BigRedPremed

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For those of you who have done this program, how was your experience?

I applied for it a couple of days ago and have already had one PI contact me. She seems fairly interested, esp. considering my application isn't even complete. However, she wants me to fly over to interview and visit the lab so before I go through the trouble, I want to make sure that it's worth it.
 

desout777

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It depends entirely on the PI. Each IRTA's experience is totally different depending on what they work on, who they work for, and how much responsibility their PI lets them have. Some people are very satisfied and some aren't at all.

Are you looking at clinical research or basic science? GENERALLY speaking, people working in a clinical setting don't get to deal with the theoretically aspects of the lab's research - they just end up running fMRI machines, etc.

PM me if you have specific questins about the program.
 

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For those of you who have done this program, how was your experience?

I applied for it a couple of days ago and have already had one PI contact me. She seems fairly interested, esp. considering my application isn't even complete. However, she wants me to fly over to interview and visit the lab so before I go through the trouble, I want to make sure that it's worth it.

I think it's worth it to work at the NIH. I had a wonderful experience. I also worked extremely hard, however, my entire time there. The caliber of research at NIH is pretty incredible, if you are hooked into the right outlet. I'm sure what you get out of it depends on how much you involve yourself. I was fortunate that my PI at the time was working with a pioneer in radiology. I got rare chance to attend his rounds and to work with him in a limited capacity before he passed away. Great stories.

My story is slightly different than most, however, since I had previous experience working with my PI and with his lab before I received any kind of fellowship. As was mentioned earlier, a lot rests on your PI. You should go to the interview and find out how the lab is, and what kind of work they are doing.
 
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desout777

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I think it's worth it. It's pretty much like not having a summer

I don't know what you mean by this, but IRTAs arrange their start dates with their PIs. You can start in May if you want or in July.... Just make sure you have 12 full months before med school starts. Working for the government you get a lot of time off if you want to take a vacation and most PIs will let you terminate your fellowship a little bit early if you need to set yourself up... overall it's a very flexible program. In terms of the hours IRTAs work... almost all of them work about 40 hours per week. There are some who work a lot more, and some who work a lot less. Again, it depends on your PI and the nature of your lab's work.

In my opinion, if you're going to do research after undergrad, the NIH is the place to do it. We have 1/3 of the nation's biomed research dollars on campus. The research community here is incredible, but beware that a lot of the IRTAs are socialy inept. Also asome of them didn't get into med school or grad school and have serious insecurity issues.
 

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OP,
I will be done with my second year as a post-bac this summer. PM me if you have specific questions. Its a cool place to work. Don't do it for the money tho. I picked up a second job to pay for med school application costs - you won't have an extra 3 grand when you are making $23,000. In terms of experience tho, it can't be beat.
 

spicedmanna

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I don't know what you mean by this, but IRTAs arrange their start dates with their PIs. You can start in May if you want or in July.... Just make sure you have 12 full months before med school starts. Working for the government you get a lot of time off if you want to take a vacation and most PIs will let you terminate your fellowship a little bit early if you need to set yourself up... overall it's a very flexible program. In terms of the hours IRTAs work... almost all of them work about 40 hours per week. There are some who work a lot more, and some who work a lot less. Again, it depends on your PI and the nature of your lab's work.

In my opinion, if you're going to do research after undergrad, the NIH is the place to do it. We have 1/3 of the nation's biomed research dollars on campus. The research community here is incredible, but beware that a lot of the IRTAs are socialy inept. Also asome of them didn't get into med school or grad school and have serious insecurity issues.

Of course you are correct. Work at the NIH depends on your lab and your PI. I changed my previous post to reflect a more general experience. My experience is definitely not indicative of what others may experience while working there, but I had a great time and learned more than I ever hoped.

My lab was pretty intense and we had a lot of collaborations going on throughout my time there. I worked there for several years, and I was viewed as a post-doctoral student, so my responsibilities were many. I was essentially coordinating several of the studies in my lab and teaching a team of students at the same time. My PI basically delegated about 90% of his work to me, leaving himself time to write and consult with others. I worked on average about 60 hours a week during the thick of our research, with spurts of 120 hour weeks when we had twenty-four hour studies going on. I analyzed the majority of the data we collected, helped in the design of crucial studies, lead a team of undergraduate students, and created a chance, among other things, to first-assist in countless primate cannulation surgeries (what an incredible experience).

