Placement in a Pandemic

The second lockdown flipped our lives upside down and once again, our living spaces have become our offices. For many, it is a challenge but imagine what it’s like for those at the beginning of their careers. Charlotte Johns, an Engineering Student from the University of Bath, is on her placement year with CFMS and explains more about what it is like to be a placement student in the middle of a pandemic.

I joined the Centre for Modelling and Simulation (CFMS) in September last year as a Model Based Engineering Intern. Initially, I didn’t intend to do a placement year, however, after my University’s Careers Fair last year, I became aware of CFMS. I researched their exciting ongoing projects, as well as the opportunity for placement students to do their own research project. As a mathematician, I was unsure whether my knowledge would be suitable for an engineering firm. However, my supervisors have ensured my project has a mathematical focus as I am currently analysing uncertainty propagation through my mathematical models.

I began my placement year in September when the COVID restrictions were relatively relaxed and hence it was possible for me to begin my placement in the office. This was a great start to the year as I could get to know everyone in my team and get the help needed to gain the knowledge required for my project. Unfortunately, my time in the office has been limited since November due to the COVID restrictions. However, I am grateful that my placement has not been cancelled! It has been relatively easy working from home as most of my work is completed online and I have a quiet working environment in my house.

Working from home has presented a few challenges as it is sometimes difficult to convey exactly what you are stuck on. Luckily, we can share our screens with each other to help others identify problems. Furthermore, the GitLab platform CFMS uses allows you to comment on areas of code requiring improvement and converse about the best way to do this. I have two helpful supervisors, Alex and Kieran, as well as my fellow placement student, with whom I am able to discuss ideas with. I meet regularly with my supervisors to discuss my work and gain insight into how to progress further with my project.

Strategies I have tried to help myself through working from home are getting into a workday and exercise routine. I start my day around 8:30 in the morning and try to have lunch away from my desk. Taking a break and getting some fresh air is difficult in the winter but I also incorporate regular exercise into my schedule to ensure I get some time away from my desk.

Although I am aware I might not be getting the same experience previous placement students have enjoyed, working remotely has ensured minimal disruption to my year. I am looking forward to interacting more with my colleagues as things start to open up again.

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