Researching opportunities: How to find ideal science internships

Matthew O’Bannon

Internship experience is invaluable to any science student looking to test the post-collegiate waters. While the process of finding one (let alone multiple) that fits your criteria in terms of relevant interest, hands-on experience, and worthwhile compensation/credit can be daunting, there are plenty of resources available to help you land the perfect summer or part-time job.

Consult your academic advisor about on-campus resources

Your academic advisor is likely a gateway to all the career resources that are offered on your campus through your department, career center, etc. In my case, I was able to score an internship offered solely to students in my department by an alum who had a high-level position at a pharmaceutical company.

Browse federal internships at this aptly titled website:

Who wouldn’t want a summer gig at the National Institutes of Health, NASA, or Department of Defense? This is your go-to hub for all opportunities available at federal agencies.

Check out job boards for professional scientific societies

Find a professional society that aligns with your area of study, and see if they have job postings for students. For example, the American Chemical Society runs a comprehensive database of available internships.

Network with fellow students

You’re not the first student to go through this process, so utilize friends and acquaintances from your area of study to learn how they obtained their internships. Network with them through your classes and student groups. If they’ve completed internships in the past that you’re interested in, ask them for an introduction to the program coordinator. Your academic peers can also provide candid input regarding unsatisfying internships from which you can steer clear, as well as leads on other opportunities that weren’t right for them but may be perfect for you.

Find companies in your field of study and peruse their job boards

If there are any companies you’d love a chance to work for, check their job boards frequently. Various companies post their summer-internship listings at different times of the year, so it wouldn’t hurt to send an email asking when (or if) they’re planning on posting any.

As a general best practice, don’t pin all your hopes on one job. Apply for as many internships as you’re interested in and qualified for to maximize and optimize your options—much as you likely did when applying to college. With a healthy dose of effort and a bit of luck, you’ll spend your summer putting your classroom knowledge to career-shaping work.

Read more about capitalizing on internships to experiment with your career.

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Matthew O'Bannon

Matt graduated from Purdue with a BS in biochemistry. This bio isn't long enough for him to list his extensive experience in

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