Larissa Fedunik shares what she’s learned as an editorial intern at Refraction: a world away from the 9-5 of a lab-based research student.

A couple of words that sum up my experience as an editorial intern at Refraction: dynamic, varied and caffeine-driven. Monday to Tuesday, I was a mild-mannered PhD student running experiments at the University of Newcastle. Wednesday to Friday (after a quick 2.5 hour train ride), I was wearing another hat entirely: interning at Refraction Media’s slick Pyrmont office.

I loved the fast-paced nature of working at Refraction, which was a welcome change from the slow speed of academic research. I’ll admit that one of the downsides of my research is that progress is very slow (some of my experiments take 100 hours to complete!).  

My days at Refraction were filled conducting interviews with researchers and students, drafting and uploading articles, attending production meetings and researching ideas. To be honest, I also spend a significant amount of time at uni reading the latest headlines on science blogs and magazines…but now, it wasn’t procrastination, it was inspiration (sweet!).

This internship has improved my science communication skills immensely. I think over the past two months I’ve written more than I did over my entire degree, and I’ve loved every minute of it.

I learned that one of the most important skills is pitching your idea successfully. I had lots of opportunities to practise pitching at content meetings (Refraction was currently working on the upcoming magazine Careers with Science & Health) and pitching ideas directly to Heather, Refraction’s Head of Content. Heather gives excellent feedback: she emphasised the importance of developing a hook to attract and keep the reader’s attention. I learned that I need to pinpoint what makes each story exciting and newsworthy and make it immediately clear.

I also learned the importance of changing my style of writing for different audiences. Refraction has a very broad range of products and it was a learning curve to tailor the content to very different target audiences.

Another side of the business which I’m very glad I was exposed to was production and social media. It was really interesting to listen to the strategic planning strategies in the production team and learn about using tools such as Google Analytics. Prior to this internship, I had no business experience, so it was an eye-opening experience to see how a small business is run.

Other invaluable things I learned included some new WordPress skills (maybe soon my personal blog will look a bit less rustic), search engine optimisation and some social media skills, including the art of crafting a professional tweet. On a practical level, I also learned the benefits of carrying your phone charger with you at all times, particularly if you’re a lone Android user in a sea of iPhones. Thanks also to Digital Producer Eliza for putting up with my endless Photoshop and WordPress queries!

During my internship, I was also able to attend a variety of events, including Science & Technology Australia’s Science Meets Business Conference and Inspiring Australia’s Commercialising Research Forum. I had the chance to listen to the latest research developments which are approaching (or have already achieved) commercialisation and networked with the people behind these ventures, which gave me lots of great ideas for articles. Over the past two months, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to so many inspiring scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs. I feel like I have my finger well and truly on the pulse of so many exciting developments emerging from Australian universities and startups, particularly in biotech and AI.

I’d also be remiss to mention that Refraction possibly has the best office space ever. Located at the Pyrmont We Work, it’s in a shared space with numerous small businesses and full of interesting and friendly people.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this internship to anyone interested in working in science media. I’d like to thank the entire Refraction team for facilitating this immensely rewarding experience.

– Larissa Fedunik