From Physics to HR – my IKEEP project

Francisco is a physics postgraduate studying for a PhD in Functional Nanomaterials. He told us about his recent IKEEP (Intrapreneurial Knowledge Exchange Enterprise Pathway) placement, helping Safer Industries to develop their human resources (HR). to develop their human resources (HR). This project ran with funding from Bristol Innovations.

Francisco, can you tell us more about your IKEEP project?  

Safer Industries primarily focuses on services and products for clients to improve their safety and prevent criminal activity.

Physics PhD student Francisco Alvarez del Castillo Manzanos

We were tasked with laying the groundwork for their HR operational guidelines and policies, such as the Employee Lifecycle and Personal Development Programme.

This meant getting to know the company’s culture and goals, along with existing industry standards and best practices, the legal space the company operates within, and a fair bit of reflecting on what our ideal workplace would be and how to bring it about for future employees. 

What was your role within the team? 

Each of us volunteered to focus on an individual document whilst keeping the others up to date on our progress. I initially worked only on the Employee Lifecycle policies. However, given the relevance of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) matters at each stage of the lifecycle, I also worked on establishing a basic framework for their EDI practices. I’d like to think I did a pretty good job in this regard and the company will find it useful. 

I also became responsible for setting up and maintaining communication between the company and my group, so they had access to our work before we met with them. 

IKEEP projects bring together student teams from different courses and years. What was it like to work with those from other backgrounds? 

There is always a learning process when working with someone different from us, as we’re all somewhat set in our ways and prefer doing things the way we’re used to. Still, although our methods, ways of thinking, or communication preferences might differ, I think it comes down to having goals, principles, and values in common, as these are always stronger than our differences. 

How did you overcome the challenges of working remotely? 

Even though the project began with us being a purely remote team, we also met several times to discuss our work and how to best meet our goals. We kept WhatsApp and Teams groups for ease of communication and to make sharing files easier. 

What was the main benefit you gained from the IKEEP project?

I think it comes down to the experience of doing something different from my usual tasks as a PhD candidate, being good at it, and having fun. It’s easy to become oblivious to other options after doing the same things over a long time, so this experience was a welcome change of perspective.

Thanks to the IKEEP programme, I’m now more willing to try out career options that are very different from what I’ve done so far. It has shown me that there is more I can do besides lab work. At the same time, I’m also more confident that I possess the skills to succeed. 

Francisco Alvarez del Castillo Manzanos

There is no better way to learn than to do and put the skills to practice. At the same time, having the opportunity to help a local company with one of their projects is an amazing experience.

If you recently completed the IKEEP training, you can apply for a paid work placement in June. Email the IKEEP team at if you have not heard from us. You have until the end of May to apply – so get your application in soon! 

Taking part in the free IKEEP entrepreneurial programme boosts your CV and helps your job search. Find out more on mycareer!