• Support PF! Buy your school textbooks, materials and every day products Here!

Tips for a research assistant internship

  • Engineering
  • Thread starter madhisoka
  • Start date
  • #1
51
5

Main Question or Discussion Point

i , I am a nuclear engineering " bachelor "student , I will be spending my summer at a university as a research assistant I know the topic I will be working on . Any tips ? may sound silly even when it comes to dealing with people ? or clothes to wear . thank you
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
jtbell
Mentor
15,514
3,348
even when it comes to dealing with people ? or clothes to wear
Those will depend on which country you are working in, and sometimes even on which university in that country.
 
  • #3
Choppy
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
4,563
1,649
Some general tips (coming from a Canadian perspective).
  1. Since it seems you are aware of what you'll be doing, in preparation for your position do as much background reading as you can. Try to learn the field-specific jargon, the details of the problem you'll be working on, the big picture context, the common tools used, etc. You won't be able to learn it all, but the more of the learning curve you climb prior to starting the more you'll be able to accomplish.
  2. When you start, as much as you can try to establish clear objectives for you with your supervisor. What does he or she expect of you by the end of the internship under ideal circumstances? How can the larger objectives be broken into smaller term goals? What is expected of you when you meet? How can you know if you're doing a good job or falling behind? What is the best way to contact your supervisor?
  3. Also establish what's expected as far as general working conditions. Some supervisors can be very rigorous expecting students/interns to keep a specific schedule and do only project-related activities during those hours. Some supervisors give you more freedom and focus on the results. It's best to establish those expectations up front rather than to find out the hard way that your supervisor doesn't want you checking social media at work, even if it does happen during "break time."
  4. If you don't know - ask. Don't be afraid of sounding unintelligent. With key expectations, don't be afraid of repeating back your understanding to your supervisors to avoid any confusion.
  5. As JTBell points out, dress code expectations can be very specific to the country and institutions and even individual supervisors. In my experience academic institutions tend to be rather lax, but as a rule of thumb it's best to err on the conservative side until you know better. If you're not sure what that means, an email to the person who will be supervising you can resolve the issue.
  6. When it comes to interacting with people, it can also help to establish what the roles of the people around you are. Who has what responsibilities, who has authority over you, who you are expected to cover for an in what capacity if someone doesn't show up... that kind of thing. In academia you can have a principle investigator as your supervisor on paper, but a post-doc or even a graduate student supervising your day-to-day activities. In some cases social friction can arise when these roles are not well defined or understood at the outset.
  7. Remember to have as much fun as you can and enjoy the experience to the fullest extent possible. Even internships that are monotonous on the surface can end up being quite fun in other respects (in terms of the relationships you develop, the background reading you do, the skills you develop, etc.)
 
  • #4
208
20
The best thing you can do at the moment is to read as much as you can about the topic.
When you go there try to stay humble at first and absorb all you can from everyone working on the topic to gain what they gained in experience. It is important to stay friendly and casual, without forgetting your serious work and without crossing lines.
And one last tip: if someone in a team meeting is explaining something to you, and you don't understand it at all, don't you dare nod and ignore. They will expect from you then that you know that material while you were afraid to admit ignorance. However, if the idea rings a bell, maybe you can let it pass given that you research it extensively later.

Any tips ? may sound silly even when it comes to dealing with people ? or clothes to wear .
As I said stay casual and friendly, never forget to smile. As for clothing, nothing extra is expected usually, don't get too formal and don't go in flip flops :biggrin:
 

Related Threads for: Tips for a research assistant internship

  • Last Post
Replies
5
Views
3K
Replies
3
Views
2K
Replies
2
Views
4K
Replies
0
Views
953
Replies
3
Views
2K
Replies
2
Views
2K
Replies
6
Views
3K
Top