Visiting the facility: Is this inappropriate?

Answers to various questions regarding the SMART Scholarship application process. Includes many tips and statistics.

Visiting the facility: Is this inappropriate?

Postby ClinicalNeuroPRISM » Wed Mar 07, 2018 4:18 pm

Hi guys,

So I am visiting family near my top sponsoring facility, which is NSRDEC in Natick, Ma. Their website seems very welcoming and I've thought about reaching out to them to see if I could visit......

I have heard pros and cons about contacting facilities, but would suggesting an in-person tour/meeting push it way too far? It seems that neuro people who get hired are either heavily molecular or computational OR have some sort of connection so I just feel like I need to stand out someway (but not in a bad way!)

Reading back on this the answer seems obvious (DON'T!). However, I will post this anyway in the case that someone has actually done this or thought about it.

Thanks,
P
ClinicalNeuroPRISM
 

Re: Visiting the facility: Is this inappropriate?

Postby EliosHarg » Thu Mar 08, 2018 10:47 am

Personally, I do not think it would hurt to send an inquiry. However, it might help to identify some project or researcher with whom you would be interested in working. Then email the public contact info (or even better their SMART or recruitment personnel), with something to the effect of: "Greetings, I am a SMART Scholarship applicant that has listed NSRDEC as my preferred sponsoring facility because of the work on/by (insert project/researcher here). I will be in the area and wanted to know if it would be possible to arrange a visit."

Even if they say no, it showcases the fact that you are interested in working at their facility and that might be enough to get them to pull your app for review (especially if you can contact them through their recruiters).
EliosHarg
 

Re: Visiting the facility: Is this inappropriate?

Postby ClinicalneuroPRISM » Thu Mar 08, 2018 1:45 pm

Hi Elios,

Thank you so much for your input. I think I’m going to go for it then :)

Best,
P
ClinicalneuroPRISM
 

Re: Visiting the facility: Is this inappropriate?

Postby FellowStudent » Fri Mar 09, 2018 9:35 am

ClinicalneuroPRISM wrote:Hi Elios,

Thank you so much for your input. I think I’m going to go for it then :)

Best,
P


That is my SF. Based on my impression, they primarily select SMART scholars from existing employees and students who have already worked there. With that in mind, I think reaching out for a visit is a very good idea. If they only select from people they "know" then you need to be one of those. If I was more than just a student right now, I would invite you in myself. My recommendation is that you make contact directly with the directorate you are interested in. I think that will give you the greatest chance for someone saying yes.
FellowStudent
 

Re: Visiting the facility: Is this inappropriate?

Postby ClinicalNeuroPRISM » Fri Mar 09, 2018 11:47 am

Hi FellowStudent!

Thank you for your advice. Before my visiting idea, I had sent an email to the Center for applied brain sciences and after not receiving a response, I sent one directly to a cognitive scientist that would be a perfect match for me. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a response either. I then decided to contact NSRDEC (via email) about visiting and so far nothing. I feel like I should probably leave it alone at this point. I’m so bummed! Especially if they only select from that pool of students, which I feel is the case at most places.

How is it like working there anyway? Do you know of other SMART like programs there in case this scholarship
doesn’t go through?

Thanks,
P
ClinicalNeuroPRISM
 

Re: Visiting the facility: Is this inappropriate?

Postby FellowStudent » Fri Mar 09, 2018 12:22 pm

ClinicalNeuroPRISM wrote:Hi FellowStudent!

Thank you for your advice. Before my visiting idea, I had sent an email to the Center for applied brain sciences and after not receiving a response, I sent one directly to a cognitive scientist that would be a perfect match for me. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a response either. I then decided to contact NSRDEC (via email) about visiting and so far nothing. I feel like I should probably leave it alone at this point. I’m so bummed! Especially if they only select from that pool of students, which I feel is the case at most places.

How is it like working there anyway? Do you know of other SMART like programs there in case this scholarship
doesn’t go through?

Thanks,
P


Don't count yourself out yet. I don't know that they only select from the pool of students they know. It's just that all of the other SMART scholars I have met so far already had been working there in some capacity.

I have enjoyed working there very much. I have been given a lot of interesting work to do, and they are flexible about most things. A lot people who post their experiences with SMART on this forum (in general, not just at this SF) have negative comments, but I have never experienced any of that and have always been grateful to have them as my SF. Like any facility, your experience will vary based on the team you work for, but the majority of other students I know always want to come back again.

I don't know a lot about the other programs they use to hire students, except that they do hire a lot of pathways students through usajobs (I was actually pathways student before SMART). The benefits are not as great, but after you prove yourself you can always apply to SMART again.
FellowStudent
 

Re: Visiting the facility: Is this inappropriate?

