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URMC / Education / Graduate Education / URBest Blog / May 2019 / URBEST Internship Primer

URBEST Internship Primer

News Article by Tracey Baas, URBEST Executive Director

Almost two years ago, I wrote an article called URBEST Internship Myths. I’d like to think it helped a number of trainees maneuver through setting up their internships. I also know that a number of people are still confused about how to think about URBEST internships, either because they are new to the URBEST Program, their department had a recent turnover of a key program coordinator or director who had previously worked with a URBEST intern (i.e. institutional memory loss), or maybe I haven’t put enough words into print yet. To rectify that situation, I give you The Primer.

Before you get started with your internship: You need to have at least one first author UR publication, multiple coauthor UR publications or a letter from your PI discussing your productivity in the research group. If you are a graduate student, you must have completed your qualifying exam.

Working with URBEST before your internship: You need to be officially enrolled in the URBEST Program. Enrollment takes place every year November 1 – 15 and April 1 – 15. You enter the program with a cohort. Being enrolled in URBEST does NOT automatically allow you to participate in an internship. As a URBEST trainee, you must show engagement in the Program and what that boils down to is 40 – 60 points, which will take approximately 6 months if you select activities mindfully. Why do we ask for URBEST engagement? Because we believe that trainees who have interacted with our Career Story scientists, have stayed curious through our URBEST Retreat and Career Workshop, and have picked up new professional development and career exploration skills make for better interns. Engaging with URBEST is a little bit like a long-term interview. We’re always watching your progress.

Working with the URBEST Executive Director:  This discussion can happen at any time. You do not have to have your external and URBEST factors in order yet. Ideally, you should plan for your internship experience at least one year in advance, even if you’re not sure where you’d like to intern. I’m here to discuss some of your ideas and help you explore opportunities, but ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which internship is best for you. One way to easily discuss what you might like to do is to complete a URBEST internship application. The most important part of the application is you telling us about three internship experiences you might like to have.

Using your own connections and also the URBEST internship suggestions (, what is your first choice for an experiential activity? The more specific your goal (e.g., company names, locations of internships, skills you wish to build, projects you wish to work on, professional or personal connections you may have, etc.) the more likely you will be selected as an intern. What specific experience would you like to gain through this internship?

There are places in the application where you need to upload an email showing approval from your PI and also to upload your manuscripts. If you do not have these at first application that is fine. You will receive a code that allows you to go back into the application to upload these when you are ready.

Establishing an internship with your selected host:  Depending on what type of internship you’d like to establish, you can either (1) apply through the host’s established internship process or (2) if you have a connection at the host workplace, you can work with that person to establish an internship specifically for you based on what you would like to learn and what the host needs. If you do not yet have a connection but would like to establish one, I can coach you on how to “cold email” individuals who could participate in informational interviews and suggest experiential opportunities. We have had trainees establish internships using both methods. If interning outside of the University of Rochester, you may be a full-time intern for up to three months. If you are interning at the University of Rochester or in the city of Rochester, you may be a full-time intern for up to three months OR a part-time intern whose hours add up to 480 hours over a time duration selected by you and your host. Some people do not have time to do a full- or part-time internship. Other experiential opportunities are possible.

Ensuring your University of Rochester status: All trainees MUST be registered as a University of Rochester PhD graduate student or postdoc while participating in the internship. You should NOT wait for defense and graduation or for your postdoctoral appoint to expire! Graduate students and postdocs are considered to have a dual role that includes (1) contributing to research (employee) and (2) actively engaging in their training and career development (trainee), which could include experiential opportunities. If interested in the details the Code of Federal Regulations describes it in uniform guidance 200.400 (f). Because you are fulfilling your dual role, we prefer you NOT take a leave of absence, but instead retain your active dual role as a graduate student or postdoc. You could also consider registering for IND 511, the University of Rochester BEST internship if you’d like your official transcript to include this opportunity. This registration process might be best discussed with your departmental program coordinator, who better understands the policy and requirements for graduation in your department. In addition, if your stipend is covered by a training grant or fellowship, we must discuss your stipend situation and make contact with your program officer and program director to get approval for your internship. It is up to the program officer or program director as to whether or not your internship contributes to your training. So far, we have been successful with gaining these approvals and the stipend has continued to come from the training grant or fellowship. This is something to remember when writing a training fellowship (F31/F32), i.e., you can include an internship or experiential activity in your proposal.

Stipends and housing: If you will undertake an unpaid internship and your stipend is covered by a research grant, URBEST is able to cover your stipend while you undertake the internship. Because your internship is unpaid, URBEST can also cover the costs of your housing. We can also discuss if you need help with travel arrangements. Often times, even with a paid internship, the intern frequently needs to find housing in an expensive metropolitan area and the host’s internship salary is not enough to cover living expenses, housing in the metropolitan area and housing in the Rochester area (i.e. two rents at once). On a case-by-case evaluation, URBEST might also be able to cover your stipend so that you can cover double rent.

With housing, many interns look to AirBnB for a place to stay. Some people are able to find sublets from students who will be away from their city during the summer. Before you lock-in any living arrangements, you will need to send me three links or screen shots of three places that you might like to rent during your internship. This gives me some indication of the city’s price range. I am not familiar with all cities, but I have a pretty good feeling of what is reasonable for New York City, San Francisco, and Boston. Many potential interns feel initial shock at how high the rent is in metropolitan areas, so shopping around for an apartment rental or sublet will put you in the right mindset of what type of apartment value you can get for your money. If you find an apartment that looks too good to be true, it probably is. Yelp is also a great place to look for reviews and potential problems with landlords or rental companies. Once I’ve approved your rental cost range, you can lock something in within that range.

After paying your first month’s rent, usually while you are still in Rochester, we can start the paperwork on your rent reimbursement. We will fill out three rental reimbursement forms, one for each month that you are gone. Each form will be submitted to accounts payable to be reimbursed as soon as I receive each monthly rent receipt. So, you will receive three reimbursements: one while still here in Rochester, one when you send me the second month’s rent receipt, and one when you send me the third month’s rent receipt.

Give yourself plenty of time, remain calm and take it step-by-step: If all of this seems overwhelming, take a deep breath and make an appointment to chat with me. I am here to help you. I can even put you in contact with some previous URBEST interns that have successfully accomplished what you are setting out to do. You are embarking on something very different than your standard day-to-day: you are broadening your experiences in scientific training. That is something to be excited about! The confidence will follow.

Tracey Baas | 5/6/2019

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