Monday, August 24, 2015

STEM Internships: Why You Need One and How to Get One

By Debadrita Das
Student Ambassador, New York University

Internships are important in all fields of study, but they can be especially beneficial for students in the STEM fields. In the U.S., a research internship in a laboratory can serve as a gateway to higher studies. Here are a few of the reasons why an internship in the U.S. can boost your resume and give you a head start over your peers:

1. Since the U.S. boasts some of the most esteemed research facilities anywhere, an internship may allow you to work with the brightest minds in the world while still in undergraduate school. You can learn quite a bit from these professors and Ph.D. students!

2. You can build connections with people in your field; you could even get to assist your supervisor with research papers and conference presentations.

3. If you work hard enough, you could be offered an MS/Ph.D. position at the lab (of course, you would still have to formally apply). This would indicate that your supervisor is pleased with your work and would like for you to join their lab/research group.

4. You could also ask your supervisor to write you a letter of recommendation for your MS/Ph.D. applications in future.

How can you find a STEM internship and how can you ensure that you qualify?
1. Set up Google Alerts for relevant research topics and make a list of professors or research groups that are studying them. Check these groups’ websites – sometimes they post summer research opportunities that you can apply for directly.

2. Set a target for reading and understanding research papers. Contact the professors listed as authors if their interests match yours; just send them an email.

3. Your email should be crisp, concise, and self-explanatory. It must be accompanied with your resume; send it as a PDF attachment or via hyperlink.

When contacting professors, never send a mass email. It’s important to tell each professor why you’re interested in their work. Explain what will make you an asset to their research group and how their work aligns with your future interests.

Clarity of thought is of the utmost importance. Professors get plenty of these emails, so yours needs to stand out. Professors may not reply to these emails because of the volume they receive, or a lack of open positions, but don’t let that discourage you. You have nothing to lose by trying! Keep looking and keep reaching out.

4. If you earn a degree in your home country before going to the U.S., ask your professors if they have any professional contacts in the U.S. If so, they may be able to provide you with a recommendation.

A U.S. internship can be the experience of a lifetime – it will teach you skills you’d never learn elsewhere and give you an idea of what you may want to do after graduation.

Good luck with your applications!
Debadrita Das will matriculate in fall 2015 at New York University, where she will be a master’s candidate in applied urban science and informatics. She holds a degree in civil and environmental engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, where she serves as editor of the campus newspaper. Debadrita enjoys crime fiction, writing, traveling and country music. She is from Kolkata, India.

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