Why a Research Internship Might Be Perfect for You
By Priyanka Rao
As applications for CURIS and REU begin to release, several of you may be weighing the pros and cons of a summer doing research versus an internship. I highly encourage you to try to have both experiences before you graduate! Personally, I interned a couple summers and did research another summer and found both types of opportunities amazing and invaluable. Since people are usually more familiar with the benefits of internships than research, below I go through the different advantages that doing research can have for undergraduates in different years.
It can be tough (though definitely doable) to find a good summer internship. Doing research is great because it is a more available opportunity and allows you to explore diverse interests. Look into the project descriptions in the CURIS application and see if you can find something you like! Doing research can help you figure out what fields and subfields you like and what kinds of problems you want to solve.
While you might now have some idea of what you want to pursue, research in sophomore summer can particularly help you learn more about your working style and become exposed to the hot-and-happening areas of different fields. Research is very different from internships in that you need to drive your own progress a lot more and you have more flexibility and control over how you approach a problem. For some, this is a dream come true. For others, it might not be — it really depends on you!
Having taken three years of coursework, you will now be able to better understand what different research groups are doing and how their work is truly unique and significant. Doing research at this point will help you gain stronger technical depth in a field. It will also help you decide whether or not you want to pursue a master’s or Ph.D. as you enter senior year.
Of course, the advantages listed above can apply to someone of any year, even seniors or current graduate students. If you’ve already done an internship in the past, consider trying research, and if you’ve already done research in the past, consider trying an internship. In any case, make sure you do what’s best for you!
Priyanka Rao is a Stanford senior majoring in electrical engineering with a focus on computer science. As part of the Events team in WiCS, she loves to help brainstorm and organize events for the community. Feel free to reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any suggestions for fun events or any CS (or non-CS) questions!