I completely agree with your second paragraph. I basically focused on my work and didn't give any of the gunners a second thought.
 

desout777

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It's $23,800 during your first year and if you choose to work for another year, you get a few grand more. Also, taxes aren't withheld from your paychecks and you don't pay social security.
 

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Taxes not withheld does NOT mean that you don't have to pay taxes - it just means that you have to take responsibility for saving up for them yourself. You definately aren't making much for where you are living.

Keep in mind the joys of no health insurance too.. but they will often pay for you to take classes, which is nice.

I had an OK time as an IRTA. My PI sucked, but I liked the rest of the people I worked with. Overall, it was a good experience. I got to do a lot of my own projects and got a few publications and a great LOR out of it. More importantly, I figured out that I don't want to go into research.
 

KaraKiz

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It's $23,800 during your first year and if you choose to work for another year, you get a few grand more. Also, taxes aren't withheld from your paychecks and you don't pay social security.

True, but you have to pay your taxes quarterly, or you get slapped with a fine come April 15. And then you owe close to $1,500 in state and federal taxes. Its not free money. Its just not a salary - its a stipend.

You don't get a few grand more if you stay a year, you get about 1 grand more, unless you work for the NCI, which has a different pay scale. $23,000, $24,000 is still not a lot of money, especially not with housing prices around NIH. My point was - save money before you start working there if you can. It seems do-able, and it is, but unexpected expenses (i.e. having to pay back u-grad student loans a year after you graduate) are sometimes hard to work through. $200 a month to student loans is a good chunk of change when you make $1900 a month, pre-taxes.

I love working here. This summer will mark 5 years of NIH research for me. All I'm saying is that I thought $23,000 was going to go much further than it did for me.
 

desout777

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you can actually defer your student loans while you are a fellow at the NIH so they don't gain interest. You should look into that... it will def help you out.
 

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the only problem is the salary..i mean i work about 50-60 hours a week.. and all i make is about $2000 per month.
if your PI is asian...trust me you would have to work more than any other IRTAs.
 

BigRedPremed

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Thanks to everyone for the info.

I do have one clarifying question though: everyone keeps saying that my experience will depend largely on the PI. What do you mean by that?

The PI comes across nice enough in the emails but she seems a little pushy. As I said originally, she contacted me before my application was complete (I was/am still missing 2 rec letters). After I told her that I was interested, she called my remaining two recommenders instead of waiting for the letters to be posted.
 

desout777

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if your PI is asian...trust me you would have to work more than any other IRTAs.

You're an idiot. Regardless of race, most of the PIs make their employees do a good bit of work. That's why they're PIs at the freaking NIH. If you like stereotypes and are a little bit racist like Shejaboshease, maybe the NIH isn't for you. There are a lot of Asians and Europeans here.

You're experience depends on your PI because that's who you determines your level of responsibility, your research goals, and who you answer to during your fellowship. There are no centralized activites for all IRTAs or anything... it's not like going to school, it's just like a regular job.
 
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spicedmanna

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I do have one clarifying question though: everyone keeps saying that my experience will depend largely on the PI. What do you mean by that?

The PI comes across nice enough in the emails but she seems a little pushy. As I said originally, she contacted me before my application was complete (I was/am still missing 2 rec letters). After I told her that I was interested, she called my remaining two recommenders instead of waiting for the letters to be posted.

I don't know what other people mean by that, but here's my experience of it: Any fellowship just allows you to get paid while working at the NIH; the IRTA fellowship is certainly no exception. Your experiences are not governed by the program itself, per se, but more by how your lab group is organized, the types and phases of studies that are currently being conducted, your role(s) during that time, and how your PI orchestrates everthing. Your PI is like the conductor of the symphony of activity at your lab. You need to not only like the subjects of your study, but also how it all comes together day-to-day. That's why you need to interview there and get a feeling for whether you'd feel good about working there. You need to work with your PI in creating the most optimal experience for both of you.

I've seen all kinds of personalities, styles, approaches, and projects during my 3-4 years of involvement at the NIH. It's best to pick the PI that will collaborate with you well and whose style you like. You'll be spending a lot of time working with them in their lab.
 

KaraKiz

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you can actually defer your student loans while you are a fellow at the NIH so they don't gain interest. You should look into that... it will def help you out.

thanks, i looked into it, but for some reason, maybe i looked into it too late, but sallie mae said my loans were not eligible. not sure why. :( def could use the break..
 

