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Internships tips (M2)

We have compiled here a list of tips written by several M2 students. They’ll be happy to give further advice, their emails are at the end of this section. You are more important (for you) than any Principal Investigator (PI), laboratory or scientific project. So first: think about your priorities. Choose your internships based on them. For example, if during this year you want to learn the maximum and do it having fun, think about 3 totally different labs and be sure that you get along with the PI and with the team. If the atmosphere is bad, nobody will tell you (or rarely) “don’t come here !”, but if people are not saying “we are having a great time here, we love our lab”, it might be an indication….

The more labs you visit the better for you! It means experience in interviews, networking, learning a lot about what is happening in Paris science, tuning what you want, need and appreciate!

What do I have to ask before choosing a lab?

The important point is to take time to search for a lab in which you will be comfortable/feel great during the three months and have a real interest in the project.

Ask if on the occasion of the interview you could come and spend a few hours to meet your advisor but also the team. Ask questions about their work and habits in the lab. Especially if there are PhD students or other Master students in the lab, speak with them, they will be able to present you the lab and the environment with a different point of view than the one of your (maybe future) supervisor. If a member of the CRI/AIV/FdV has already worked for the lab, we strongly advise you to ask him about his experience. Bad internships happen, unfortunately…

Don’t hesitate to request precisions on what you will do during those 3 months. It might be a good idea to ask the PI for a written schedule with some concrete experiments and tasks. If you ask for help or opinions at the CRI (never hesitate to do it), this written project will help your advisers. It could also serve you to assess how is going your internship…

It is important to ask during your interview about plans of the lab/PI to take a PhD student next year. Don’t feel obliged to promise anything during the interview and don’t expect the PI to promise you anything neither.

Don’t forget to introduce in your discussion the question of the remuneration. Some labs (fortunately not the majority!) accept to take you as an intern but are not able to pay you; in this case, you cannot accept their offer and will have to find another internship. It is indeed illegal for you to perform an internship for free. See the Internship section of the M1 chapter for more details.

There is a lot of great “extra-Master” courses at the CRI. Have a look on them before starting the internship, if there is something you would like to follow, ask your PI if it is OK for him/her if you assist to a course during the internship. The dates or at least the amount of hours are known very early in the year.

For the AIV Master 2 you will not write reports from your internships but present 20 min.-presentations, ask the PI if she/he is ok with it or if you will have to provide a written report for the lab (extra work but exercise in scientific writing is important).

What your PI should know

You will not come to the lab on Fridays afternoons, as you will have the AIV courses (Starting at 15h usually). This should be clear from the beginning for your advisor. Also, you will have an extra load of work when it’s your turn to present at CARA, BibSyn or ZOIO and you will certainly spend less time or be less efficient in the lab at this period. Make sure that your PI knows this from the beginning.

How can I find a lab for my internship?

  • Searching on the websites of Universities and Institutions for a team or an unit according to your interests.
  • Speaking with FdV students and other students that come to the CRI and may know of interesting internship opportunities.
  • Typing key words (HIV, Paris) in Faculty 1000…

A lot of labs have a good opinion of the Master AIV, so you should not have troubles with finding one. You can count on Ariel, Pascal, David, Annemiek, Samuel and a plenty of others (us! aka past M2 students) at the CRI to help you to find your dream-internship.

As soon as you find a lab that could be interesting for you, write a mail to the PI. It should be short, direct, but personalized. Why are you writing? Who are you? Why are you writing to this lab in particular (the shorter the better, you can not be a specialist after reading the abstract of the project on the website…) What do you expect from this internship? You can also asked the AIV team to write an official letter explaining the AIV Master characteristics so that you can join it to your mail.

As we already said above, the important point is to take time to search for a lab in which you will be comfortable/feel great during the three months and have a real interest in the project.

Dates

You will organize your year by yourself. There are no determined periods of holidays. The presentation (there is no written report) of your first internship takes place at the beginning of January (3-4 of January), of the second in early April (8-12 of April) and the presentation of your third internship will be at the beginning of July (8-10 of July).

Try to schedule the toughest internship for the first trimester. At the beginning of the AIV M2, there is less work to do for the courses, therefore more time for the internship. The third trimester is the most demanding with the ZOIO course (team-work !), the applications for PhDs and so on. Choosing a “light” scientific project, doing iGEM or even taking 2-3 weeks of break should be considered.

