GSAS Students Gain Valuable Experience Pursuing Summer Internships
October 14, 2022
From biotech startups to youth advocacy, GSAS students across the academic spectrum explored careers across academia, industry and non-profit organizations during the summer. Many worked with the GSAS Professional Development team to secure their positions, seeking advice on interviewing, resume and cover letter writing. Others used the Connected PhD fellowship to fund their internships.
“Internships are a great way for students to discover different career paths and build essential skills during their graduate studies,” says Marika McCann, Associate Director, Professional Development and Employer Outreach for GSAS. “The application process can also present a good opportunity to practice translating the expertise a student develops in graduate school into transferable skills in the workplace.”
Politics PhD student Daniel Ruggles pursued an opportunity with Boston Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), an organization that he has volunteered for in the past. “As a volunteer with Boston CASA, I learned that the organization has had a difficult time measuring and representing its impact for key stakeholders and supporters,” he says. “I saw an opportunity to connect my personal values in supporting vulnerable young people with my skills as a researcher.” Ruggles prepared a study of transition-age youth to understand the organization’s impact with this underserved population aging out of the foster care system. He was awarded a Connected PhD fellowship to support his work. “The ConnectedPhD grant afforded me the opportunity to support a local community organization while practicing and honing skills in project management, execution, and organization.” Ruggles is continuing this study during the fall semester with another graduate student.
Two students worked in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry. Krystal Leger, a PhD student in Psychology, worked in the Medical Writing department of Alexion Pharmaceuticals. “I definitely could see myself in this industry,” she says. “Writing is my favorite part of the research pipeline, and I found being part of a company that develops cutting-edge medicines to be really rewarding.” Biotech MS student Frankie Zhao interned at Flagship Labs 75, a biotech startup. “I definitely see myself working in the biotech industry in the future,” they say. “I was particularly interested in biotech startups and I was able to experience working in that kind of environment during my internship.”
Another Biotech MS student, Alma Castillo Hernandez, worked as a Swissnex fellow in partnership with the National Science Diplomacy Network. The organization is focused on research and innovation as Switzerland tries to increase collaboration with the United States. “As a fellow, I began working on the quantum initiative, which challenged me to see how research, transparency, innovation all come together in a different science,” she says. “As a MS in Biotech, we are encouraged to explore our biotech industry specifically how science meets business. Working with public partners gives me an insight into the resources and programs that help biotech startups grow.”
Jiefang Li, a student in the MS in Computer Science program, worked as a software engineer at Microsoft. “I am part of the Developer Division organization which is focusing on developing developer tools for fellow programmers,” she says. Like Zhao and Leger, Li found the internship very fulfilling. “One of the biggest takeaways from this internship is that I have been involved in a real work setting and worked on developing a new feature with my team. In other words, I have a clearer picture of daily life as a software engineer and I loved it!” She has already accepted a return offer for next year.
Anna Valcour, a student in the Musicology PhD program and the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies MA program, was awarded a Connected PhD higher education administrative internship with the Brandeis African and African-American Studies (AAAS) Alumni Collective. “I researched alumni networking and correspondence strategies, created a new alumni engagement initiative, and am currently designing and creating the AAAS newsletter,” she says. “My internship with AAAS has been instrumental to my academic work at Brandeis in fostering interdisciplinary connections, engaging with knowledge and theories by Black scholars, as well as developing new skills that I may apply in a variety of careers.”
Many students worked with the GSAS Professional Development team to land their internships. “Marika was extremely helpful with helping me craft my resume and also for practicing interviews,” says Leger. “She really helped me build confidence in my interviewing ability and feel comfortable with talking about my own experience and skills.” Zhao attended several one-on-one resume workshops with the Professional Development team. “They helped me polish my resume and cover letter and gave me a lot of valuable advice on internship and job search in the biotech industry,” they say. Li also set up a mock interview with Marika. “One special tip was to prepare questions based on the job description,” she says, “which could be easily overlooked as usually we have applied to a lot of jobs and we might not have time to read these carefully.”
Overall, the students were very enthusiastic about their summer work. “These internships are an incredible opportunity,” says Valcour. “Not only can you learn new skills, but you’re also building relationships and deepening connections.” Ruggles agrees. “Internships are incredibly important in proving to yourself and others that you can start with an idea and bring it to an actionable point,” he says. “Enjoy it, learn from it, and end up with something that helps you gain new skills and knowledge as you move forward in your graduate career.”
The students have a lot of advice for others considering summer internships. “Really take the effort to tailor your cover letter and resume/CV for each job listing,” says Leger. “The GSAS Professional Development team is really helpful for this kind of thing. Also, focus on presenting the work you do in grad school in terms of employable skills.” Zhao recommends that students “apply to the positions you are interested in, even when you don't meet all of the requirements. It never hurts to try!” Li encourages students to apply early. “It’s ok if you don’t feel totally ready for the interview as you won’t receive the interviews immediately after the application,” she says. “You will still have time for the interview as you can choose the date but submitting your application earlier will give you a higher chance for interviews!”