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Unpaid internship versus Research over the summer

  1. Dec 27, 2013 #1

    I am a math and statistics double major, and basically I have a guaranteed unpaid internship opportunity this summer. I have yet to send out applications to other organizations/REUs.

    While I am interested in the long term in consulting/finance and industrial modeling, I hope to get my Ph.D in applied math. The question I have is: Which of the following would be most impressive on an application to a Statistics/Applied math program:

    1: An (unpaid) internship with a Mathematical biology/ecology consulting company run by A professor at my university with whom I am currently writing a paper. He's applied math, and is quite well known in his field (theoretical ecology). At the company, I would be working with a renowned statistician, and a mathematical biologist (I don't know too much about him, I do know that he models insect evolution in response to pesticides). I would probably begin at least one paper over the summer with the statistician, since we've already talked about some potential directions we could publish in. All of these would be great references obviously. I would be working one-on-one with them probably ~40 hours a week all summer.

    2: A (paid) REU program in applied math

    3: A (paid) internship at an investment bank/hedge fund or consulting firm.

    I'm leaning towards number 1, I only provided more description since the latter two are more well known.

    If I were to want to go into finance, obviously 3 would be ideal, but since I want to go to grad school beforehand (better analyst positions, better ability to start my own company, etc), I feel like it might not be as good as something math related, so it really comes down to 1 and 2.

    Thanks for any feedback,
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 30, 2013 #2
    Just an aside, but are you sure that the PhD would give you better analyst positions/ability to start a company? I'd assume that if you came in with a PhD you'd be going for associate positions anyway (and therefore competing against MBA graduates who have prior work experience), and from what I've heard, a PhD doesn't necessarily give you the ability to start a company (and work experience is often better for that). A lot of the big hedge funds have rolling recruitment and have already started recruiting for SA positions, as have bulge brackets for non-target schools (and target school applications are due in a couple of weeks) so if you want to consider #3, it's probably a good idea to send in applications soon.

    I'm a physics major who's considering going to graduate school for aplied physics, but I'm also considering doing reasonably quantitative finance (certain parts of S&T, HF, prop shops are all places I'd love to work). I was told to take a finance internship this summer, as I already have prior research experience (as it sounds like you do too), and I was told by professors in my department that it wouldn't hurt my graduate school chances. It could well be the same for you too.
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