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NIH intern lifestyle

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by fish89, Dec 30, 2008.

  1. fish89

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    I'm interning at the NIH this summer, and I have a few questions... responses would be very valuable in helping me understand what my life for 3 months in a mysterious city will be like lol. For those of you who have worked at the NIH, either as a summer intern or postbac (or any one of their many available positions), I have a few questions:

    1. how much free time did you have, and what did you do with it? (what are the things to do around Bethesda, and within the NIH itself?) how did you balance your work with your lifestyle?

    2. how are the workshops and lecture series? were they valuable?

    3. how did your build relationships with those in your lab?

    4. what advice do you have for a successful intern experience? what types of things are appreciated and valued at the NIH? was it hard adapting, or were they welcoming right away?

    5. did anyone have any particular trouble finding housing?

    6. is the metro convenient?

    7. how was coordinating moving in (to apartment or nearby dorm) with your internship start date?

    8. where did you meet people? do interns usually interact with each other or have opportunities to meet one another?

    9. i've heard of people taking classes while they're at the NIH. how does ths work? i saw on the website that they have classes for med and dental students, but do they have any for undergrads?

    Thanks!
     
    #1 fish89, Dec 30, 2008
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2008
  2. drjm1

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    A lot of these answers can be found in previous posts about the NIH IRTA Postbacc, but I'll take a crack at these.

    1. the amount of free time you have depends wholly on what lab you're in, what sort of experiments you're performing, and how invested in your lab work you want to be. Some ppl work 12-16 hour days, others work 9-5. It's pretty much up to you what you want to do. I generally only have evenings and weekends free. There's not much to do in Bethesda except for restaurants and happy hours, but DC has tons to do and a lot of it is free.

    2. Not sure what workshops/lecture series you're talking about... the NIH has so many lectures and talks going on every day that you could probably spend your entire time here just going to them. If you're talking about the ones specifically for IRTA students, those are pretty useful (eg how to apply to professional schools/graduate schools, interviewing, preparing presentations, applying for scholarships) and are usually video-recorded. You can find them online somewhere

    3. be outgoing, ask questions, talk to as many people as you can. Eat lunch with them. Go out to happy hours.

    4. best advice is since they are putting time, effort, energy and money into training you, do the best you can do make the most of it. take the initiative in learning, be aggressive, mature, responsible, hard working, seek opportunities. the NIH is above all a place to train future scientists. Many scientists there got their start at the NIH too...they want to see you succeed. there are so many resources and opportunities available to help you do so.

    5. housing can be tough to find if you dont know what you're looking for. Altho craigslist and club PCR (the IRTA listserv on yahoo) are good places to start, many apartments arent listed there and simply have their own websites. Ideally find a place that is walking distance to a subway stop on the Metro red line. talk to people who have lived in the area and ask them for advice.

    6. super convenient, clean and safe, and the NIH pays for your commute (if you agree not to drive a car). The only bad thing is it doesnt run 24/7.

    7. i moved in a couple days before my start date. talk to your PI about whether they expect you to be in the lab on your offical first day, in which case you'll need to move to DC a bit earlier.

    8. there is a very active email list for students at the NIH and people organize things all the time (happy hours, intramurals, lunches, excursions, etc). Not that hard to meet people (especially other students that might be in your lab)

    9. you can take classes through the FAES graduate school at the NIH, and the course catalog is online. usually your lab will pay for you to take a class if you want to take one. you can take it for credit, or just audit them.
     
  3. PandaBrewMaster

    PandaBrewMaster w00tcakes
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    I live right outside of Bethesda and I've worked at the NIH for 4 years so I'll try to add what I can. Tho I didnt have to deal with housing and stuff so I cant really comment on that.

    1. Free time depends on how much you work // how much your lab wants you to work. That depends on both you and your mentor. If you have alot of free time, there isnt that much to do in Bethesda itself besides lots of pretty nice resturants, but DC is a few metro stops away on the red line. Theres lots to do in DC....the mall areas has all the smithsonian museams which are nice, and all the government buildings etc. Northwest (the nice part of DC) around adams morgan, georgetown, that area has alot of bars and clubs and stuff, its a decent nightlife.

    2. Ive been to a few of the talks over the years. Some of them are quite good, some are sleep-inducing. The ones where its like "how to get into graduate school" can be helpful (taught by a professor from my school). Theres a lecture series specifically for students which has cool stuff sometimes ("how to succeed in science," "translating research from bench to bedside") etc. Sometimes visitng profs will lecture about their work, and those can be nice if youre interested.

    3. Youll be working with them for weeks and months so relationships will naturally build over time. It helps when theyre nice.

    4. Depends on your mentor and your lab. Most PIs there are very nice and very willing to teach, so just be attentive and eager to learn lab stuff. Actually contibuting to the experiment is of course a plus because then you're actually giving back and all. Just be nice and learn alot! Oh, and don't walk down the hall way with a 4L jug of methanol, drop it, and cause the entire wing to be evactuated. Ive seen that happen.....twice.

    5. I lived at home so......yea.

    6. the metro is probably the easiest way to get around DC, and NIH. You'll be at the Medical Center stop of the red line. Its about a 10 minute walk to building 10, the clinical center // main building. The red line goes into the fun parts of DC in about 15 to 20 mins from NIH. Easy and Cheap. Buy a smartcard. NIH transshare will reimburse you, youll get info about this im sure,.

