Elizabeth Goult - Student Programmer at Plymouth Marine Laboratory

Elizabeth Goult - BSc (Hons) Mathematics

The placement has brought me a wealth of experience that I will be able to bring with me to the next role that I apply for. I now feel that I have the confidence to approach a new job knowing that I have been successful in the role I have filled this year. 

Who was your placement with and what was your job title?

I was a student programmer at Plymouth Marine Laboratory.

What attracted you to this placement opportunity?

I initially heard about the placement because my brother also did a placement with Plymouth Marine Laboratory a few years ago. He was then offered a job there after graduation and sent me a link to the application form when I mentioned I wanted to do a placement year.

I already had some interest in marine science, so decided to apply.

How did you go about securing your placement and what was the process for this?

The process consisted of an online form, then an interview and programming test in one morning. It was a relatively relaxed day, compared to some interviews I went to, and I definitely felt it went well after I left. I got an email offering me the job the next day!

Can you describe the various roles and responsibilities of your placement?

My various roles and responsibilities included: statistical analysis of data; supporting work for various projects; model analysis; proving supporting arguments for papers; inverse modelling; and working independently on an individual project.

How did the Careers and Employability Department (Placements Team) support you both before your placement?

They were great in helping me with checking my CV. Their support also bled over into advice with the online application forms. Opportunities like the Faculty Flux competition, organised by the careers and employability team allowed me to give good examples for demonstrating various skills.

How did the academic staff support you during your placement?

My personal tutor during stage 2 gave me advice on my CV and pointed me towards placement opportunities. He also gave a reference for me for the placement I have now. There have also been visits from academic staff to ensure that my placement is going well and that the responsibilities given to me are appropriate and beneficial for my professional development.

How did your previous studies enable you to be successful during your placement?

My technical skills applied a lot, i.e calculus, linear algebra, and statistics have all been useful within my placement, with some of my projects rooted in linear algebra, while others revolve around statistical skills learnt over the first two years of my degree. Also, as the job title suggests, I’ve spent a lot of time programming, which I had no experience with at all before starting my degree. It has been great to develop new skills and expertise.

How will your placement help you with the final year of your degree?

My work ethic has definitely improved a great deal. I’m more focused and better at making a plan to tackle a piece of work and following that plan through to completion. It has also given me a better direction for what I want to do after I graduate, which should take some of the pressure off my final year.

In terms of your career development so far, what have been the benefits of undertaking this placement?

Applying the technical skills learnt in my degree to real problems has been invaluable, forcing me to put the results gained into a context and interpreting them from that point of view.

The skills I have gained from the placement will also be very beneficial for my career development, regardless of what that ends up being. The placement has forced me to become a far better programmer, simply by virtue of the fact that it’s what I do on a daily basis, and because it helps me do my job more easily. Equally the less technical skills developed like communicating with colleagues, for example, have been incredibly valuable.

The placement has brought me a wealth of experience that I will be able to bring with me to the next role that I apply for. I now feel that I have the confidence to approach a new job knowing that I have been successful in the role I have filled this year.

What would you say to a prospective student thinking about undertaking a placement year?

Go for it! It’s been a fantastic experience so far, and I’ve learnt so much, particularly outside of what I had studied at university. It’s pushed me to learn things I would never have found out without the placement, and I’ve had some incredible opportunities whilst working here, including travelling to India as part of the placement.

Was the fact that Plymouth offered a placement year a motivational factor in your decision to choose Plymouth? If so, why?

All of the universities I seriously considered offered a placement year, so it was definitely a part of the decision for me. My brother and sister had both done placement years, and seemed to have gotten a lot out of them, both from the year and later on in their third years and when looking for a job after graduation. To me, it just seemed like the obvious thing to try and do.

Inspired by this story?

For more information about student placements, please visit the School of Computing, Electronics and Mathematics' student placements page.

Want to find similar student placement students?

If you would like to find out what other Mathematical Sciences students are currently doing, please visit the Mathematical Sciences placements page.