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I spent about 5 years at the NIH starting in Dec. 2001 until Jul 2006.
I started as a post-bacc IRTA for 2 years, then went to tech IRTA for 1 year, and then became a Kelly contractor for a little over a year(this was all with the same investigator).
Alas I had to leave because I think I had overstayed my welcome with the intramural research program since your time there is only supposed to be for 2 years maximum. It was all for the best anyways since it was definitely time for me to go to med skool and move on with my life, but I do miss it sometimes when I look around at the extramural world of research.

I was just running the scanner for fMRI, but you'll find that if your boss is okay with it, you can easily go out and expand your horizons by taking classes(such as premed pre-reqs that you never took) or even learning about other fields entirely like MEG, PET, or biostatistics. I got the chance to get involved in a lot of projects with a lot of collaborations which also gave me the chance to learn alot of stuff that didnt directly relate to my job. And if your boss really likes you and trusts you enough he/she will let you present a poster at a conference and let it blossom into a paper.

Basically, I think the IRTA experience is first limited by luck, then your mentor/coworkers, and then how much diligence and interest you put into it.

While the pay left something to be desired, everything else about the experience was awesome, but that was because my investigator/mentor/boss was the $hit, my coworkers were chill, and the work we were doing was really interesting. I would definitely say that I got lucky in finding a group that meshed so well with my own personality and interests. I know many others who have had more negative things to say about their NIH experience either because of boss/coworkers/pay/work.

Just remember that if you're type A, try not to get a mentor or group who is more type B. Find someone who is your type because you'll want to size them up to ensure a good fit. I know that's seemingly impossible to gauge in your 5 to 6 hours there, but if you have any powers of observation whatsoever then you should be able to get a good/bad "vibe" or feeling after meeting with everyone and asking questions like:
What are your hours, what kind of work are you currently doing, what is mentor's managing style, how would you rate your job satisfaction, do you get chances to publish, etc.
Obviously you're not going to ask those exact questions, but you should definitely not shy away from asking about things that matter to you because if you dont and you wind up in that same office that doesnt share your values, then it might be just as bad(if not worse) than not getting the position at all.
I've seen many disgruntled IRTAs burn some serious bridges on their way out and you dont want that either if you plan on advancing in a related field.
 

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thanks, i looked into it, but for some reason, maybe i looked into it too late, but sallie mae said my loans were not eligible. not sure why. :( def could use the break..

I dont know if this poster is in a special situation or if theyve already contacted their IRP, but it's worthwhile to ask about loan deferrment.

If you are hired, you should try and speak to someone in your intramural research program to get more guidance on it. I know of many kids who deferred their loans during their time at the NIH, but they had to fill out forms along with some other bureaucratic red tape.
 

Sust

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I don't know what other people mean by that, but here's my experience of it: Any fellowship just allows you to get paid while working at the NIH; the IRTA fellowship is certainly no exception. Your experiences are not governed by the program itself, per se, but more by how your lab group is organized, the types and phases of studies that are currently being conducted, your role(s) during that time, and how your PI orchestrates everthing. Your PI is like the conductor of the symphony of activity at your lab. You need to not only like the subjects of your study, but also how it all comes together day-to-day. That's why you need to interview there and get a feeling for whether you'd feel good about working there. You need to work with your PI in creating the most optimal experience for both of you.

I've seen all kinds of personalities, styles, approaches, and projects during my 3-4 years of involvement at the NIH. It's best to pick the PI that will collaborate with you well and whose style you like. You'll be spending a lot of time working with them in their lab.

Damn, I should have just quoted what he said rather than reiterating the same thing in my previous post.

Yeh, the intramural research training award is basically under the auspices of the Intramural Research Program. I like to think of the IRP as a place where students go to get funding after they find a mentor who is compatible and willing to accept him/her as their disciple.
The mentor is typically supported from an entirely different branch-specific budget than an IRTA who has the IRP providing financial support.
In exchange for the mentor agreeing to train you into becoming a better scientist, you work with your mentor on his/her scientific efforts.
 

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NIH is such a cool place to work. Your relationship to your co-workers, though, can really make or break your situation. Make sure you get along with them, and the PI, before you jump in. My PI intimidated the crap out of me (MD/PhD from Hopkins) but fortuantely the post-docs in the lab were really down to earth. It all depends.

Plus, the salary kinda sucks. It's an expensive area to live in, too. And commuting by metro can either be a blessing or a total pain, depending on where you start from. Just something to keep in mind.
 

