeffe and Alexander (Sasha) Vikegard
  • Week 1: Describe the properties of a drug molecule that make it efficacious, safe, developable, and straight forward to deliver to a patient’ 
  • Week 2: Describe how instruments in the Malvern Panalytical portfolio could contribute to the overall drug discovery and development process. 
  • Week 3: Write a ‘Landing Page’ for the Malvern Panalytical website describing the areas where we have the strongest value proposition. 

This gave us an opportunity to have an ‘outsider’ view of our website, how we present ourselves to the world, and to compare our own perceptions of who we think we are and how we come across. It was reassuring to see how much information they found from our website and application notes. A list of some of the most useful ones are listed at the end of this blog. 

It was great to see how much James and Sasha enjoyed the experience and how it gave them a real sense of how important and relevant their science is to society. Particularly now. Their presentations were hugely impressive and showed a maturity and understanding that I didn’t anticipate. I hope they will consider working at Malvern Panalytical. They would be a huge asset.  

If you are thinking of providing a virtual internship program, then I would recommend trying this format (and with more students to promote collaboration and teamwork). If you do, it would be great to hear your feedback and suggestions for improvement.  

I would also like to thank the interns, the panel, and the management at Malvern Panalytical who are always encouraging us to do these things.  

Further reading

I’m very lucky indeed!