All graduate students have a range of opportunities for work with, or inside of, industry that can occur during their PhD studies or immediately following. However, engaging into these opportunities is typically not structured and few guidelines are offered.
Most internships are done informally as a leave of absence from their graduate program, and are designed through negotiation. It is highly recommended that students work with their research advisor to maximize the value of a potential internship and better understand its implications.
The range of possible internship options are described here to give general context. All options should be discussed with your research advisor.
Internships to benefit the research thesis – Some research projects have a pre-formed industry collaborator or a natural industry partner who could be formed. This is where an internship in that company is a natural fit to the planned studies. In this case, a leave of absence can be sought, to intern in the company, developing some aspect of the work that might be funded by the industry partner. Such internships can be very synergistic with a thesis project, and might even accelerate the completion of the thesis project or provide scientific enrichment to the work.
Internships peripheral to the research thesis – Sometimes a student will want to seek out an industry experience to augment their educational goals, and to experience aspects of work areas or testing out possible career opportunities prior to graduation. Such internships can be formed with any company, but must be negotiated with their research advisor and planned ahead of time. It should be expected that this type of experience, while beneficial, would delay eventual graduation date by the length of the internship, at least. Most major companies have some forms of internship, and these are found via their website or via campus career services.
Internships in a Startup Company – Several startup companies have formed from the department’s medical physics research. Experience with these can be a formative and profitable experience, especially for students with the “entrepreneurial bug”, who want a start-up experience. However, some of these internships (e.g., a student working in the advisor’s start-up) could lead to a potential conflict of interest, and identification and separation of industry and academic research duties and funds is essential. Negotiation of this type of experience should involve the advisor and potentially the program director, as an independent arbiter to remove any possible real or perceived conflict of interest.
Internships in a local established medical physics industry – The majority of local medical physics industry was formed or significantly influenced by alumni of the department. There are many formalized institutional internship experiences with large international companies, and these programs can be found either through career services or via internet search. Discussion and planning with the advisor is a critical part of any choices to make sure that the internship experience will be constructive and rewarding.