I have jumped off from about 30 feet tall cliff into clear deep beautiful water. Under the scorching sun, I have also enjoyed hiking up and down breathtaking Grand Canyon. For two nights I have also camped out at the Monument Valley in Utah. Plus, I have undergone some technical training in Electroencephalogram (EEG), collected data, analyzed them, created the research poster and orally presented my findings to the local audiences. All these experiences have been my favorite episodes of the research internship program at Northern Arizona University. What is even more amazing, is that all these experiences have happened just over a short 8-week summer internship.
The program is funded by National Science Foundation (NSF) under Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). Based on my journey, I will tell you more about the benefits from the research internship, the potential research programs you can apply for and the advice on being a successful applicant in this article.
- Benefits from the Research Internship
- Research Experiences
In a short period of time, I was able to get some training in using advanced brain-computer interface device called EEG. My research lab uses Matlab and DirectRT software. I did readings on articles related to specific research areas of my mentor (his research interests focus on putative mirror neural activities, reflected by Mu-waves), contributed in research design, tried getting approvals from IRB, recruited participants on campus, scheduled the participants, recorded the data, cleaned up the data and analyzed them. I have also presented my findings to the local audience at High County conference there.
It was all a very rewarding journey for an undergraduate. I felt like I was in the up-to-date field of neuroscience, even if I was only contributing a small portion of knowledge. And I major Biopsychology at Albright College. I had no prior EEG experience.
- Cultural Learning Experiences
I came from Myanmar (Burma), a country in South-east Asia, and I have only been in the U.S. for 2 years. It would be both very costly and time-consuming in arranging all these trips and learning different cultures. Yet the coordinators in my research program have made all these life-changing trips and cultural experiences for me and all the interns in my program. (I have mentioned some of the trips in the introduction.) The trips were free and very fun. And the authentic Navajo taco was delicious.
- Meeting new people and building professional networks
The whole program in general has research term in compassion.There were weekly two-day symposiums we have to attend. These programs entail statistical trainings, compassion training programs and engaged discussions between interns and professors in their psychology department. Professors presented their research experiences and told us how they got to the place where they are at now. It was all formal and informal at the same time. It’s like taking capstone courses.
I also made some lifelong bonding with some other interns. We went to different bars ( It’s not part of the program and yes, you have to be 21), and restaurants and hung out.
- Learning Graduate Student life
I build a really good relationship with my graduate student co-mentor Jordan, who helped me with the project from beginning to the end. As part of the program, the graduate students there also gave us insights and advice on applying graduate schools. The primary coordinator- Dr. Stevens also shared the program called NSF-AGEP (Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate) that usually looks out for students who have been in NSF-REU programs throughout their journeys in Graduate School. (Here is the link: http://www.nsfagep.org)
- Paid Internship
It is one of the best parts of the internship program. The program covered my air-tickets, housing, food and lab funds. Plus, I got paid for a stipend of $4,000 ($1,000 every two weeks). Very well paid, isn’t it?
- Potential Psychology Research Programs You Can Apply
I hope the list is very useful for all the Psychology students who are interested in applying research internship programs. The list is not exhaustive. Most of the applications require the citizenship or at least permanent resident status in applicants. The websites below cover more than 50 psychology research related programs you can apply for. Almost all the programs are offered during summer, around June. Yet, you need to prepare in advance for application, starting around December and January.
- APA website (http://www.apa.org/education/undergrad/research-opps.aspx)
- NSF website for Social Behavioral and Economic Sciences (http://www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/reu/list_result.jsp?unitid=5054)
- Summer psychology research related program recommended from Loyala University (http://www.loyola.edu/academic/psychology/programs/undergraduate/s ummeropportunities )
- Yale Cognition and Development Lab (http://cogdevlab.sites.yale.edu/joining-lab )
- Internship programs posted by Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences at John Hopkins University (http://pbs.jhu.edu/undergrad/intern-opp )
- Some Advice on Becoming a Successful Applicant
I applied for six of the internship programs and only successfully got into one of the programs. The application is as competitive, if not more, than the graduate school application. A program I applied at the Boston University has 800 plus applications for 10 fellowships. So are the other programs with at least 100 plus applications. Though the selection process is daunting, telling you this is not to discourage you. Rather, the rigorous selection means the application is very competitive, and the successful applicant needs so much time in preparation. Here are some of the advices to help you become one of the successful applicants.
- Get prepared.
Preparation takes time. You have to write personal statements for many different applications. You also have to rank the potential mentors who would match up with your research interests. Plus, you have to check the requirements, the program descriptions and submit the applications before the deadline during your busy spring semester.
- Get great recommendation letters.
Thanks to Dr. Hughes and Dr. Seidman at Albright College for helpful recommendation letters. The application process for the internship is rigorous, and you need academic recommendations from professors and advisors who know you. Just for the sake of recommendation, getting a recommendation letter from the professor who does not know you is a huge mistake. As you now know, the application process is very rigorous. Ask for recommendation letters from professors in advance like 3 or 4 months ahead. Do not give the professors hard times. Give them as much time as possible. Professors are busy with researches, works, grading and family. Get prepared and communicate to them for the submission. Some applications require mailing while other, electronic submissions. Again, get prepared!
- Get good grades at your institution.
College grades are somewhat useful in decision process. They imply as good indicators of the students’ efforts and academic interests. Good grades also help you somehow in getting to know your professors. This might help you with getting great recommendation letters and earning jobs like teaching and laboratory assistantship, as well as tutoring jobs. Such experiences are huge assets on your application.
- Show research interests.
Psychology research Methods I and II classes at Albright College are excellent in offering me undergraduate research experiences. I presented the undergraduate research project, conducted as part of the class requirement, at Eastern Psychological Association Conference (EPA). Though poster presentation at the conference was not necessary, I did it. It is highly recommended to you to do so. Of course, you need to give more time and efforts in creating the poster. It definitely paid off. Before getting into the program, my research mentor in the program interviewed me on the phone and mentioned how he enjoyed knowing my research interests and background. Plus, I want to be a professor and researcher. This really helps me on the application and decision process.
- Pay Attention in Psychology Classes.
The undergraduate psychology classes help you explore different research interests you might want to pursue later in undergraduate and graduate schools. Research methods classes at Albright help me hone some of the SPSS skills and statistical knowledge. Dr. Stevens who trained the interns on SPSS skills, praised my background statistical education at Albright College and asked me if my professor was a statistician. I replied that the professors here are just naturally good at teaching.
Partly because of my efforts in those classes, I was equipped with SPSS skills. Data analysis during my internship went by easily without so much of help from my mentor. So if you are taking those classes, please do assignments, read books, follow instructions and do critical thinking. This will help you with SPSS skills on your application.
And do not forget that Albright College has ACRE program, which help you work with professors on varieties of research topics.
The web links above also have some programs related to students with interests in clinical psychology. Most of the programs are research-oriented. Good luck with the application. Let me know when you get into one of those programs.