I am wondering if it's too late to ask the faculty about the availability of a summer research internship position? When would be the best time for this?

More information as requested:

  • I am looking for the positions in the US from May 25th onwards.
  • I am also a graduate student and I'm thinking of a summer internship with an eye towards the possible continuation as a post-doc.
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    Note that it may be impossible for you to participate in lab or field work due to COVID-19 restrictions- this will depend a lot on the particular institution's policies and may be subject to change on short notice. For example, at my institution undergraduate students won't be allowed to be in the research labs for at least the first half of the summer. – Brian Borchers May 11 '20 at 0:39

No, it's not too late to ask. But whether it is too late to get one depends on the local situation and so we can't help with that.

So, ask. If you don't ask you won't get one.

There is a Chinese proverb: The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is right now.

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    Thanks for the answer and the proverb, that's a good one. – Cardinal May 10 '20 at 23:10

General answer: it is never too late to ask for anything, nor there is almost no downside to asking. So go ahead and ask around.

Even better news: some summer internship programs are moving online and bumping up number of participants.

More good news: Summer programs (like the one Caltech runs) are structured, so they have deadlines, but if you are in a position where you can work for free, you can always (year-around) inquire about possible volunteering opportunity for specific labs. Even better then to reach out to professors who's work is interesting to you

  • Thanks for your answer. – Cardinal May 10 '20 at 23:10

There's always someone looking for interns.

My recommendation is to ask researchers that work in fields that interest you if they are able to supervise a research project over the summer. I would recommend you prepare a nice CV that you can attached to your email, so that they don't have to ask you for it and delay the process un-necessarily.

I would also recommend to check their websites, since many of them say explicitly "not currently taking research interns" and therefore if you do email them anyway, they might get annoyed and it could hurt your chances of working with them in the future (it probably won't harm you, but in some cases it can, so it's better not to risk it).

If you need help choosing a supervisor, you might ask friends if they have recommendations, or you can browse university websites after clicking on the department you're interested in, and finding the "department members" page.

If you are really keen and have the time, I might recommend to browse some of their papers, for example on Google Scholar or from the publication list on their website. They will be impressed if your email indicates that you know at least something about what they do, and is not just a generic request to work with someone about whom they have not the slightest clue.

Last of all, good luck with your search for an internship!

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    Without qualification, I would expect "not currently taking students" to mean graduate advisees, not summer undergraduates, unless that's explicitly stated. – Azor Ahai -him- May 11 '20 at 19:23
  • True, I'll edit the answer. – user1271772 May 11 '20 at 19:33
  • @AzorAhai actually the OP didn't say they were an undergrad student (although I agree that you're probably right). I changed my answer to say "research interns" so that it exactly matches the question. The details are probably less important than the general advice to look at someone's website and get a feel for whether or not they're accepting students. This is at least what I did when I sought undergrad-level, grad-level, and postdoctoral-level positons, and even employment outside of universities. – user1271772 May 11 '20 at 19:36
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    Thanks for you answer, I am almost doing the same things you suggested above. – Cardinal May 11 '20 at 20:26
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    @Cardinal Great! Good luck with the search by the way! – user1271772 May 11 '20 at 20:28

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