Application Advice


Dr. Jacob Valenzuela: The Institute for Systems Biology is a unique place for researchers to have intellectual freedom to solve complex biological questions. Interns should be able to answer 1) what is systems biology and 2) what are some interesting projects they are excited about. Most internships are about providing an authentic research experience, those students that show initiative and excitement about performing and learning how research is completed, tend to get the upper hand. Body language matters. Come prepared, be engaged, have enthusiasm. See your own perceived limitations as opportunities. For example, if you are concerned that you are not strong in molecular biology, then be excited about the opportunity to learn more about it and why! As a researcher, I would much rather work with an intern that is excited, takes the initiative, wants to learn, than one that has a lot of experience but not super engaged in the project. Show off your skills or past projects, regardless if they are scientifically based. We want to see creativity and initiative. One final tip, a thank you email to the interview team can go a long way! 

Dr. Adrian Lopez Garcia de Lomana:  Spend time understanding what the ISB does. There are a lot of internships out there; make sure that you don’t come across as being uninterested. Knowing the research of your interviewer and/or of their colleagues is particularly useful and shows that you care and have a specific interest in the ISB.


Jordan: When you’re filling out your essays, do not worry about coming off as a professional researcher. Of course you should proofread and spend time on your essays, but showing that you are truly passionate or open to learning about the research at ISB will show more than describing your accomplishments or actions. 

Elisa: Be confident in yourself! ISB is not looking for you to have an incredible amount of outside lab experience but wants to see that you are passionate about the topics that you would have the opportunity to work on in this internship, whether that be through computer science, biology, or other knowledge that you have. The most you can do is portray the best version of yourself and specifically explain why you know you that you are motivated and can contribute your own unique aspects to the team.

Nazli: Make sure you understand ISB’s mission and that it is something you are also excited about. Find a few projects you are interested in and note why you are interested in them. The application questions are broad so you can show ISB what you are passionate about and why, so be genuine and honest. 

Brooke: As Jordan once said, this is not an application for “a summer camp”. If anything, the application is practice for applying to a real job in the future, so make sure you spend time on it. Additionally, include a cover letter! It is a great way to introduce yourself and showcase who you are as a person. Finally, show that you can be a team player. In the internship, you are constantly working with other people, such as your partner, your mentor, and the other interns. ISB values collaboration, so show that you can fit right in!

Myles: Be specific. Don’t make broad, generic statements in your application and in your interview. Particularly, use specific examples to illustrate how you problem solve. Additionally, don’t worry about being the best biologist. Of course, demonstrate an interest, but you will be judged more off of your character and your ability to push your unique background.

Iman: Be yourself and honest throughout the interview. The more genuine you are, the easier it will be to detect your voice. It is incredibly important that your interests and passions match up with the project you could potentially be assigned to, and the interview process is designed to do just that. You could think the experience is cool and productive, but if you are not passionate about it, it will be a waste of time and energy. Be natural throughout the interview. I know it can be intimidating to talk to highly regarded scientists, but treat the interview as a casual conversation. Make sure to have something that makes you stand out from others and remember to demonstrate your interests with specific examples. This is an amazing opportunity that many high school students don’t get to do before deciding on their future education/career pathway, so even getting past the first stage of the application is a huge accomplishment. Good luck and feel free to shoot me an email at any time! 

Arwa: An interview with a scientist or a person with a PhD is not as scary as it sounds. These are nice people and they really love mentoring highschoolers. The interviewers aspire to learn about how your unique personality can contribute to the collaborative interdisciplinary environment at ISB. Treat the interview like a conversation with another person. I know this may sound easier said than done, but don’t worry. Take a deep breath, smile, and just have a casual conversation. Don’t overthink everything you say because that will add pressure. Be yourself and that will make you successful! Remember to ask questions too! Never say “are we done” or “sorry I don’t have any” because that is an automatic disqualifier. Just relax, be curious, and have fun! Also feel free to ask me any questions. My email is:

Chhy Chhy: Don’t think about the application process as something that’s scary and out of reach. Think about it as friends who want to get to know you better and have a real conversation with you. It’s not “Who’s better than the others?” It’s “Who’s the best fit?” So, know yourself, be confident, be honest, and understand that the outcome is just a step that you took for your future. 

Sanjay: Of course you cannot make general claims about your love for Biology, and should rather be specific about which aspects of ISB appeal to you. However, in addition, I would encourage prospective interns to emphasize their interests in cross-disciplinary work and what you have done in or out of school to show that— as ISB is all about interdisciplinary work, showing that you like things like Math, CS, or arts as well could make your application much stronger.