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Sorry if this has been answered, but how does the taking of class on the NIH's bill work? I am guessing we're talking about science classes that would presumably boost your lab performance.
 

thedelicatessen

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Everything that's already been said on this thread is true. It's very important to click with the other lab people and your PI because you're going to be spending a lot of time with them. Being an IRTA is definitely a good learning experience and pretty fun too! I feel so lucky to have chosen a great lab with hardworking, warm, friendly people. It's been amazing.

As for the interviewing, I was also approached by a PI who asked me to fly to NIH to see the lab and stuff. I guess it's beneficial for seeing what everything is really like, but other PIs I corresponded with gave phone interviews, which I thought was way more convenient as I lived on the West coast at the time. Unless you are gung-ho on this particular lab, I would recommend holding off on the visit to the NIH until you have a better idea of seriously potential labs so that if/when you do visit, you can see more than just one lab. Good luck!
 

jojo_1981

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Sorry if this has been answered, but how does the taking of class on the NIH's bill work? I am guessing we're talking about science classes that would presumably boost your lab performance.


I took a Stat course this past fall through the NIH and paid for by my lab (most of these courses people talk about taking are actually offered on the NIH campus by profs and researchers moonlighting as teachers). I just talked to the administrative woman who runs the money stuff from my lab and she filled out all the paperwork for me. Just had to pick the course from a catalog and then show up when it started.

My limited experience in the NIH courses is that they are quite hit-or-miss. My Stat course definitely left something to be desired....3 hours a week for 15 weeks and I feel like I didn't learn anything new, really.
 
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jojo_1981

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Oh, two more things....

1. The PI that wants you to fly out there will most likely pay for your plane ticket and for a hotel for you to stay in. That was the case when I interviewed, at least. And since you're already there, take advantage of being there to check out the campus, walk around the city a bit, and also meet with any other interested PIs.

2. Health insurance is most definitely covered. And from what I can tell, its pretty good insurance, too. There's no monthly co-pay, the deductables are really low, etc. I like to joke that the insurance is so good that you could have a baby for $10. Vision comes with your insurance free of charge, but dental will cost you an extra monthly fee.
 

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For those of you who have done this program, how was your experience?

I applied for it a couple of days ago and have already had one PI contact me. She seems fairly interested, esp. considering my application isn't even complete. However, she wants me to fly over to interview and visit the lab so before I go through the trouble, I want to make sure that it's worth it.

I think that it was my research here at NIH that beefed up my MDPhD apps. My PI is awesome, didn't blink twice when I said I was taking the month of December off to travel and do interviews. I'm allowed as much vacation time as he gives me, which is whenever I want. I have my own project ( actually a major project in the lab), publications in works as first author. I am definitely not a glassware washer, was offered a permanent position if I changed my mind about med school. But the whole lab was supportive in my applying, while on interviews found out that many of my interviewers were in some way connected to my PI :thumbup: :thumbup: . That being said, my lab need an irta someone to replace me when I leave. PM if you want to know more.
 

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The IRTA experience is somewhat surreal. Not only are you sorrounded by amazing people with similar interests, but you have one of the best environments to truly develop your interests in the sciences. While your PI may directly impact how much you take away from your time as an IRTA, know that the "bad" PI's are few and far between. Most who do have or want IRTAs in their labs take a genuine interest in your future success.

My PI currently makes it a point to meet with me on a daily basis, discuss how my research is progressing and how it lends itself to my career goals.

My time as an IRTA so far has allowed me to attend conferences in various cities, listen to lectures from some of the top researchers, and meet the future leaders in the medical sciences (other IRTAs :laugh: )

For the current IRTA's reading this -
Don't forget, Thursday Nights @ Rock Bottom for IRTA Happy Hour

:D
 

thedelicatessen

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Although many PIs actively recruit, it's also a good idea to contact specific PIs as well. I think there's a link to a search engine for all the PIs somewhere on the application webpage.
 

jojo_1981

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What the hell is the secret? I've been complete for a month now...still no bites.

