Exploring pedagogy and problem solving: My PhD placement at LearnSci

Sofia Raak
February 20, 2023

Over the course of three months this year, Sofia Raak from the University of Bristol joined LearnSci to complete her industry placement with the South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Programme (SWBio DTP). We asked her to share what it was like working with the team at LearnSci, and how the experience has built her knowledge and skills in digital education.

All students on the SWBio DTP are required to do a placement in industry in order to give them a broader view of career options after they finish their degree. My PhD involves looking at micro-RNA mediated regulation of local protein synthesis in neuronal dendrites. I use a combination of experimental and computational techniques to look at how incoming chemical signals affect the composition of effector molecules (proteins) in neurons. I try to keep an up to date synopsis on LinkedIn if you’d like to see my progress!

Why did I choose LearnSci?

I started looking for placements that involved education and technology. I had enjoyed opportunities to demonstrate and assist in teaching workshops as part of my PhD, so was keen to explore careers in this field. This and my love for computational work, data analysis and coding seemed to be the perfect combination to explore careers in education and tech.

“Doing my placement at LearnSci was a great opportunity to explore pedagogy in higher education, something I haven’t had a chance to really familiarise myself with outside the required demonstrator training I have done as a postgraduate.”
Sofia Raak, PhD Student, University of Bristol

What did I achieve during my placement?

Working at LearnSci was an invaluable experience. Working closely with the Content Development Team I got the opportunity to build new components, provide scientific input on bioscience resources, and was even able to design some Smart Worksheets.

It was a really exciting time to join the team, with so many new developments taking place. As I already knew some coding, I was able to get stuck into the development work straight away. I  enjoyed solving coding problems and bringing designs to life whilst applying my skills in biosciences in a novel way as I had never developed learning resources before. It was great to think about pedagogy and teaching skills that I apply in my PhD.

I gained better insight into how the edtech industry works having the opportunity to code as part of a team. PhDs tend to become a bit of a one-person endeavour, so it was great to learn to work in a team once again.

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What was it like working alongside the LearnSci team?

Working with the Content Development Team was fantastic. They  went out their way to make sure I was not struggling while pushing me to take on new challenges, so I felt very supported throughout my placement. The company culture is very open and inviting.

Through informal coffee chats I got to meet people from all departments to learn more about their work and tell them more about myself. 

Now that my placement is over, I’m starting my third year of my PhD so it’s back to the lab (and computer) for now!

It was a pleasure to have you join us Sofia, and we can’t wait to hear how your PhD goes. We’re so glad you were able to gain some insight into education technology and learning design. If you’re a PhD student in Bioscience or Chemistry and looking for opportunities, get in touch via, we’d love to hear from you.