I am a first year PhD student in an interdisciplinary STEM subfield, in a UK-style program (so 3 or 4 years long). I have been offered a 12-week internship in a biotech startup working in a similar subfield as me. My university allows graduate students to pause their PhD in order to take internships in industry (with the support of the PhD supervisors, the Degree Committee, etc). I am not sure if I should take this offer, I list below some of my main considerations/thoughts.

I understand that this choice depends on personal reasons and is only mine, but I would like advice of the form "you shouldn't be worried about X point because of Y" or "have you considered the impact this would have on Z?".

  • My supervisor said to assume that the internship wouldn't be directly helpful for my PhD (and I agree, it would however give me a good general background of the relevant subfield of biology, which I currently lack because my background is in maths/physics), but that is as much info as advice as I could get -my PhD supervisor seems to be exceptionally busy recently.
  • I want to stay in academia
  • I have done an industry in the past and I didn't enjoy it, but it was in finance
  • I am enjoying my PhD
  • I would potentially be "out-of-phase" with respect to the other grad students, and this might be a problem when applying to postdocs if they start with the academic year (I would be three months behind)
  • I can still think about my PhD research questions while on the internship and do some reading, so I'd be buying a bit of extra time before my PhD submission deadline
  • I don't do experiments so no problem with leaving them halfway
  • I might lose momentum in my PhD
  • It might look negatively in my CV that I did this when applying to postdocs (since most academics seem to look down on industry)
  • The startup is based in the same city as my university, so I wouldn't have to move temporarilly, and could potentially interact with my research group
  • 1
    Seriously reflect on what it means to pursue and succeed in an academic career. Are you willing to make the sacrifices? What happens after your first post-doc? Do you still have your drive to do research? Or are you following a path because it is "easy" to just keep going the same way? I say this because my motivations and drives changed during the course of PhD. This internship sounds like a door-opener to me. You will survive being away from your PhD project for a couple of months, and learning more about how the relevant industry works can only be a good thing.
    – Yoda
    Feb 28, 2022 at 9:25
  • 1
    Postdoc start dates are usually pretty negotiable, so I wouldn't worry about being "out of phase". Anyway, you can probably massage your thesis submission and deadline to get you back in line with the academic calendar if needs be. Feb 28, 2022 at 14:30
  • 1
    Another aspect regarding "I would potentially be "out-of-phase" with grad students": since you state that "it would however give me a good general background of the relevant subfield of biology, which I currently lack because my background is in maths/physics)," I think it is a fantastic chance to stop feeling the one not knowing the general background, for two reasons: 1) you loosen your ties with your grad colleagues by spending time away (less social pressure of being the one not knowing the obvious background; 2) you get exposed to the basics of the biology subfield;
    – EarlGrey
    Mar 3, 2022 at 10:50
  • 3 months? 50/50 my supervisor wouldn't have noticed
    – user156207
    Dec 15, 2022 at 18:20
  • Considering the academic job market and for many students the opinion "I want to stay in academia" changes dramatically from the first to the last year of a PhD. I would totally recommend going for an internship.
    – tom
    Dec 15, 2022 at 21:13

2 Answers 2


You don't say what country you are in (only that your PhD is "UK-style"), bit id the postdocs in your country are also "UK-stlye", then i wouldn't worry about timings with regards to postdocs. Postdoc positions are advertised all the time, and don't follow the academic year (at least not in UK biology). It also won't look bad on your CV, if anything, it will look good. In fact, the PhD program that funds most of our students requires a three month internship outside the university.

In general, for bioinformatics, its good to have experience of as many different approaches and systems as possible.

  • Your last sentence in the first paragraph seems to have accidentally a word. Feb 28, 2022 at 22:50

Given the situation you described, it sounds like the internship is not worth doing, if you don't want to work at a startup (or in industry at all!) and the work doesn't have any obvious implications for your dissertation. It sounds like your PhD program is well-aligned with your career goals—why pause it to go and train for a job you don't even want?

It is very flattering to receive offers from cool organizations that seem like they're very selective, but I frequently have to remind myself that "someone thinks I'd be good at this!" doesn't mean I have to actually do it, regardless of whether they're right.

On the other hand, if you think maybe biotech could be an appealing direction for your career, this could be an invaluable way to find out whether it's for you. At the end of the day, I think it's critical to keep your end goal in mind: Which choice gets you closer to where you want to be?

  • This assumes that one knows where they want to be and they won't change their mind over time, though. Depending on the single person, that may or may not be a fair assumption
    – Andrea
    Dec 16, 2022 at 13:06

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .