NSF REU Program
ACS Local Sections
ACS & YOU
Get Rolling on
Summer Job Plans!
BY MICHELLE A. BOUCHER
Summer is more than a time to hang out with friends and binge on TV shows you missed. It’s the ideal opportunity to set yourself up for a job after graduation by interning or doing research. Employers want workers with experi- ence, and summer is the perfect time to get it without
the distraction of classes, homework, clubs, or social activities.
While it may seem early to be thinking about summer work,
research and internship programs are accepting applications
now. If you’re not sure what you want to do after graduation, the
Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program or an
internship will give you a chance to try out different types of positions, organizations, and research areas without making a long-term commitment.
Experience opportunities for your résumé
Research Experiences for Undergraduates. In the REU program,
undergraduate students work closely with faculty and other
researchers on a specific laboratory project at the host institution.
Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the program
provides stipends and, in many cases, assistance with housing and
travel. The chance of gaining graduate-level research experience is
more than worth the effort of writing the best application you can.
Internships. Interning is a great way to get the kind of technical
and professional experience that employers are looking for — even
if you plan to attend graduate school. Check with your career services office or local companies for positions. If your school has a
career fair, attend it. ACS’s Get Experience website has a comprehensive list of internships, and the ACS SCI Scholars Program offers
internships in industry.
Other research opportunities. Along with REUs, you can do graduate-level research at a university, government institution, or corporation. Talk to professors within your department, researchers at
other universities, or members of your ACS local section to find out
about summer research.
What if you don’t get an REU or internship?
Don’t take it personally if you don’t get accepted for a position.
Huge applicant pools and restricted funding often play a large role
in job placements. However, you never know how the tide may
turn — An employer’s needs may change or a chosen candidate
may back out at the last minute. That’s why it’s important to stay in
touch with your contacts and take some time to refine your application. Run your résumé by a career counselor (ACS student members:
remember your ACS career counselor benefit!). Make sure that your
application shows why you are a good fit for the program.
If an internship doesn’t pan out, keep your eyes and ears open
for last-minute opportunities that will help you build professional skills.
Other experience options
Summer jobs in your department. Often, there are non-research jobs for students at college departments that can
help you gain professional skills and knowledge. For example,
performing laboratory cleanup leads to a good understanding of chemical safety and equipment naming and function.
Tutoring students will give you experience for future teaching
Think outside the department. Does your school have summer programs for high school students or pre-freshmen? If so,
they might need peer tutors and peer mentors. These positions
require responsible students who can handle authority and
communicate effectively, two skills that are desirable in teaching assistants or team members in industrial settings.
Build your own summer experience. It is alright if you don’t
want to spend the summer doing research, but find what you
want to do, and do it! You will undoubtedly build skill sets that
are transferrable to graduate school or employment. If you have
a passion for writing, spend the summer reading and writing
(and consider writing for inChemistry). Volunteer with your
local section or even with non-chemistry organizations, such as
Habitat for Humanity. Work at a summer camp, or see if your
parents’ employers have summer jobs.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to talk to a faculty member about your
plans, to seek ideas or for a pep talk. Your professors understand how nerve-wracking
this period of time can
be, and they are happy to
remind you that you are
not alone in this process.
Boucher is an
Utica College, a
member of the Undergraduate
Programming Advisory Board of
the ACS, and a longtime student