PhD PIPS Lab Automation Placement

4th January 2018

Singer Instruments internship

Suzy Hocking
PIPS Student
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine


“I had a fantastic three months and made lots of friends – I was very sad to leave!”


When I first applied for my PhD, the PIPs internship was a great talking point in the interview, but in reality, wasn’t something I was that thrilled about. As I entered my second year, and pressure to get my PIPs sorted increased, I had a half-hearted look around – fully expecting to find some run-of-the-mill internship, where I would be wearing a suit, making coffee, and staring at a computer screen all day.

The internship at Singer Instruments was advertised by our careers advisor. I read the job posting, researched the company a bit and, even though robotics had never really been an interest of mine, decided to bite the bullet and apply. What really set Singers apart, even this early in the application process, was the clear emphasis on community at the company and it seemed from the website that it was a pretty fun and interesting place to work.
I was interviewed, and soon after offered the place!
It was a bit of a lifestyle change for me – from the smoggy, concrete jungle of London to the green fields of Somerset; where buses after 6pm are a myth, cider with dinner is (mostly) compulsory, and there are probably more cows than people.
I got in on my first day to find that everything had been set up for me and spent day one learning, and quickly forgetting, everyone’s names. I settled in quickly, and was soon given various projects to work on.
From day one I was treated as an important member of the team – not necessarily how an intern expects to feel. My day was split between the office, doing market research for new product development; the lab – where I was working on the scientific testing of Singers’ latest product – the PIXL; and R&D – hanging around with the engineers and software developers – usually so they could fix something for me, but often being helpful as well! The people that I worked with were wonderful, and I was never left to muddle through something on my own, they were all too happy to help!
It was easy to see how the work I did on my PIPs benefited the company, and the skills I’ve taken away will be invaluable (it was also a very nice 3-month break from the daily grind of PhD life!). Singer Instruments was worlds away from the academic environment of my PhD and I loved being able to learn about so many new things and I have a newfound appreciation for just how many specialists it takes to develop, build, and launch a product.
On top of the work, there was lots of cake and cups of tea, sushi, pub visits (complete with some questionable cider), and one very enjoyable christmas party. I had a fantastic three months and made lots of friends – I was very sad to leave!

I first met the guys from Singer at a conference. I’ve always had a keen interest in robotics as a hobbyist, not to mention red decals and profanity. From the off, I knew that they were different, I distinctly remember Hawaiian shirts and offering out shots of vodka in SBS format dishes. Having struggled for a while to think of somewhere to do an internship, 3 months that were a requirement for my Ph.D., suddenly it clicked. I fired off an email, confessing my love for robots, somewhat naive, yet I was surprised to get an email back within the hour.

By the time the week was out, I’d had an interview and was all set. After a Christmas break, me and my ramshackle Peugeot 206 trekked down to Somerset from my home in the Midlands (a place only known to northerners… in the south it’s simply called ‘the north’). Having a high tech engineering facility, nestled in the sleepy village of Roadwater was one of the greatest juxtapositions I had ever seen! I love small towns and villages, so having the chance to work in one, while still being at the state of the art was really exciting.
The joy of working with an SME like Singer, is you really have to fill any role required, and you gain an enormous amount of experience. The company really values the opinion of each of its members, and it was amazing to see that as an intern I was contributing to real change within the company. For the most part, I spent my time working as an interface between the R&D team and the Sales team.
On the R&D side this included prepping samples for testing the ROTOR HDA, as well as the PhenoBooth that was undergoing the last stages of testing. During my work in the lab I had gained a keen eye for detail, but you really get a different approach working in a team. You learn not only to see what’s going wrong and why, but also how to communicate this in a cross-disciplinary manner, allowing recreation and adequate troubleshooting. The Singer team is second to none, and while everyone is working flat out to do the best job they can, they are all friendly and engaging.
Like all good places to spend time, work wasn’t everything. I spent a lot of time exploring the local area, being on the doorstep of the Exmoor National Park. I met new friends in new pubs, trained with a baseball team, and discovered a love of farmhouse cider!
The lure of Singer Instruments was too much to resist. Upon completion of my Ph.D. I was given the opportunity to return, managing the in-house scientific research, and UK sales portfolio. Jumping at the chance, I now live and work in Somerset! What was a diverse and rewarding internship, has become an ideal beggining to my career. I have found a role where my specialist learning makes a direct impact on the UK bioeconomy, at the end of each day seeing the changes that I’ve made and influenced, and… I spend most of my days playing with robots.
Interested in doing your PIPS Placement with Singer Instruments?

Singer Instruments internship

Ollie Severn
PIPS Student
University of Nottingham


“By the end of the internship, I was surprised by how many skills I had gained.”



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