Monday, May 21, 2012

Summertime and the living is easy

It’s almost summer again, and when I was in college back home, summer meant going on vacation somewhere. Well, of course we wouldn’t go on vacation the entire summer because we didn’t have money for that, so the other half of the summer was spent working to be able to pay for the vacation. I worked in restaurants and bars, and one summer I decided to combine work and vacation and I worked on a campsite in France for two months. When I was a grad student, summer still meant going on vacation, because back home as a grad student your contract says that you have approximately 8 weeks of vacation. Okay, you’re not really supposed to take all 8 weeks, but most grad students will take a couple weeks of vacation in the summer. And when you travel cheap, you earn enough money as a grad student to go on vacation to the cheaper parts of the world, like Asia and South-America for those weeks. It had NEVER occurred to me that you can also spend the summer working in a lab as a volunteer, but apparently that’s what a lot of students do here in the US. So instead of drinking on a beach in Spain immersing themselves in a different culture, they lock themselves in a lab for the entire duration of the summer.

I can’t complain about that, because this summer I have a lovely summer student who is super enthusiastic about neuroscience and loves to help me out with experiments. So I can write a blog post I analyze data, while he is running my experiments. But are those couple of weeks volunteering in a lab really going to look that good on your CV that you are going to waste spend an entire summer in a lab? I still don’t really get it…


  1. Is it the working in the summer that's odd or the fact that it's a brief stay in the lab? Part of it may be because it has become something that you "just do", so a lot of students are signing up just to do it once.

    I worked in a lab every summer during college. The first was mainly just to have a job. Wasn't for my CV so much as the cash (I got paid) and experience. After that I worked pretty much continuously in labs for the next three years, including summers. Either for $$ or credit.

    1. It's the volunteering in the summer part that's odd to me (it's a different story when you get paid, because then I get it). I was just wondering why so many students do that here, and if it really gives you an advantage over other people.

    2. I dunno. Most of our summer folks are getting credit. A few pay. I wonder how many of your volunteers are med school hopefuls who are just in "build resume" mode. No idea if it actually helps with that.

  2. I had a job that lasted the duration of college and the first year of grad school. I worked at a bakery from 5:30 until 10, then went to class all day/lab and had weekends off. Summer gave me the opportunity to have other jobs. One summer I worked as a secretary for a financial aid office at my school, which, in retrospect, was awesome, because I learned so much about student loans. One year I did my (obligatory and for credit) summer internship which was also really cool. This internship was what got me into grad school. As for vacations, I went to a conference for our honor society in college. It was in NOLA, which is one of my favorite places.

    I just never got the concept of vacation. I didn't even do the spring break thing.

  3. I worked in labs most summers during college, though I was always paid. But it was nice to spend the summer and hang around campus with whichever of your friends stayed around and enjoy the nice weather and quiet and nearby beaches.

    But also I think having research experience really helps you get into grad school and really to decide whether you really like doing science or not, so its useful even if its on a volunteer basis.

  4. Answer: Yes, having research assistance on your cv helps you get into graduate school.

    Also the reason I'm not a geneticist is because it turns out what they do is boring even though their discoveries are interesting. Social Science is much more my pace. Thank you, internships.

    Also some of us like a/c and curse the daystar.