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Tips for summer research position interview.

  1. May 15, 2013 #1
    To my delight I was just called in for an interview for a summer position at a big research institute in the UK, as a graduating physics senior (advertised for undergrads). It's been a while since I last had a job interview and I've never had one at the professional/academic level, I would like some advice on this matter. I suppose a button shirt (and pants) is sufficiently presentable for a male?

    The job ad stated a "working knowledge" with a high level language like C or Fortran was desired, job is data analysis of a physical model's output and prepare it for comparison with satellite data for verification. I've done some fortran programming for a senior project (MC simulations), experienced with general numerical methods, what kind of technical questions should I expect, if any?

    Any UK-specific etiquette advice for interviews would be helpful too.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 15, 2013 #2
    If it's an academic setting, then you're probably not going to be asked the kind of ******** questions you'll get in a "real" job interview.

    I'd say spend a few hours looking over their recent publications and getting a good idea of the kind of work you'll be doing. The most important thing I'd say is to come prepared with your own questions - asking good questions is one of the best ways to leave a good impression on people.
  4. May 15, 2013 #3
    If that is the case, I am relieved.

    I did in fact just get a hold of the relevant papers and some introductory talks from the academics I'd be working with, will study them in a few days once I get one of my exams out of the way. I certainly intend to ask questions as I genuinely care about this area of research (maybe not as far as a phd thesis, but it is very related to what I like and I see it as an instructive stepping stone to what I want to do later. Is it ok to be honest about not being highly committed to this field? After all it is only a 2 month position.).

    But I am not sure if I will be interviewed by them or someone else, as the HR correspondent said "I look forward to meeting you" after accepting the invitation to the interview. So I might have to deal with some generic HR questions.
  5. May 15, 2013 #4
    Many years ago I interviewed for such positions and was asked what I would consider to be "light" technical questions- I can't remember the details, but I remember being asked a simple question about merge-sort, and something about Crank-Nicolson. Nothing particularly complicated, and nothing like the sorts of "think on your feet" questions I was asked when I looked for real-world technical jobs.

    Mostly it was just a discussion about research interests, etc. There were also a bunch of HR questions to make sure I could work legally at the institution.
  6. May 15, 2013 #5
    I wouldn't bring it up... if they ask you flat out, then I suppose you should be honest but there's no need to volunteer information that could be viewed as a negative. And besides, you may end up changing your mind, so why even add that to the mix?

    That might be just a preliminary interview, and you might be passed on to a second person while there or asked to come back.
  7. May 16, 2013 #6


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    It you aren't committed enoujgh to give it your best shot for 2 months, then get out of the way and let somebody else taike it.

    But long term commitment shouldn't be an issue. One of the points of ths type of position is so you can explore something without haviing to make a "permanent" commitment to it.
  8. May 16, 2013 #7
    Of course I want to give it my best shot, it's just not the exact field I want to go to grad school for (at least as of today), but it's closely related. I was just asking if it was "bad" to state this. Also, it is the only chance I'll have to do any research, I was turned down for every other program I applied for.

    I get the picture, they want someone enthusiastic about the project *which I am*, just not with the field as far as the medium-term future goes.
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