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DOE SULI internships - how competitive?

  1. Jan 27, 2014 #1
    I'm a senior and will be graduating this year with degrees in mechanical engineering and computational math. I kind of applied last minute, having heard of it before but not giving it much thought until a couple of weeks before the deadline.

    Anyway, I feel that overall I'm a very strong applicant, but might've botched up my application a bit. I have a 3.9 GPA, have had a couple of academic experiences abroad, and good research experience in the area I want to work in if I get the internship (CFD/porous media flows/transport). I'm positive my recommendations were stellar.

    I just think I came off as a bit unenthusiastic in the essays. I wrote them in the span of two days as I had a pretty packed winter break, and they were pretty short. I also remember the application not asking for a resume, but instead having to fill out some out questions about awards, STEM coursework and stuff that I feel weren't a good substitute for a resume at all. But all in all, the issue is mostly that my app was a bit unpolished. I think I did communicate pretty well why I want the internship and how it plays into my future career goals though...

    My question to those of you who have received the internship before or are familiar with it: how competitive is the selection process? From what I gather, it's mostly the researchers that go through a listing of the applications and choose from the students that interest them.

    I'm taking a gap year before applying to grad school. I have other research plans during part of that gap year, but nothing lined up for this summer yet, so I'm just wondering if I should start seriously considering some other options.
     
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  3. Jan 27, 2014 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    It's very competitive. Maybe 100 applicants per position. (Hard to tell, since not every position gets every application)
     
  4. Jan 28, 2014 #3

    ZapperZ

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    I have been a SULI Mentor, and also a Mentor in another undergraduate internship program. I will tell you what catches my eye when I read the student's background/essay. Since I'm an experimentalist, and the student that I will pick needs to be someone who can work with his/her hands, or don't mind working with his/her hands, I tend to see if a student either already have lab experience (i.e. help instructor set up labs or demo), or has a trait that showed that he/she has such ability (in my spare time, I built such-and-such, or I repair bikes to on the side).

    But I think that the other important part that will make me pay attention is if I get a non-generic essay, and a non-generic letter of recommendation that made the application stand out. You see, almost every application that I see are from students who have excellent GPA, with letters of recommendations telling me what a good student that person is, etc...etc., which are fine and dandy. But how am I going to know what makes this person "special" or a standout? Tell me something UNIQUE about you that makes you stand out. And if you know exactly what area in the SULI program that you are applying for, tailor make your essay to that particular area and highlight the expertise or your interest that has some match to that area. This shows that you did a bit home homework to figure out what kind of a location and what kind of a project that you might be involved in.

    But be very careful, though, that you don't make a silly mistake or stick your foot in your mouth. I've seen students applications to the Lee Teng internship in Accelerator physics, and I lost count how many of them thought that they will be doing high energy/particle physics! I never pick any of them not just because they clearly didn't know what they were applying for, but also because I don't want them to be disappointed that what they came for was not what they were expecting.

    Zz.
     
  5. Jan 29, 2014 #4

    analogdesign

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    I'm also currently a SULI mentor and have been one for several years. The answer as far as I can see it is "It Depends".

    If you apply to a desired program at a desired National Lab it can be very competitive. On the other had, I typically only have four or five Electrical Engineers or Physicists interested in my area who select my National Lab.

    So Vanadium 50 is probably correct is his or her area, but in my area the chances are more like one in five.
     
  6. Feb 24, 2014 #5
    Thanks for all the helpful perspectives everyone.

    I actually heard back about a week ago that I was accepted at ANL! I seem to have been matched pretty well with my mentor. I have a couple more days to decide whether or not to accept, but I just had a question on what the policy is about withdrawing from the program. I had emailed one of the coordinators but haven't heard back yet, so maybe some of the mentors can chime in.

    I'm still waiting to hear back from some programs/labs that could potentially be much more worthwhile/interesting than the project at ANL. It's still a bit early on in the season so I don't anticipate hearing back for maybe a month or so. In short, SULI might be my second choice, but I won't know until I find out whether I've been accepted to other programs or not.

    Is there anything in the contract against accepting and then withdrawing before the program starts? Reading through the contract and acceptance letter, this is the only relevant information I could find:

    "This appointment may be discontinued by you and/or the Laboratory at any time. All conditions as stated in this offer shall remain the same for any subsequent extensions of this appointment unless otherwise stated in writing. Please note that this offer is contingent upon funding availability for the DOE program."

    which makes it sound like it wouldn't be an issue. I wanted to accept for now, but withdraw if I have favorable results from another summer program.
     
  7. Feb 25, 2014 #6

    Vanadium 50

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    It is true that you can't be chained to a lab and made to work. It's also true that if you accept and withdraw, you're depriving someone else of an opportunity.
     
  8. Feb 25, 2014 #7
    Congratulations!
     
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