    7. Again

    8. If you have other interns in your lab it will be very easy to meet them. Sometimes they have new intern orientation parties at the beginning and end of the summer where you can meet people. Theres two main cafeterias in building 10 that alot of people will congregate at, one on the second floor, and one in Basement 1 (the main cafeteria.) I dont really know about the email listervs and stuff. There will be a big mix of students there (they will stand out like a sore thumb tho). Lots of high school kids (everyone in my high school did a summer at NIH), a fair number of college kids, and some post bacs.

    9. The above poster knows more than me about this.

    One thing tho, get your ID badge and fingerprint done ASAP. Its uber annoying not to have them done and have to go thru the visitors center every day, trust me. Dont delay, do that ID stuff as soon as possible. They usually have a jam at the beginning of the summer with all the new interns. Overall tho, its a fun place to work, a huge campus, and DC is pretty close for fun. I think you'll enjoy it.
     
  4. SB100

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    I was there the past two summers. Here are my two cents:

    1. When I had free time during the workday, I would go to the summer lecture series or to rounds. There are a lot of rounds at the NIH, and being in Building 10 made it very convenient. Out of work during the evenings I hung out at American University (where I was living, they had intern housing) or went into Bethesda with other interns for dinner. It didn't seem like much of a balancing act because I never took any of the work home with me. Maybe a couple review articles or new publications for bedtime reading.

    2. Yes, in fact I met my boss this past summer because she was a lecture series speaker the summer before.

    3. Lunch breaks were a great time to get to know who I was working with on a more personal level. We had a lot of fun talking about things that didn't have to do with the research. Also, meeting with my supervisor to go over my project helped forge that relationship significantly.

    4. Work diligently and ALWAYS question your results. Being on top of your work is very key and the investigator you work for will really appreciate your abilities to reason and think through your next steps. My first summer it was hard adapting because I had a mentor who didn't know he was getting assigned to me until like two days before I arrived. This past summer I felt very welcome at the beginning and, as I produced new data and results, I received even more appreciation.

    5. No, American University (AU) has an intern housing program that starts taking applications in late winter on a first-come, first-serve basis. You don't even need to prove to them that you are interning. The cost is about $250/week and varies by living arrangement (single or double), but it costs nothing else to bring a car.

    6. Metro is very convenient, though sometimes there are delays due to malfunctions. That being said, AU's shuttles to get to and from the Metro were also very convenient.

    7. My first summer I moved in over Memorial Day weekend, so I had a day to unwind. This past summer I moved in Sunday and started work Monday, though Monday consisted mostly of getting paperwork to their appropriate places.

    8. I met interns both in my unit, since we had several, and actively looked for NIH interns when at AU who I tended to do more things with on the weekend. Each Institute or Center usually puts together a meet-and-greet in the early or middle part of the summer for its students too.

    9. I don't know anything about this. I too have heard about courses offered that you can take for credit, but of the undergraduate interns I met, none of them said they were doing it.


    Hope this helps. PM me if you have more questions.
     
  5. Ebuff

    Ebuff Thou Mayest
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    The questions about schedule, lab relationships, things to do/not to do all depend on the indivdual lab and PI. Most of the time in research, you make your own schedule or you work with the schedule of your direct mentor.

    You'll figure out all of that stuff as you go and there is little advice that will go with your unique lab and position.

    On DC and the NIH in general...the lecture series at the NIH is magnificent. Nobel prize winners, people at the top of their fields, and even non science speakers will come in and treat the talk like the big time lecture it is. The classes are available through FAES. These classes are hit or miss. A lot of people I know have had bad experiences with the classes. One class I would recommend in the Demystifying Medicine course: a great intro to diseases from cutting edge people.

    DC is a fantastic city. The night life is great: Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, Georgetown, U Street are all really fun places. Even Bethesda has some fun places: Rock Bottom is where postbaccs go Thursday nights (or at least they did when I was there) and next door is Union Jacks.

    FIND A PLACE ON THE RED LINE!!! This is absolutely key. It will allow you to metro into work at the NIH and anywhere else in the city. A place in the city could be fun, but if you need to save money look in Rockville or Grosvenor.

    Overall, I had an awesome experience at the NIH. I am actually meeting with old friends this new years. You can make great friends, get some work done, add to the CV, and enjoy a really unique city.

    Hope that was helpful.
     
  6. SB100

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    Don't forget you can meet other DC interns in the city at various happy hours. I know Facebook has a couple groups that post the happy hour deals for lots of popular spots every day of the week.

    On Adams Morgan: Amsterdam Falafelshop = amazing!
     
  7. BarefootinDC

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    As others have noted, the FAES offers undergraduate and graduate level courses (usually lab-funded), but I do not believe they offer them in the summer (fall and spring only). A lot of these are more like lectures series than actual class lectures, but it allows you to learn a lot about different people's research interests, which is nice.

    With regards to housing, all the people I know (myself included) used craigslist. However, housing in DC, especially downtown, is extremely competitive in the summer (think of all the interns at every government and non-profit agency in addition to the norm), so start early if you can!

    Finally, although Amsterdam Falafelshop is great and has amazing french fries, you can't not go to Jumbo Slice (the one closer to Columbia, further up the street) if you are in Adams Morgan. Just my two cents :D
     
  8. Ebuff

    Ebuff Thou Mayest
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    I'll see your Jumbo slice and Falafels and raise you a Julia's empendadas. I've seen people lined up around the block for those taste baked treats. I swear she puts crack in them. They don't even taste that great, but whenever you're in the area the urge to get one is impossible to resist.
     
  9. BarefootinDC

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    Whaaaaat?! The Julia's empanadas on 18th? I call your bluff! I live on the other side of the Calvert Bridge so I'm in AM all the time and I have never ever seen a line there.

    That said, I can't say how great or not great they taste because I've never been there. Lo siento.
     

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