I posted about this a while back to the same question. Here's what I said:

first, it helps if there is a specific area of science that really interests you. i was interested in malaria research, so i tailored my resume and cover letter to reflect that. fill out the online application form and get those reccommendations in ASAP!

next, knowing what you might be interested in, go the the NIH's search of annual reports. http://intramural.nih.gov/search/index.tml
this website lets you search keywords of the annual reports for the different PI's at the NIH. the annual report is an NIH researcher's general "what i'm researching on, and here are my recent papers" page. this is extemely useful to get a clue as to what a researcher might be studying and also how productive (i.e. how much they publish) they are.

next, you should start emailing away. you can find someone's email address using this website: http://ned.nih.gov/

as some of the people have mentioned above, its important you try for primarily PI's instead of your run-of-the-mill postdoc, cause they are the ones who ultimately decide to hire you. if you find someone you want to work for who isn't a PI, find out what lab they are in and email their superior.

finally, email LOTS of people. i sent out letters of interest to over 20 people at first, and got back responses from maybe 5 of them. persistence is the key here!

if you have any more questions, feel free to PM me!
 

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I'm down here in Bethesda. Its cool and worth it. For my situation much better than a masters or post bacc program. I do neuro stuff and have grown in leaps and bounds.
 

ruefr

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What the hell is the secret? I've been complete for a month now...still no bites.

do a search for the clubPCR email listserv. Its a listserv for preIRTAs. Send out a message on that, and you might get some more bites. I didn't do this though, and got into a lab.

I don't know what the secret to getting into a lab is though. I actively contacted a lot of labs, and got no offers from them. I got 4 or 5 invites though, out of the blue from PI's in many different institutes. Didn't have a great gpa, but had good research experience in undergrad. I had my app into the NIH by November though.

I've heard that the program is very competitive, but I didn't really have a hard time getting in at all. Depending on who you talk to, you'll hear it both ways. Probably a little luck is involved.

Oh, yeah- Loved the IRTA experience. Would reccomend it to anyone who's open minded, or research oriented as a year-off type activity. If nothing else, its great interview fodder. The pay sucks. Your experience will depend on your PI. This is a fun area to live in temporarily. The health insurance is awesome.

PM me if you've got any specific questions about the program/the area/my experiences here.
 

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For those of you who went to do in-person interviews, how did you get around (from the airport to the hotel, from the hotel to NIH, etc.)?
 

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For those of you who went to do in-person interviews, how did you get around (from the airport to the hotel, from the hotel to NIH, etc.)?


There is a great magic carpet rental store at Dulles. I used the magic carpet to get around - literally flew through traffic.:smuggrin:

Seriously though, stay at the Clarion Inn in Bethesda. Its one block from NIH (crawling distance). If you fly into Reagan, then you can hop on the metro and be at the Clarion Inn, in less than an hour for $1.65. Taking the metro for the first time may be confusing/scary, but considering you're a future doc, you'll figure it out.

If you fly into Baltimore or Dulles, then your either gonna have to rent a car or shuttle/Taxi. NIH Does have shuttles running to Dulles and Baltimore but timing is always an issue. Call this number and see what they say (NIH Airport Rides): 301-496-1161. I'd be interested in hearing what they tell you.

And if all else fails, hit me up and i'll pick you up on a magic carpet.
 

ruefr

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There is a great magic carpet rental store at Dulles. I used the magic carpet to get around - literally flew through traffic.:smuggrin:

Seriously though, stay at the Clarion Inn in Bethesda. Its one block from NIH (crawling distance). If you fly into Reagan, then you can hop on the metro and be at the Clarion Inn, in less than an hour for $1.65. Taking the metro for the first time may be confusing/scary, but considering you're a future doc, you'll figure it out.

If you fly into Baltimore or Dulles, then your either gonna have to rent a car or shuttle/Taxi. NIH Does have shuttles running to Dulles and Baltimore but timing is always an issue. Call this number and see what they say (NIH Airport Rides): 301-496-1161. I'd be interested in hearing what they tell you.

And if all else fails, hit me up and i'll pick you up on a magic carpet.

This is excellent advice. I'm carless here, and flying in and out of Reagan is a livesaver because there is a metro stop that takes you directly to the terminal. I'll miss not having to worry about leaving a car at the airport when I move. Sometimes its cheaper to fly into dulles or BWI, but you totally make up for it with the saved money in transportation costs.
 

BigRedPremed

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Thanks for the advice/stories everyone. I will be going over in a couple of weeks but the NIH isn't paying for it. Bummer.
 
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  4. It is very likely that it does not need any further discussion and thus bumping it serves no purpose.
  5. Your message is mostly quotes or spoilers.
  6. Your reply has occurred very quickly after a previous reply and likely does not add anything to the thread.
  7. This thread is locked.