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Providing invaluable industry experience for aspiring scientists from the University of Chester

In the years since Byotrol’s arrival at Thornton Science Park, a University of Chester campus in 2016, Byotrol has provided valuable work experience placements for students studying microbiology and virology. The University of Chester’s Work-Based Learning Programme has become a source of additional student resource for Byotrol’s team, helping to accelerate research projects and providing Byotrol with the opportunity to encourage local students to consider a future career in science and technology at an innovative SME.

In this blog post, we introduce Conner Burnikell, who recently completed his placement in Byotrol’s technical team, and examine what he has gained during his placement.

Recruitment and candidate selection

Byotrol hired Conner for a five-week spring placement, which was focussed on furthering the company’s research into plant-based alternatives to traditional synthetic antimicrobials. Conner was based in the laboratories at Byotrol’s head office, working alongside Senior Microbiologist Lauren Burns and Samuel Wright, the Technology Manager for Byotrol’s Naturals Programme.

“Conner’s application for the work-based learning placement was polished and clearly demonstrated his practical capabilities in the laboratory. Whilst there were several candidates who impressed us academically, it was Conner’s ambition and commitment to gain practical industry experience which secured him the position at Byotrol,” said Dr Chris Plummer, Head of Technology at Byotrol.

Introducing Conner Burnikell – University of Chester – BSc Biology

So, Conner, could you explain how your placement will complement your studies?

“Whilst developing many of the practical skills gained within my first two years studying at university, over the course of my five-week placement I was also able to develop entirely new skills through practical experiences, such as conducting minimum inhibitory concentration assays.

“I feel that the practical skills developed whilst on placement at Byotrol have helped prepare me for my Level Six dissertation project. Undertaking the placement has also complemented my studies through showing me subject areas where I need to improve my knowledge and understanding, therefore informing my future studying.”

What do you feel you’ve gained from your five weeks at Byotrol?

“In addition to developing my practical skills, I feel I was able to develop many of my professional skills, including organisation, time management, adaptability, and my ability to work as part of a team. I also found it very helpful speaking to members of the Byotrol technical team about their own careers in microbiology and I received lots of useful guidance. The experiences I gained whilst on my placement at Byotrol will aid in my approach when progressing into a career in Microbiology.”

Conner, a student on work-based learning placement in Byotrol's technical team is in the foreground. He is working in the laboratory, dressed in a white lab coat and wearing blue gloves. He is supervised by Dr Chris Plummer, who is standing in the background also in a white lab coat. The lab is clean, bright and airy.

Inspiring future career choices

Sandra Crump, a Work-Based Placement Coordinator at the University of Chester, supported Byotrol’s recruitment process and Conner’s application for the role.

She said: “Allowing Conner to undertake the role of a microbiologist, working on the antimicrobial efficacy of natural extracts, has clearly helped to develop his skills and prepare for his future career path. When visiting students on placement and reading their feedback, it is clear to see that time in a lab increases confidence and generally assures them that a future in science is what they really want to follow, whilst also providing demonstrable skill sets that will and has supported their future applications. By providing work-based learning placements Byotrol has offered our students a chance to experience what it is really like to work within the industry, helping them significantly with their career journey.”

Byotrol welcomes applications from other students who are looking for work placements in a variety of subjects. If you are a University of Chester student and would like to apply for a Byotrol work-based learning placement in the future, please visit the University of Chester website Work Based Learning for Students | Work Based Learning | University of Chester.