by Aparajita Bhandari
Interviews and References and Applications, Oh My!
It’s only been a week or two since we’ve been back at school and most people, myself included, are still slightly in vacation mode. Adjusting back to daily lectures, homework, and extra-curriculars after a long break can be hard enough, but today I’m going to add another challenge to your plate: start thinking about summer internships and research positions. This may seem like very premature request considering that it’s only January and the semester has barely gotten under way but many competitive positions actually have deadlines within the next few weeks.
No matter your field or year of study there are research positions and internships you qualify for. Since I am studying psychology my personal experience finding research positions has been that area; however, the process of applying for any summer position is fairly similar.
Finding the positions
If you are in first year you will eligible this summer to be involved with an ROP (Research Opportunity Program). ROPs are an opportunity for students to get course credit for doing research. They can be completed either during the school year or during the summer semester. Positions for 2016-2017 ROPs will be posted over Reading Week.
Check the website for details: www.artsci.utoronto.ca/current/course/rop
Similarly, upper year students should consider doing a 400-level independent project.
Most departments award you course credit for undertaking your own independent study or research project. It’s your responsibility to find a supervisor to observe and evaluate your project, and you’ll to ensure that you submit a proposal to your department by their specified deadlines. The specifics vary by department but take a look at this link to information about projects in the psychology department. It will give you a general idea about the structure of these projects.
In their third year, students in the Faculty of Arts & Science also have the opportunity to participate in the Research Excursions Program. In this program students get to conduct research in a practical or experimental setting, such as in a library, museum, field camp, or lab. These courses often involve travel to unique locations and are really a great way to get hands-on experience with fieldwork. The Faculty of Arts & Science covers travel expenses so students only have to pay regular summer tuition. Summer 2016 courses have not been finalized yet but will be posted here soon: www.artsci.utoronto.ca/current/course/399/research-excursions.
Many hospitals located near campus are affiliated with the University of Toronto and offer paid summer research positions to undergraduate students.
These positions are pretty competitive; however, it never hurts to apply. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Here are some these of opportunities:
Lastly, the Career Learning Network is always a great place to find research positions and on-campus jobs year round.
There are many different types of opportunities regularly updated on their site, so try checking in with them a little bit later in the semester for summer postings.
The Application Process
The cover letter and email
Be genuine and honest in your emails to professors and potential supervisors. People can tell when an email is just from a generic template that has been mass emailed out. Try to make your emails relevant to the specific researcher by adding details about their work and research interests. Most researchers usually have online profiles that summarize their education background and research history so make sure to research your researcher!
Some competitive research positions, such as those at off-campus hospitals, might require one or two reference letters. Academic references (professors) are usually the best to have. However, the most important thing is that your referee knows you well and is able to vouch for your work ethic and abilities. A professor who can say nothing more than your grade in their class is obviously not the best choice. Don’t leave it until the last minute to request reference letters from a professor. Help them to help you: they get a lot of these requests, so give them plenty of notice.
If you make it to the interview stage, congratulations! But at this point your work is far from over. Treat these interviews as you would any job interview, and make sure to dress professionally and speak politely. You will most likely be asked about your general interest in research as well about your long-term plans after undergrad, so thinking of some possible answers to these types of questions will help your interview go more smoothly.
Hopefully this post helped you figure out how to start your summer job search. Don’t be overwhelmed by the application process, and be confident in your abilities and qualifications. Good luck to everyone!
Here are some department websites that might be helpful:
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Cells and Systems Biology
- Ecology and Evolution
Have any of you been successful getting a summer research position? Let us know how you did it!