Day: March 25, 2018

Where can I learn more about the NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates program?

The Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), is a set of summer research programs hosted at at many universities, including Michigan Tech.  These are competitive programs and an excellent way to check out if you are interested in graduate school.  A good time to do an REU is the summer after you have completed the spring junior classes in chemical engineering.  If you can get one earlier than that, that’s great too, but the best time is just before senior year.

The REU programs are the opportunity to participate in a funded research program at a research university.  You will work with other REU undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, and the professor in the program (0ften in a lab) on a real project that is aiming towards publication.  They are looking for bright students who may be interested in going to graduate school.  They will be showing you what graduate school and research is all about.  You will make friends and gain colleagues and you will gain research experience and skills. You will get the opportunity to live in a new place and in general check out the scene.  You may get to be on a publication.  If you are not sure about going to graduate school the REU experience will likely give you the experience you need to come to a decision.

The REU fellowships are well funded–you will have enough to live on and to enjoy your summer and to save up for college.  The deadlines for REU applications range from January to late March annually.  There may be some with later deadlines, but they are accepting people in February and March so if they fill up they fill up.

You may obtain more information about the REU program from the NSF website.  Undergraduate students sponsored with NSF funds must be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States or its possessions.  NSF maintains a website that allows you to search by topic for REU programs throughout the country.  A contact person and contact information is listed for each site.

I highly recommend this program to students who are interested in research and/or graduate school.


How should I prepare for a phone/web interview?

First interviews over the phone or internet are increasingly common.  Here are some things to watch out for:

Content preparation:

  1. Develop good answers to the most common questions (google around to find a list of common questions).
  2. Have two questions prepared for when they ask if you have any questions (google around to see what questions folks suggest in your field).
  3. Know something about the organisation you’re interviewing with (do your homework).

Language and Image:

  1. Avoid minimising language in your answers (“I’d just like to say…”  “Maybe this is wrong, but…”  “I don’t know much about it but…“.  If you practice you’ll see that you can give the same answer (what you know about the topic) and can deliver it without the preface of “All I know about that is ...” or some other minimising language.
  2. Speak clearly.  If you tend to speak rapidly, slow down.  Make sure your answers do not run on and on-they likely have more to ask you.
  3. Avoid simple yes/no answers.  If you need time to think, say “Hmm, let me think about that for a minute.” to get yourself time and so they know why you’re not answering.  Don’t take longer than a minute.

Preparation and Setting:

  1. Be on time.  Don’t schedule any other appointment too close to the end of the interview; you do not want to have to cut it short.
  2. Be in a private space where you will not be interrupted.
  3. Have a paper and pen handy for taking notes; note down the name of your interviewer and address them formally until they invite you to do otherwise.
  4. Have your resume handy; they likey have it handy and are reading from it.  Mark up your copy with other topics/interests that branch from your resume in case there is an opportunity to talk about these.
  5. Try to project confidence and good will.  How to do this will depend on you, but give it some thought.

Technical advice:

  1. Use a land line for a phone interview to avoid technical problems; if this is not feasible think hard about how good your connection will be at the time of the interview.  If it’s a video interview use a good connection.
  2. If it’s a video interview, look at your camera, not at the image of your interviewer on the screen.  Dress professionally.  Check out the background behind you and choose it wisely.  Check out your technical connections early to avoid delays.

Good luck.  If you have any advice to add to this post, please send it to cmadvise@mtu.edu.