View Full Version : Day-to-Day Life Of Intern

05-03-2013, 11:54 PM
Are there any resources on the day-to-day life of an intern at a research university? Books, articles, anything? Any clue greatly appreciated.

05-04-2013, 11:52 PM
I don't know about existing resources, but at my (US) university, a professor with a grant for a research project would usually hire one or more of his or her students as a researcher. Depending on the university, he might also be able to hire work-study funded students, especially in the summertime. The intern would have a set number of hours per week, usually more in the summer than in term time, when she would be taking her usual load of classes in addition to the internship. The work assigned to an intern would depend on the nature of the research project. HTH

05-05-2013, 12:35 AM
It does help. Thank you.

05-05-2013, 05:52 PM
I can't think of any resources off the top of my head that describe the life of a graduate research assistant/internet - well, other than phdcomics.com ... ;)

But I was an RA for my advisor one summer. I had time sheets to fill out, 20 hours a week, and my advisor gave me specific research assignments I had to do and report back on. During the semester it would generally work the same way, but probably only if you weren't teaching because there's a maximum 20-hour/week work limit on full time students and teaching counted, at my university, as 13.333 hours which means there's not really many hours left to do a lot of research work.

If you've got any specific questions, I can at least tell you what my experience was.

05-05-2013, 11:14 PM
Thank you. During a summer, how many hours a day did you intern, including research assignments and anything else? Was there a specific start and end hour mandated for each day? Were weekends involved, or only week days? Did you have to attend meetings of any sort? What was a typical day like, morning to afternoon/evening?

05-06-2013, 03:37 AM
I had a lot of freedom to set my own schedule, as long as I carried out my assignments. At the beginning of the summer, I met with my advisor and had some meetings in which he taught me how to use the database that he'd constructed for all his primary source research. After that, though, we mostly communicated by email with me emailing whenever I had results and him emailing whenever he had something else to add to my to-do list.

On a typical day, I'd get up and try to be either at the university library (tracking down books, microfilms, etc.) or at Panera Bread (coffee shops are the traditional grad student's office) by 10am or so. A lot of what I was doing was transcribing and indexing data from the thousands of digital photos he'd taken the last time he was at the archives. All that I did while hanging out at Panera (endless caffeine refills!) I'd get food and keep working while I ate, so I never really took an official lunch break, just worked until about 2-4pm and called it a day whenever my concentration started to fade.

When I had to pull secondary sources, cross-check printed materials, consult microfilmed materials, etc. then I'd go into the library instead. Those days I did have to take a lunch break, but usually I'd bring my own food or eat at the library cafe. I'd still put in ~4-6 hours of work and I kept track of it on timesheets. I'm not sure if those technically ended up going to the university or the people who provided the grant - I just turned them in to the department office every other Friday.

I tended not to work weekends - I saved those for my own research - but I could have worked weekends if I wanted. The key was to do ~20 hours a week, but other than that I had pretty much complete flexibility in managing my time. If I wanted to do two 10-hour workdays I could have.

At the end of the summer, we did do an official debriefing and report of what I'd accomplished, but I'd mostly given him everything already at that point. IIRC, it was a bit of a combination of general advising meeting and summer job report.

I do have friends who've interned in more office-y settings - those were generally for long-standing projects with actual paid staff and permanent offices as opposed to faculty-driven research projects - but other than coming in a little earlier and taking an actual lunch break, their experiences were similar to mine. A lot of the work is self-directed, since you're expected to have a good idea how to conduct research already when you're a grad student.

05-06-2013, 05:40 AM
For whatever reason, I thought it'd be more regimented. This will help a lot for what I need, even serve as a basic taking-off point. Thanks.

05-06-2013, 07:59 AM
It depends on the project and the department as well as the supervisor and type of research assistantship/internship.

I'm currently an RA for a project that is not very stringent with its scheduling. We all do approximately 20 hours per week, but do not record hours. Some weeks, it's more than 20, others it's less. It evens out.

In the summer, it depends on if we're running subjects through tests/trials and how much data collection we need. Last summer, we all worked at least 20 hours a week. This summer, there's little work. I'll be doing literary review and writing for the most part.

Duties can include:

Running a lab session (this includes setting up, checking in participants, monitoring participants, breaking down the lab, running log files, giving exit interviews).
Coding data: either observational coding (quantitative) or something more like highlight keywords and marking behaviors in NVivo (qualitative).
Literature Review: read an assload of articles and summarize methods and theory. Find supporting text that might help you define your own methods, etc.
Testing of materials/media (we're testing video games)
Data processing and running numbers
Usability testing

Etc. and so on.

Just from reading this, you can probably imagine how much different other projects might be if they were (let's say) in a biology department, or engineering. Completely different tasks.

I've even done odd jobs like "arrange the lab so it's more inviting," or "get posters for the game lab." Sometimes, you're an errand-runner.

05-06-2013, 06:20 PM
Are those duties the same for undergraduate (if one is accepted as an RA) and graduate students?

05-07-2013, 09:15 AM
Hmmmm, I'm not sure. They don't give RA'ships to undergrads where I am. They can give internships, though, and I would imagine an undergrad probably does more gophering and errand-running than the graduate-level RAs. Undergrad interns would probably be complete bottom of the barrel, like opening mail kind of bottom.

As an undergrad intern, I was more of an admin. assistant. "Here, put labels on 1,200 letters we're sending out." Folded a lot of letters. Stuffed a lot of envelopes. Lots of filing, too. There was a small bit of sunlight whenever I was able to do something "important," but they gave the lion's share of the cool stuff to the MA and Ph.D. students.

Again, probably depends on the type of research team.

Maybe a more sciency team would make interns wash test tubes and such, clean out animal cages (if there are test animals), remedial stuffs.

05-07-2013, 08:38 PM
Thanks for the info, Craster.