Postby ClinicalNeuroPRISM » Fri Mar 09, 2018 8:20 pm

Okay, fingers crossed then!

It’s great to hear that you are happy there. My goal is to become a DoD scientist (there is no plan B!!) so hopefully SMART will pull through. I’ll definitely check into pathways though- whatever it takes.

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.

P
ClinicalNeuroPRISM
 

Re: Visiting the facility: Is this inappropriate?

Postby ClinicalNeuroPRISM » Wed Mar 14, 2018 12:23 pm

Hi Fellow Student,

I actually heard back from the scientist at Natick and we are planning to meet on Tuesday of next week at the CABCS. She did confirm what you said though, that they tend to hire existing employees or students who have worked there. She also had nothing but great things to say about the facility and SMART (she was a scholar). Any advice on how to prepare for this potential meeting?

Thanks,
P
ClinicalNeuroPRISM
 

Re: Visiting the facility: Is this inappropriate?

Postby FellowStudent » Wed Mar 14, 2018 2:28 pm

ClinicalNeuroPRISM wrote:Hi Fellow Student,

I actually heard back from the scientist at Natick and we are planning to meet on Tuesday of next week at the CABCS. She did confirm what you said though, that they tend to hire existing employees or students who have worked there. She also had nothing but great things to say about the facility and SMART (she was a scholar). Any advice on how to prepare for this potential meeting?

Thanks,
P


That's awesome! I'm glad someone got back to you. The reason they tend to hire existing employees and students who have worked there is because they are proven entities. They know they will perform and be worth the invest, so you should do your best to convey that it applies to you to:

Prepare ahead of time, research the facility and public information about some of the projects. Have some questions ready to ask her. She likely won't be able to answer anything too specific and you don't want to ask anything readily accessible on the website, but questions about the culture of the facility and direction projects are trending would be good.

Bring a resume and be ready to talk about whatever past research experience or academic experience you have. If she never specifically asks, do your best to casually discuss as much of this as you can. You want to show that you will be a hard worker and a meaningful contributor.

From your other messages, it seems like you have a clear desire to be a part of the DoD, so when talking about why you are interested in SMART make sure to convey that it isn't about the money, it is about serving the DoD. Near the end ask about other opportunities that are available to work there if it turns out SMART does not work out. They will likely be posting internships for this summer around now.

Good luck! I hope it works out for you!
FellowStudent
 

Re: Visiting the facility: Is this inappropriate?

Postby FellowStudent » Wed Mar 14, 2018 2:35 pm

One last thing, do not forget to send a follow-up email after Tuesday thanking her for her time! You would be surprised how many students don't do this, and it makes a really good impression. (When I got offered my first internship pre-SMART they actually specifically commented on the fact that I was one of the few applicants who sent a thank you note). Keep it short: thank her for her time, say you appreciate the opportunity, and then reiterate briefly the strongest selling point for why you would be an asset.
FellowStudent
 

Re: Visiting the facility: Is this inappropriate?

Postby ClinicalNeuroPRISM » Thu Mar 15, 2018 12:31 pm

Hi Fellow Student,

Thank you for the excellent advice!!

Although, the PI made it very clear that she has no say in the hiring process given that she is a second year PI. Anyhow, I am still very excited to meet someone from the facility and learn about any opportunities they offer.

Thanks again,
P
ClinicalNeuroPRISM
 

Re: Visiting the facility: Is this inappropriate?

Postby FellowStudent » Thu Mar 15, 2018 3:23 pm

ClinicalNeuroPRISM wrote:Hi Fellow Student,

Thank you for the excellent advice!!

Although, the PI made it very clear that she has no say in the hiring process given that she is a second year PI. Anyhow, I am still very excited to meet someone from the facility and learn about any opportunities they offer.

Thanks again,
P


She might not not directly have a say herself, but her supervisor will know she is meeting with you. If you make a good impression the PI will likely talk to her supervisor, who would be the one making recommendations to HR about what scholars to pick.

Be sure to come back after the meeting and let everyone know how it went! I bet there are a lot of lurkers on here who would find your experience with the meeting useful.
FellowStudent
 

Re: Visiting the facility: Is this inappropriate?

Postby ClinicalNeuroPRISM » Sat Mar 31, 2018 9:50 am

Hello again,

Well, unfortunately our meeting was canceled :( and we ended up communicating via email. I asked her some questions about her experience with smart, her career as a DoD scientist, NSRDEC, her research etc. She gave me some quick answers and I didn’t hear back after that so who knows. I’m know they are busy folks, but man I’m so bummed. I just read the forum that says that only about 4 people are selected for our division, which will obviously go to the highly technical or retention applicants. Well, at least we will officially know very soon.

Best of luck to all!

Thanks,
P
ClinicalNeuroPRISM
 


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