Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Ask CJ: how to get industry internships?

From the inbox, a good question: 
Hi Chemjobber, 
I am a [redacted] year graduate student working towards a PhD in [redacted chemistry field]. [redacted] I was pondering the idea of doing summer internships during grad school to get experience and hopefully make connections. My PI is fully supportive. Do you have any feedback/recommendations/or any general input? 
Thanks,
PD
My response:
Dear PD:  
Thanks for your message - it's a good question. Before you begin, make sure to have a resume and a cover letter and an introductory e-mail/phone message. 
  • Network your way into a summer internship through your PI/your institutions' connections.
  • Find summer internships through online postings, either through general websites (such as C&EN Jobs) or through the companies themselves. 
Both are difficult, but #1 may prove to be somewhat more fruitful. Cheers, CJ
Readers, did you do an industrial internship during graduate school? How did you apply? Let's hear it.  

18 comments:

  1. I did an internship in my last year of grad school and it helped me to land a job at the same company. They pretty much offer me the job at the end of the internship. I applied through indeed.

    I did the internship without my PI knowing because she and my comité never supported any internship despite several papers published. So I had to hide it from her and my department. I don’t regret it.

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  2. I heard of two guys while I was in grad school; one going abroad to Korea I think (US native of European descent) and one on a minority-supported scholarship to NASA. Not sure what their process was, but I know they worked for the same PI. I know my PI would probably have fired me if I attempted such a thing, along with many of my grad school friends... Meaning, I think it's rare to have a PI support this.

    Anon questioner: apply to anywhere you can find as it will most certainly help. My company is quite a large one and my location has lots of HS and undergrad college intern slots open currently but we do not have anything for grad students as our location gets no love from the corporate mothership. Maybe a few other locations that get more love from the top have more grad-based internships, but I have not looked. A few of those interns that were undergrads were hired on full-time.

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  3. I did one as an undergraduate. Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities and don't be afraid to apply. Unless it is part of a collaboration, I don't think that many PIs would support their graduate students doing internships; after all, they want you to do work in THEIR labs.

    I'll follow up on AN's comment: that's a damn dangerous game to play! Going behind your PI's back to do an internship represents a severe breach of trust that should get you kicked out of graduate school even if you are a golden child months away from graduation. I'm pretty open-minded for a PI and try very hard to accommodate my students' personal circumstances and professional goals, but I'd go out for blood if a student betrayed my trust like that.

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    1. If you're the kind of supervisor who doesn't notice your students missing after a few months, you're the kind of supervisor who deserves to get bypassed.

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    2. My department had a rule against grad students holding outside employment, and people occasionally got caught moonlighting as bartenders or waiters.

      As much as I despise academics and academia, collecting two paychecks at once while skipping out on your research assistant position is a heck of a lot worse than having a little side gig in the evenings.

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    3. If I am not mistaken, KT, most people who do internships stop getting their paycheck from their research assistantship until they come back

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  4. I took a leave of absence to do a one-year internship at a major pharma company during grad school. These internships are available at many of the big pharma companies in the US, but they're usually filled by international students whose advisors are much more willing to allow their students to leave for a year in order to get their foot in the door in the US and to return as better researchers. The ads usually pop up around this time of year as they typically begin after spring semester. They absolutely love getting applications from US students though and I got the feeling that they'd prefer to get more US students to do them. It really was a fantastic experience, I made a ton of connections and it led to me easily getting a job in industry without a postdoc.

    My situation was somewhat unique though. My first advisor didn't get tenure and left for another school. I didn't want to follow (big step down in departments) and wasn't ready to defend, so I left for a year to figure out my future. I ended up changing labs at the same school pretty late in my grad school career. There were a couple other US students at the company who were writing/ABD and went back to defend after the year was up. If grad schools really are concerned with improving employment outcomes for their students and not just paying lip service, I think allowing internships like this is an excellent way to do so. Don't see it happening any time soon though.

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  5. NSF offers the Graduate Research Internship Program (GRIP), but only GRFP fellows are eligible - I don't know anyone who participated.

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  6. We at Chilworth (Materials science R&D site of Merck KGaA in south of UK) host >20 student interns at a time, for 6-12 month placements.

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  7. I did an internship in the summer of my third year. The opportunity came up through my PI's professional network and that is generally the best avenue for landing a (paid!) internship in my opinion.
    My graduate program actively encourages internships, as we are not a top-tier school, but I found it to be really helpful to make contacts and was also approached for a full-time position at the end of my program (unfortunately, the timing did not work out). I think the internship was very helpful on my CV when I was applying for industry positions after graduation, in addition to getting a better feel for the different pace in industry vs academia.

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  8. One of my lab mates did a summer internship while I was in grad school. The opportunity came from a former lab member who was looking for a research assistant on a specific project and my PI was very supportive (he was the one that advertised the opportunity to the group.) Even with that support, a word of caution: coming back to grad school from an internship (where you get paid more and work regular business hours) can be hard.

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  9. Thank you all for your comments, they have been very helpful! And anyone else who can contribute please do!

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  10. We would usually get emails about internships for our department for pharma, biotech, big oil, and companies like Dow. Very few people applied since few PIs were totally supportive. Usually they were for the summer. The two people I can think of off the top of my head who did them ended up landing permanent jobs at the company where they interned, so take that small sample size for what it's worth.

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  11. I would think that more PIs would be ok with their graduate students doing internships because it seems like it helps these students land jobs afterwards. Having your former students get good jobs helps build relationships with companies, which nowadays play a bigger role in funding research. It also makes the page on your group website that lists former students and their current positions look good. When looking at graduate schools that's one of the things I always looked at.

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  12. The company that I work for has a robust intern program in the summer for both undergraduate and graduate students in a variety of fields.

    My first comment is that you may be too late for this summer. Our interns were selected back in January and are already assigned to groups with work plans being written. My second comment is to scour company websites for job postings. Our intern opportunities are posted on the corporate website along full time opportunities.

    Good luck with you search!

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  13. FMC has a number of intern positions open currently in Delaware.

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    Replies
    1. Does FMC hire actual chemists who work in labs? Literally every ad I've ever seen from them was for some kind of office job, like a marketing person or something of that nature.

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  14. My undergrad program (in Chemical Engineering) had a "co-op" program. Your total time-to-degree was 5 years; a total of two semesters and two summers were spent in two nearly tuition-free 7-month "co-ops" with local companies. The companies would interview, hire, and pay you in similar (but slightly lower-stakes) ways to how they hired full-time folks. Most participants in this program went to the same 5 or 6 companies that repeatedly hired multiple co-ops over the years, but I persuaded a company I was interested in working with to hire me.

    I bet if your school has a program like this, even if you aren't in an engineering department, you might be able to talk the Career Office into letting you participate. Even if they don't formally let you in, they might be willing to share their contacts at the companies with you, so you could reach out to them directly to ask about an independent summer internship run outside the confines of the official school program.

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