SICSA Institution: Heriot-Watt University
Interned at: IBM, New York
I have the impression that I applied for the internship by chance, mostly because my second supervisor sent me an email with the advertisement of the position and she suggested that I apply. I had never thought of doing something like that, perhaps because the normal working life of a PhD student is a continuous flow of research, papers, conferences and I had never stopped for five minutes to think about the possibility of performing other kind of activities.
“An internship is, without any doubt, a perfect way to earn practical experience and a good element for your CV”
An internship is, without any doubt, a perfect way to earn practical experience and a good element for your CV, particularly if the industry is one of your possible future career paths. Other interns that I got to know whilst on the internship apply for summer internships every year as part of their preparation for their professional life. Some of them even repeat in the same company for more than one time. Once I considered seriously the option of performing an internship with this group of research, the application process was, in fact, rather easy. I sent them an email expressing my interest attaching my CV, a covering letter and my recent publications. It is, of course, crucial that your supervisor supports your application and that he or she takes the time to give them good references about you in a reference letter. Apart from the engagement of your supervisor and a reasonably good CV, it is normally necessary to pass a phone interview.
Whilst on the internship I found it was much better to select a group of research who really works in your same topic. In my case I chose a group specialised in optimisation from the operational research perspective. They mainly investigate using statistical and exact methods and, in my case, my expertise is more focused on Artificial Intelligence concretely in meta-heuristics. Before the internship I thought of this aspect as an advantage which could make my profile more flexible, but later I regretted it. I had the opportunity to speak to interns whose PhD topics were actually the same than the project that they were assigned to. In general they told me that, among other advantages, they felt more confident, they could minimise the time devoted to the preparation and understanding of the assigned tasks and, also, they were able to take advantage of the work done there to develop some extensions to incorporate in their own PhD project at the same time.
“the whole stay in the US was totally enriching and I absolutely encourage people to get involved in such a rewarding experience”
As a conclusion even if at the end my final results in IBM were not as fruitful as I would have liked, the whole stay in the US was totally enriching and I absolutely encourage people to get involved in such a rewarding experience as I was not only able to learn new things but gained new friends. Definitely it is worth repeating.
Read my complete guide to Interning in the States here