‘Foolproof’ Guide to Landing that Research Intern
–By Stealth Shiva, circa 2019
You see, I was also once that fawn-eyed fresher wondering why on earth I was at Barn Hall during Orientation. I also stared in awe at the lucrative internships, especially the research interns that would allow me to do a healthy bout of tourism besides (COVID-19 notwithstanding).
I’ve sort of become an expert in writing those fancy emails to those fancy professors at those fancy universities.
In fact, Mari, a prominent member of the DASA community, said the following in my praise: “Dude, this was life-changing for me. And not even in a cliché white guy visiting India and becoming grateful for all he has way, no! I’m talking real change, like, not satisfying myself with an intern at my dad’s company sort of a change.”
So, let’s jump in and here goes nothing. (Just so it’s clear, I’m not referring to my endsem paper. I hope?)
Dear (to prove that you’re modern, you see) Dr. (you believe you deserve at least someone with a PhD; who cares if you’re not made of the same stuff that gets you one?) XYZ (you probably arrived at his name last simply because you attacked, um, mailed professors in his department alphabetically, which is indicative of your massive rejection, but shh),
It’s imperative that you use the age-old formatting technique of bolding literally everything quite liberally. Trust me, it works. Start off by doing what you probably did in your denial year, aka your first year. Tell yourself, I mean, the professor, about the glorious reputation of your esteemed institution. Fake it till you make it, you see.
SUBJECT: (whatever you write here, they’re mostly going to ignore you anyway, so don’t bother)
I’m Stealth Shiva, a student pursuing (branch) at one of the top ten engineering colleges in India.
After this rather underwhelming introduction, it’s time to pick up your pace. Here’s where you need to seem like you know your stuff. Of course, having been through enough PIs/GDs (failed or otherwise) you should be fairly adept at this. This part also requires you to shamelessly stalk the professor on Google Scholar, but again, NITTians should not find stalking particularly difficult or troubling.
I have come across your work on (insert buzzword whose definition you certainly don’t know and won’t be bothered to know) from a (very preliminary stalk, um, scan) and I found it very fascinating. I was particularly intrigued by (insert literally the first thing you saw on their profile).
At this point, pop the damn question. Because if they’ve made it this far into your rambling, they probably deserve to know what the hell all this fuss is about. If they opened your mail.
I would like to know if I could be associated with your group as a summer/winter
/quarantine intern this year.
Of course, your interest, while vastly appreciated, isn’t going to cut it. Because the interest feigned, um, conveyed is directly proportional to how many PIs you were able to slave through. So here’s where you elaborate on the nonexistent: your skillset.
I have had the privilege to work under (extremely reluctant professor who regrets every bit of letting you work) on (something you never really understood) during which I learnt the following skills:
- Buzzword 1
- Buzzword 1 (worded slightly differently for novelty)
- Buzzword 1’s synonym
You could also mention the relevant coursework (haha) and online courses (double haha). GPA can be mentioned if you believe it’s respectable. But trust me, there’s this divine scientific pleasure in telling yourself that GPA doesn’t matter and only your work does (glossing over the obvious incompetence of your work, triple haha).
I have had relevant courses in my previous semesters, such as (I Only Went for Attendance), (I Hated it but it’s Important Apparently), (The One where I Lucked Out). I also pursued a couple of online courses to augment my knowledge in the domain, such as (selected videos of random NPTEL course at 2x a day before the endsem veiled as an entire course).
The professor should ideally be contemplating blocking/blacklisting your contact at this point. Try to save yourself by using the oldest trick in the book: flattery. Loads and loads of it. Healthy amounts of desperation thrown into the mix will only make it more heavenly.
I believe that working at your esteemed institution under your able guidance will give me
a line in my otherwise pathetic resume an opportunity to be a part of the pathbreaking work that you do. It will enable me to multiply my skillset even though the current one is zero and allow me to truly grow as a (insert noun for someone who actually continues with their branch post-college) in the future.
that you don’t seenzone my mail among the whirlwind of mails all scheduled for 8:30 am upon Quora’s advice of your response,
Believe me when I say this, you’ll bag that elusive intern in no time.
Seriously though, good luck!