Maximizing Your STEM Internship or Summer Research Opportunity

An undergraduate student got hands-on and mentored biomedical laboratory experience during her Aspirnaut Summer Research Internship.
An undergraduate student got hands-on and mentored biomedical laboratory experience during her Aspirnaut Summer Research Internship.
Congratulations! You have completed another academic year of college and are off to your summer internship or research experience. When you spend your summers working in your field, you make yourself more competitive for post-graduation opportunities while developing new technical and soft skills, expanding your network and earning money. It is important that you make the most of this opportunity in all the ways that it can enhance your life: Below are a few tips on how to make the most of this opportunity:

Make a Spending Plan

The great thing about being a STEM major is that you get paid for your summer work experience. It is important that you spend that money wisely and not just spend it all shopping, entertainment and traveling. You should spend a portion of the money on your summer expenses (rent, food, gas, etc.), spend a portion something that you need or want that you couldn’t afford during the academic year and save a portion for the upcoming academic year.

Take Advantage of Professional Development Opportunities

The academic institution, corporation or government agency that is hosting your summer work experience will offer professional development opportunities. They will be courses offered online, lunch and learns, workshops, etc. that will provide you the opportunity to learn things that may not be offered at your college campus or that you may not have time to take advantage of during the academic year. These courses can help you develop soft or technical skills that are great for your career development.

Take Pride in Your Work and Excel in Your Projects

Don’t make the assumption that “it is just a summer internship or research experience” and that your work isn’t important. Many of the STEM professionals that ask for summer interns have them working on projects that they simply don’t have time to do or are smaller parts of a larger project. Do your best work, ask questions when you don’t understand and learn as much as you can.

Present Your Work

No matter where you work, there will be an opportunity to give an oral and/or poster presentation about your summer work. Some organizations have formal events at the end of the summer for the summer interns to present their work; be sure to present your project(s) at that event. If you are conducting a summer research experience at an academic institution, ask them if you can present your work in the Fall at STEM conferences.

Build Relationships

Summer work experiences are a perfect opportunity for you to expand your network. Attend events, eat meals with your colleagues, supervisors and other folks within the organization. Connect with folks on LinkedIn and stay connected with those folks that you feel a natural connection with throughout the year.

Update Your CV, Resume and LinkedIn Profiles

You will learn so much during your summer work experience, so be sure to document what you accomplished and learned. If you knew that you will be listed on future publications, be sure to keep track of when they are published and update your resume/CV and LinkedIn profile.

A summer work experience is a great opportunity for you to develop the skills and build the relationships that you need on your journey to becoming a STEM professional. The knowledge that you acquire, the skills that you develop and the relationships that you develop will enhance you both personally and professionally.

Photo credit: Aspirnaut

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