Summer Research and Internships
Many students don't realize how important it is to get experience during their undergrad years. Employers, med schools and grad schools alike will look favorably upon real-world experience related to science. It is important for you to start thinking about internships early in your undergraduate career. One reason is because you will need letters of recommendation.
Letters of Recommendation
In a large university, it is important to make an extra effort to get to know your professors so that you can ask them for a letter of recommendation. Regardless of your specific career goals, you will probably need a letter of recommendation or a reference. Get to know your professors by attending office hours, prepared with some specific questions to ask. Many summer programs require two letters of recommendation.
You should ask for a letter of recommendation well before deadlines for summer programs. Most deadlines are in January or February. Some professors do need multiple reminders, while others are very organized and would not ever forget you. Usually the professor knows which of the two he or she is, and you can ask them if they will need a reminder before the deadline.
Although most summer programs do not require it, prior lab experience will help you land an internship. Take required lab courses sooner rather than later, and take lab courses that could help you fulfill elective requirements (i.e. Chem 221 for a chem elective). The best form of prior experience that Binghamton has to offer is research in a lab.
Types of Summer Programs
There are different kinds of institutions that look for summer interns, so which should you choose?
- You will be assigned a lab to work in at a university, usually with preference for your own interests. You will work alongside Ph.D. students, and possibly other undergrads, on a scientific problem. This will be similar to doing research at Binghamton, but it will be a paid position.
- This type of summer program is recommended for students interested in pursuing a Ph.D. or a medical degree. This kind of experience will enhance your problem-solving skills, as well as giving you technical expertise.
- Programs:REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates): a large, federally-funded program for a wide variety of science majors. Schools across the country participate.IREU (International Research Experiences for Undergraduates): A chemistry-centered program that takes place abroad.Lists of internships maintained on other websites:RIT - well-updated list that is geared toward pre-med studentsSyracuse University - search by state Yale's department of molecular biophysics and biochemistry About.com - search by region
- The companies that are looking to hire biochemistry interns are mostly pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Pharmaceutical companies develop traditional, small-molecule drugs to treat diseases. "Biotech" companies develop macromolecule therapeutics (proteins, DNA, RNA). Scientists are mostly involved in the drug discovery process or pre-clinical studies of potential drugs, but there are positions for science majors in other areas (clinical trials, sales, and diagnostic equipment development).
- This type of summer program is recommended for students who want to enter the workforce with their bachelor's or master's degree, or anyone who is interested in working in the pharmaceutical sector. This experience will give you insight into the business side of science, and most projects will be much closer to helping people than academic research usually is. Working at a company will also help you make contacts that can help you find a job later.
- Almost every pharmaceutical or biotech company accepts undergraduate interns. Here are a few of the larger companies, but also look for smaller companies. Internships at larger companies are usually more competitive, but also more impressive on your resume.
Federal Government Internships
- The federal government has a variety of agencies that offer internships related to science. An internship at a government agency can help your prospects for a job there later. Jobs with the government typically pay less but are more secure than their counterparts in industry.
- These internships vary greatly from one agency to another. The application deadlines are often much earlier than typical summer internships, and some of them go beyond summer.
- Food and Drug Administration- This is the agency that oversees the pharmaceutical and biotech drugs as they are being tested in humans. Many of the internship programs are for graduate students or above, and some of them last a few years! These are the programs available to undergrads:
- National Institutes of Health:These programs are similar to that of academic research, but you will be doing research at an NIH laboratory instead of a university lab.
Internships at Non-Profit Organizations
- AAAS Internships - The AAAS is the society that publishes the prestigous journal Science. They offer internships in scientific writing as well as in science policy.
- Families USA- a non-profit offering a health policy research internship.
- American Red Cross- gain exposure to non-profit management and the non-profit sector
- Health Career Connection - healthcare management and policy, health education, community health, etc.