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Internships: FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions about Internships

What is a biology internship?
An internship gives you hands-on experience. Develop research and problem solving skills while expanding your professional skills and network. An off-campus internship emphasizes professional application of the concepts and principles learned as part of a Biology program. A student has responsibilities in a private firm, office, laboratory, a not-for-profit organization, or a government agency. The intern works on a specific project under the direct supervision of an employer-supervisor and the faculty internship coordinator. Read more about internships for Calvin students >>

Do all biology students need to do internships?
The BS in Biology major has an advanced research requirement. Students must do an off-campus internship BIOL 385 for 4 credits, take a BIOL 354 Investigations course, or obtain 4 credits for BIOL 399 undergraduate research by doing an on-campus research fellowship. Students can also do an internship as an elective for fewer credits if they have already fulfilled their advanced research requirement.

Do all internships fulfill the advanced research requirement?
To meet the investigations requirement you must register for 4 credit hours. You must work at the internship site for at least 10 hours per week during the semester. Summer internships will normally be full time and are the preferred way of receiving investigations credit for Biology 385. To fulfill the investigations requirement an internship must have components that include Department of Biology intellectual activities (searching and reading scientific literature, hypothesizing), professional interactions (attending seminars, lectures, research group meetings, discussions with the supervisor) and the actual work must have an investigative component. A journal and a final written report or research paper will be required. Upon completion of the internship the student will also present a poster or seminar to the Biology Department. In case the nature of the work is proprietary, precluding public presentation, a more extensive research paper will be required in lieu of the poster or seminar. The faculty internship coordinator will determine whether an internship meets the investigations course requirement and will work with the student and supervisor to design an internship that meets those requirements. In the case of a summer internship the student will register for Biology 385 in fall, interim or spring and complete writing and presentation requirements during that time.

How can I find internships to apply for?
We have compiled pages of links to internships sites that are related to the following areas of biology: Medicine, Biomedical/Cell Biology/Immunology, Ecology/Environmental Studies, Marine Biology, Botany, and other Biology. Check them all out to find lots of opportunities. We also hang up posters and brochures from various institutions on the Research Opportunities bulletin boards that are on the1st and 2nd floors of DeVries Hall near the atrium. Go to Calvin's Career Development site to find many more internship postings and possibilities.

Is it a good idea to send an e-mail to the scientist I hope to intern with?
Personal communication with the scientists or primary investigators whose research interests you can be valuable. Send them short e-mails introducing yourself, stating that you applied to their internship programs and explain why you are interested in working in their research groups for the summer. Ask them to take a look at your application and to contact you for an interview.

How do I prepare for an interview?
Read more about the research project that you are applying to work with and practice talking about yourself. Be prepared to ask the researchers what they expect from summer interns and how you can best prepare for the experience.

Should I try for an off-campus internship or an on-campus fellowship?
You should apply to multiple programs. There will be many good applicants for each position. Both of these options can provide a valuable research experience for you. If you live away from western Michigan an internship near your home may be a great option for you. If your scientific interests align well with one of the Calvin professors be sure to have conversations with him/her throughout the year. Ask about next summer's project and make suggestions of how you could see yourself contributing to their research. Your professors and your advisor may have connections with alumni or scientists who are working in a field that you are interested in. Take advantage of any networking opportunities that you have.

Is housing provided if I get an off-campus internship? What about transportation?
For many off-campus internships housing is either provided or subsidized. Often dorms or apartments are available on the campus for summer interns to live in. Each situation will be unique, but the housing issue is usually addressed on the website for the internship application. Some internships also include a travel allowance to help with your transportation to the research site.

Where have Calvin biology students done internships in the past?
We typically have more than ten biology students who do off-campus internships each summer. They have a wide variety of experiences. You can see their research posters to see where they worked and read about their research projects here.

Once I get accepted, what do I need to do?
First, be sure to let Professor John Ubels, the internship faculty coordinator, know. Then, to be sure you will receive credit for your internship you will need to (1) complete the form Request to Enroll in Biology 385 and file it at the Registrar’s Office; (2) keep a journal on your experience, (3) discuss the contents of the journal with the faculty coordinator, and (4) submit a written report on your internship or a subject related to the internship to your job supervisor and faculty coordinator. The report should be on an educational theme related to the internship and agreed upon by you, your supervisor, and the faculty coordinator. You should read, synthesize, and cite germane literature in scientific, trade, or technical journals. The report should explain a process, procedure, requirement, or issue related to the work of the internship. Your grade will be based on an assessment by your supervisor and evaluation of written materials by the faculty coordinator.

Why would I take an internship for 0-3 credits?
If doing the internship as an elective, but not in fulfillment of the investigations requirement for the biology major, you may wish to register for less than 4 hours. This allows you to fit the number of credit hours into your course load without paying tuition for an overload. At the same time this allows the internship to appear on your college transcript. If you register for a 0 credit internship in the summer you will not have to pay summer tuition. As an alternative, if you do a summer internship you may also defer registration until fall or interim when the hours will become part of your normal course load.

Can I do an internship during the fall or spring semester or during interim?
We expect that most internships will be done as a full time job during the summer. You will then register
for the internship during the fall semester and complete writing assignments and discussions with the
faculty coordinator during that time. It will also be possible to do internships on a part time basis during
the spring or fall semester and you would register for the desired number of credit hours during that
semester. Opportunities for Biology internships will be located in the Grand Rapids area during the
academic year and therefore will be more limited than summer opportunities. In many cases you will be
paid for internships. The interim is usually too short of a time to do a complete internship. Registration
for an internship during interim is more likely to occur when Biology 385 is used to fulfill the
investigations requirement in the Biology major.

What does an internship application involve?
Before you begin, carefully read through all of the information provided by the institution you are applying to. Submit your application early; do not wait until the last minute if you want to increase your chances of being successful. Before you hit the submit button be sure that your application is grammatically perfect, clearly expressed and well organized. Be sure that the contact information that you provide is accurate and professional. For example, do not use crazy e-mail addresses or leave outrageous e-mail messages on your cell phone. The cover letter is the most important part of your application. Scientists will be reading your cover letter to get a sense of your goals and preparation to be successful and contribute to their research. Your goal is to introduce yourself, describe your scientific and research interests and talk about your long-term goals. Explain why you are applying for a summer internship and how you have prepared for the experience. Provide some detail about the type of research you would like to do, what areas of science you wish to explore, and be clear about your previous relevant experience. Proof read your cover letter and have a supportive professor read it for you. Be complete but brief, your cover letter should not be longer than one page. Three clear paragraphs are all that will be needed at this stage in your career. Your resume should be a cons ice record of your educational history. It should contain the following:
(1) contact information, (2) schools attended, dates, and degrees received, (3) honors and awards, (4) work experience, (5) research experience, (6) volunteer experience, (7) leadership experience. You may not have a long list of experiences at this point, but the quality of the experiences that you have had will be important. You will be asked to submit the names of teachers and mentors as references who will be contacted and asked to submit a recommendation. Never put someone's name down without talking to them first and ask them to write a supportive letter. Be sure they know the deadline for your application. the recommendation letter should address your scientific knowledge base and relevant personal traits such as your ability to communicate verbally and in writing, and your problem solving skills. Think about who could write you strong letters of support as you progress through your courses at Calvin. This will help you develop a network of mentors who can discuss your experiences and traits, so that whenever you need a letter, you won't have trouble finding someone to support you. Follow up with your recommenders to be sure they have completed and submitted your recommendations on time. You will also need to submit a record of your courses and grades. Include all of your courses including those you are currently in. Make your list well organized and easy to read.



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