Going into my last two weeks at Merit Network, I’ve had some time to think about everything I have learned; wow is it a lot! Much of it is academic knowledge, but I also noticed how many practical, ‘intern things’ I have learned as well. Being so, I have compiled a list of things for future Computer Science research interns (and most other reesearch fields) to remember and stay wary of!
- Take notes
- About 1.5 months into my internship, I decided to begin an ‘ongoing log’ of everything I did each day. In essence, a journal. The log file, which I keep as a simple Google Doc, has been extremely beneficial for organizing thoughts, coming up with a ‘plan of attack’ for each day, and easily remembering everything I did the day or two prior. Bonus points for highlighting current bugs and/or milestones that have been made! My only regret is that I did not begin the log earlier.
- Read the literature
- Current estimates have the number of scholarly articles with the full-text available on lib.umich.edu at over 85 million. Including non-scholarly articles and those whose full-text is unavailable directly on lib.umich.edu yields a number over 1.1 billion! Needless to say, there is a wealth of existing research out there. Odds are that someone has done something similar and/or related to your current research. Take advantage of that! Reading the papers of past researchers will save a lot of time, effort, and resources. Learn their methodologies, their approaches to problems, and of course their solutions to those problems.
- Chat up your colleagues
- Take some time each day to have a conversation with your fellow interns; work-related or otherwise. Even if you are working on different projects, you may be surprised to find that they are more similar than you previously thought. Even if you are both from completely different backgrounds, again, you may be surprised to find that each of you are more similar than you once thought. Building these relationships will not only make your internship more enjoyable, but could also open up new opportunities in the future. I’m happy to say that I have made four great new friends (my fellow interns) this summer!
- Take advantage of free coffee
- Seriously. I didn’t do this until about a month into my internship and I regret every one of those days.
- Stay curious
- Without curiosity and a passion for a particular field, would research even exist? Curiosity is the most basic, yet also the most essential characteristic for any researcher, young or old, can have. Keep an inquisitive mind and always be willing to approach a problem from a new perspective or point-of-view. I cannot count how many times this has led to a revelation, new direction, or strategy in my current and former research.
With these in mind, I can promise that any research intern will have a much easier time getting acclimated to their new job and with more fruitful end-results.