Karen Chiu of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Division of Nutritional Sciences is the author of this post.
Attending the Education-Career Development Session “Stepping Out of the Lab: Maximizing Access and Experience for Internships in Toxicology” during the SOT 58th Annual Meeting and ToxExpo gave me a lot of useful insights about landing an internship.
Dr. Lauren Aleksunes from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, mentioned a good point that I resonate with, and that is having the support of your department and PI/advisor. First, PIs need to understand that graduate students are there to get scientific training to move on in their career, whether that be in industry, government, or academia. Research is an integral part of a student’s development, but it is also essential to get other experiences as well.
That being said, when departments are supportive of helping students in their careers beyond academia, it means the department organizes courses and events that expose students to toxicological occupations and internships in industry and government. Examples of how the department can support students are by asking students where their interests lie, having a budget for inviting speakers to talk about specific careers or topics, holding workshops on how to “study up” for a company, informing students of internship opportunities, and conducting mock interviews. When students have the support of the department and advisor to do an internship, students can learn a lot and may even come back with better communication and presentation skills, improved organization of their lab notebooks, and better writing skills, and having discovered other good laboratory practices.
On the whole, I think it would be nice if universities exposed graduate students to each sector (academia, industry, and government) so that students have an idea of what they want to do after graduate school. Sometimes, people think they are confident they want to do something without having the experience only to find out that it was not a good fit for them. So my final words are that if you are slightly interested in industry and government, get the support from your PI and land that internship!
This blog was prepared by an SOT Reporter. SOT Reporters are SOT members who volunteer to write about sessions and events they attend during the SOT Annual Meeting and ToxExpo. If you are interested in participating in the SOT Reporter program in the future, please email Giuliana Macaluso.
Editor’s Note: The recording of the SOT 58th Annual Meeting and ToxExpo Education-Career Development Session “Stepping Out of the Lab: Maximizing Access and Experience for Internships in Toxicology” is available on the SOT website.