When do I have to start looking for my internships?

As soon as possible as your first experiment will normally start mid-September! So in practice you have to find a lab during the summer and start the administrative process end of august, beginning of September. For the second and third internships, you should have found a lab, typically one month before the starting date to let some time to the university administration to process your files.

Why the first and second internships are so important?

  • If you think about doing your PhD in France, the most important of your internships could be the first one, as PIs are searching quite early for candidates (they want to test you but also you want to test them!). The optimal situation is to do your first internship in the lab where you would dream to make your PhD. Then you’ll have a “sure” position and you can start to work on your PhD project early.
  • Interviews for PhD internships are extremely competitive. The better you know the team and the project, the better for you. Of course it is possible to prepare a presentation on a PhD project in two weeks, but it will surely be more difficult and stressful than having few months.
  • Some French doctoral schools ask to submit the PhD projects in the beginning of January. This is done by the PI, but not all the PIs do it systematically every year. So if you want to do your PhD in the lab and the PI has the possibility to take a PhD student next year, be sure that he or she submits your project on time.
  • As you will see, during the M2 year, time is going really fast. If you know early in which lab you want to do your PhD you will be able to apply for more fellowships (AXA, universities…)
  • If the PI wants a PhD and your first internship turns to be a great success: perfect! If something tells you that you should not stay in a particular lab for your PhD you have a second shot.
  • Don’t be afraid reading this part if you still don’t know for the moment if you want to do a PhD and where you would like to do it. If you decide in February or March it’s still good. But it’s true that “positions” are being occupied fast and you might have a strongly reduced choice of labs proposing a PhD if you start searching in April… The important thing to keep in mind is that you have to be sure that this is The lab for you which depends on your priorities!

Project

It is sometimes difficult for labs to set up a three months project so try to be sure you will really have something to do during the three months. Still, it is possible to conceive a 3 months work schedule during which you will learn interesting things AND contribute to the project. For example it might be one or two kinds of experiments to answer one or two questions (you will not save the world from cancer in 3 months… unfortunately), the optimization of a new technique, to set up an analytic procedure…

Number/ kind of internships

You will have to do three rotations of three months each (13 to 14 weeks) with at least one theoretical and one experimental project among the three. You can choose your laboratories from any universities and institutions in Paris area (or not).

What if I don’t have much experience/knowledge in the subject of my internship?

It is not an obligation to have experience and knowledge on the subject of your internship, which means that you can apply for internships that you’re interested in even if you don’t have a solid background in that area. You’ll be able to learn a great deal during these kinds of internships, so don’t be afraid to explore new areas of research ! Make sure that you state from the beginning your level of knowledge and of course show your motivation ! Some labs will gladly take you in, especially if they work on an interdisciplinary project and are accustomed to a mix of different backgrounds.

Money

In France, as soon as your internship is more than two months (even with a break!) the laboratories HAVE to pay you what is called a “gratification”, last year it was 436 €. Depending on the labs it may take some time to be paid, and it is not uncommon to be paid only at the end of the internship.

By the way if the internship is shorter than 3 months and obligatory you do not declare it for taxes….

Internships in foreign countries

If you plan an internship abroad during your Master, we recommend you to do it as your 2nd internship because it seems to be the best compromise. For a matter of time, it is difficult to start an internship abroad at the beginning of the year (since you have to find your lab, funding and accommodation) and you would miss the “socialization” part with the rest of your AIV colleagues. One the other hand, specially if you want to apply for a PhD in France, you would have to be around Paris at the end of the year in order to define your PhD project and apply to doctoral schools.

Concerning funding, Paris Descartes and Diderot Universities propose a “Mobility Fellowship” on social and education criteria. With this single application, you can get money from either Erasmus, Région Île-de-France or University. If you are lucky, you will get a maximum amount of 450€/month… which helps a little bit to live abroad. For accommodation and extra-funding, you should negotiate with your hosting lab.

When doing an internship abroad, or far from Paris, you will be asked to participate to the Moodle, to come back for your presentation and to take extra courses to the university your lab is attached to, in order to compensate for your absence from the Friday sessions.