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Internships FAQs

Internship participants must be a current Vanderbilt University PhD student or a current postdoctoral fellow both during the application period and for the duration of the internship. Furthermore, All PhD students must have completed all coursework for their degree prior to the start of the internship. Biomedical PhD students must also have passed their qualifying exams before the application deadline. Students from other disciplines not supported by the BRET office must also submit a signed form from their advisor indicating they have approval to apply (please see point 12 below).
Each ASPIRE internship opportunity will be advertised with its own separate announcement and deadline. In that document, there will be a link to a survey monkey form that you must compete online. Any additional materials requested by the host organization will be listed as well, such as a CV or resume, a cover letter, or possibly other supporting documentation. These should be emailed to the person listed on the advertisement. Each opportunity will be unique, so please read carefully.
You may apply for more than one internship at a time if there are two or more open positions available at the same time. However, if you are offered more than one position, you should select one, and inform the other employer that you regret that you are unable to accept their offer. Similarly, if you are currently involved in an internship, we ask that you not apply for another until you have completed the current internship. Students and postdocs should not be involved in two overlapping internships (even part-time) at the same time. We would prefer that you focus your energy and time away from the lab on one opportunity at a time.
No, there are no guarantees that you will get the position advertised. In most cases there will be multiple applicants for each position and even in cases where there is only one applicant, the host organizations are under no obligation to take an intern if they decide the applicant is not the right fit for the position. The decision is wholly up to the hosting organization.
After the posted application deadline, the ASPIRE internship opportunity will be closed to further applicants. The BRET office will verify eligibility of each applicant based on the criteria described above. All qualified applicants’ cover letters, resumes or other application materials will be compiled into a resume book which will then be provided to the host organization. The host will then review these documents and may choose to interview highly qualified candidates via phone or in person. They will contact applicants directly to schedule interviews and to discuss the position further.
Each company/host will choose to interview candidates at their discretion and in the manner they feel best helps them assess fit for the position. Some hosts may choose to interview you over the phone or skype, others who are in Nashville may ask you to come to their office to interview in person. You may meet with several or more of the employees at the host company. The process may be simple or could be multi-step and require other tasks such as completing a writing test. Interviewing is a great learning opportunity on its own, even if you don’t get chosen for the position.
It is highly unlikely that you will get any feedback from the interview process. Nevertheless, there is nothing wrong with asking politely if they are willing to share any tips on how you could improve next time, or if there are any specific skills or experiences that would have made you better qualified or more successful. If you are calm and positive, they may be willing to offer some constructive feedback. However, most organizations will not offer any detailed feedback due to potential liability issues, so you should not take this personally, and instead just use this as a good learning experience to better prepare you for the next interview.
We will work closely with the hosting organization to communicate the outcome of the process to all applicants, however, we will not be in a position to provide feedback on decisions made by the host organization.
We hope to be able to partner with the same organizations repeatedly, however, availability of opportunities and the individual position descriptions may change according to the needs of the company. Our office is actively cultivating relationships with a variety of potential employers at both the local and national level, so new opportunities will become available on a rolling basis.
Certainly this depends in part on how many applicants apply to each opportunity, which we have no way of knowing in advance. However, the hosting organization makes the final decision as to whom they want to hire as an intern and they are under no obligation to fill the opening if they do not feel the applicants are a good match for the position they are offering.

This depends, as your visa status may affect your work eligibility. You may contact Ashley Brady ( to discuss this further, or you should also take advantage of the walk-in hours available at the Vanderbilt ISSS office for counseling on your options.

Yes, we are happy to provide your application materials to the host organization along with the other applicants’ documents. However, trainees from other disciplines not supported by the BRET office must also submit a signed form from their advisor indicating they have approval to apply. This form is available here.

All opportunities will be posted on the Current ASPIRE Internships Offerings. They will also be advertised in the BRET Newsletter (sign up here) as well as via direct emails to BRET trainees and postdocs.

We encourage all trainees to be proactive in identifying and taking advantage of opportunities they create.  Please let us know what kind of opportunity you are considering.  We may already have something in the works, or we may be able to help direct you to some available resources to help you in your search.
We request that all trainees complete a survey at the end of the internship period to provide us with feedback on the experience.  This survey is optional.

Per NIH Notice Number: NOT-OD-17-095: Beyond the full-time training, NIH recognizes that Kirschstein-NRSA fellows and trainees may engage in part-time employment incidental to their training.  Fellows and trainees may spend on average, an additional 25% of their time (e.g., 10 hours per week) in part time research, teaching, or clinical employment, so long as those activities do not interfere with, or lengthen, the duration their NRSA training.  (See NIH Grants Policy Statement, Section and, for more details.)