Name: Helena Teague
Institution: University of Cambridge
Connection to the Academy: Wellcome-funded Policy Intern in 2020
I completed my internship at the Academy during the final year of my PhD, as a way to explore a possible future career option. During my PhD, I studied how incoming viruses, such as Influenza and Zika, are sensed by the immune system. I explored how the signal produced upon sensing of invading viruses is translated into an appropriate immune response. An internship at the Academy appealed to me because, having attended talks given by people working in science policy, I knew it was an area that really interested me. I was looking to get some experience outside of academia an and thought the internship at the Academy perfectly amalgamated my interests of policy and medical science. Researching for the policy essay that formed part of the application process really whet my appetite and prepared me for some of what the internship would be like.
Despite conducting my internship entirely remotely, I was made to feel incredibly welcome and really felt like part of the team, which is a testament to how kind and supportive everyone was. Despite the obvious downsides (I would love to have been inside the House of Lords and try the highly revered AMS food!), remote working gave me the opportunity to attend many more events than I otherwise would have been able to, as well as allowing me to meet with people from many other organisations to hear more about their work.
During my time at the Academy, I worked on a broad range of tasks: organising a virtual workshop on Universal Health Coverage in the Middle East and North Africa, attending parliament committee evidence sessions, and researching and working on project briefs and inquiry responses. I especially enjoyed scoping for and writing up my findings for projects such as climate change and health, and equality and diversity in the STEM workforce. Alongside a better understanding of the huge scope and importance of science policy, the greatest skill I learned was the concept of shaping my writing for a specific audience or function. This is a skill that will help me through the final part of my PhD, writing up both a paper and my thesis. The most unexpected thing about my time at the Academy is that I really didn’t expect to be able to feel comfortable working independently on something I had never done 12 weeks earlier!
The biggest bit of advice I would give to a future intern is to throw yourself into absolutely everything and ask questions! Try and work with as many teams as possible, both within policy and the other teams in the Academy; do as many varied tasks as possible; and take all of the opportunities to sit in on meetings or workshops.
I now have a much better idea of how policy influences the way in which science is done and how science (and scientists themselves!) can influence policy, as well as the importance of both of these. Moving back into academia I am finding it much easier to view my work in the context of a bigger picture.