Finding a job at the National Institutes of Health by Melis A. '08
A guide to getting a job at the NIH
Nick asked: “I was wondering how you got your job at the NIH National Human Genome Research Institute? Thanks a lot for your help.”
This is an interesting question, one that took me about four years to figure out how to answer. As part of my high school’s curriculum, we were required to complete a Senior Research Project and I thought it would be neat to do my research at the NIH. So, I dug around the NIH website (http://www.nih.gov/) and came across the Research and Training Opportunities page (http://www.training.nih.gov/student/) with links to student programs. After sending in the Summer Internship Program (SIP) application (which includes 2 recommendations, an essay, a resume, a cover letter, and a grade report), I waited… and waited… and waited… until March when I received an e-mail saying that I was not able to be placed in a laboratory. I thought it was just because of my lack of experience, so I repeated the same process for the next two years.
Finally, I found out that the SIP application just goes into a giant database where NIH scientists can search through different fields and find students that meet their criteria. But, the chances of them randomly coming across your information are so low! What you have to do is browse the NIH website or talk to friends and neighbors to find the name of specific scientists whose research you’re interested in. E-mail them directly and maybe attach a resume. I’d recommend e-mailing a LOT of researchers and starting the application process very early (January or February) for best results. And be persistent! Emphasize your strengths, educational background, and desire to learn.
Once you are in MIT, you can use the Institute Career Assistance Network (ICAN) https://alum.mit.edu/cs/ican/index.html) to get advice and find alums at virtually every company or organization you could possibly want to work for. The database has the contact information of more than 2,900 MIT alums who just want to help current students find a job and figure out what they want to do in life. I also used the amazing Alumni Directory (https://alum.mit.edu/as/index.html) to get in contact with several NIH scientists that went to MIT at some point in their lives. I can’t say enough good things about the directory; you can search by geographic location, company, graduation date, course, degree, student activity, sports, living group… anything! By using the directory, I spoke to one doctor who gave me a lot of great information and advice about clinical research, and I found the names of other researchers who ultimately offered me jobs. In fact, I found my current job using the directory. So, don’t let this amazing resource go to waste!
Ooh, fun fact of the day, NIH is doing radio podcasts now: http://www.nih.gov/news/radio/nihpodcast.htm
I had a pretty interesting past couple of days, which I promise to write about soon!