Making the most of summer
PREDOC faculty and current pre-docs share their advice and tips for organizing a summer research experience.
Here at PREDOC, we strive to make the invisible rules of an academic and research career visible. In this pursuit, we spoke to PREDOC faculty members and current research assistants to ask what to do with summers while and undergraduate, and how to get started. All confirmed that summer is an ideal time to gain experience related to the career and research you hope to pursue following your undergraduate degree.
“You should be looking for low-commitment research opportunities,” says Ray Reagans, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Management and Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. “Ask faculty at your school if they are aware of colleagues who are looking to hire a research assistant for a small project or short period of time. There is nothing like doing research to see if a research career is right for you.”
Coly Elhai, a Research Assistant at Princeton University agrees that current professors are a great place to start when looking for a position or summer program. “Some universities have summer research assistantship programs—ask your professors if yours does, or if they know of anyone hiring undergrads for summer research work. Some government agencies and non-profits (including those listed here) also hire summer research interns.” As Coly notes, “Summers are a great time to try out research so you can see if you enjoy it and figure out what topics interest you (or, equally valuable, which ones don’t!).”
When it comes to summer research programs, Rebecca Toseland notes that “these programs will give you the opportunity to interact with faculty and students from other universities to build your research toolkit and professional network.” Toseland, Senior Lecturer and Director of Research Support at Yale’s Tobin Center for Economic Policy, suggests such programs for their “excellent opportunities to explore economics research,” and such programs “include the Becker Friedman Institute's Summer Institute and the American Economic Association's Summer Training Program.”
Summer doesn’t need to be all work all the time, as Sebastian Puerta, a Pre-Doctoral Research Fellow at Opportunity Insights, shares, summer is also a time for research and reflection. “Although you should try to find an opportunity that grows your technical skills,” says Puerta, “equally as important is the chance to take some time and figure out your interests.” This self-reflection is essential, says Puerta. “My summer experiences were invaluable because I learned whether research was truly something I wanted to pursue, what research topics always piqued my curiosity, and the type of researcher I wanted to be. Those lessons were key to my growth and progression.”
Over at PREDOC, we’ve tried to further reduce the guesswork around summer experiences. You can learn more about summer research assistantships, summer schools, workshops, and other experiences over at https://predoc.org/learn-more/other-programs. And as always, we’re just an email away at firstname.lastname@example.org.