The 9th of January marked the beginning of a whole new experience, the day I became the Communications Assistant at the Marine Biological Association. Walking through that historic building gave me a sense of pride and excitement; one of the oldest marine biological research institutions in the world was the place that I called work for 13 weeks. Chatting about current affairs and other forms of small talk with world renowned researchers seemed surreal at first, but soon became the norm at 11 o'clock each morning.

My first assignment set me on a determined path to produce an article fit for the scrutiny of editors and members alike. Women in Marine STEM was my brief and I had access to the National Marine Biological Library and the MBA archives, not to mention the wealth of knowledge of the most experienced fellows at the MBA. Exploring the stories of past women fuelled my desire to write an article reflecting their remarkable achievements.

But to focus on one task was impossible as I learnt, these things take time. So whilst stories pinged around my notebook there were more imminent tasks at hand, the website. As someone thoroughly inexperienced at web developing, I was the perfect candidate to prove the ease of this new, shiny software. Within hours I was uploading web articles, press releases and even education resources. All hands were on deck for the launch, a real display of teamwork from all corners of the MBA.  

As days turned into weeks I was becoming more and more comfortable with posting items on the website and social media. Previously, I lived in fear of typos, almost dreading writing and publishing news and blog items, but this eventually subsided and I relished the challenges of these tasks, including the 40 character word limit Twitter imposed.

1st, 2nd, 3rd 4th drafts of in brief and article edits came and went as part of the strict editing process of the magazine. Thoroughness and attention to detail was extremely regimented (and so it should be), a mind-set that has ingrained itself into my psyche and now noticing punctuation and grammar mistakes plagues my everyday activities. Who knew that there were three types of dash, all with different functions? Although 13 weeks does not make you the next editor of a major popular science magazine, it sure will change the way you read and write for at least the foreseeable future. 

Leaving editing and publishing aside I started working with others on writing a funding bid. Buzzwords and budgets seemed to be of utmost importance when considering applying for funding as I understood. While at first tedious I grew to enjoy the cheesy phrases and countless calculations. A lot of meetings and head scratching went on over the 3 months but perseverance is what’s needed in these situations, another lesson learnt.

Once spring hit, the outreach and education appeared at the forefront of my role, where I took part in seashore safaris with local schools and engaging the public at the National Marine Aquarium. Tiring and rewarding are words to describe the days of coupling education with rock-pooling and colouring-in - it really isn’t as easy as it seems!

All in all the experience and knowledge I have gained in the 3 months of being at the MBA could never be achieved from studying and reading books. The life skills this placement provided has prepared me for a wide variety of potential roles, it has given me the confidence to apply for jobs and internships I would have never considered previously and for that I am grateful.

Read my Women in STEM blog here and look out for the next issue of The Marine Biologist, hitting your doorstep soon!

Katharine Clayton

Engaging with the public for the 'Sea The Diffference' event at the National Marine Aquarium representing the MBA.