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Engineering/Science Interviews - how technical?


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Sometimes you do and sometimes you don't.  What I have generally seen is that the more the interviewer has questions about your ability the more technical questions can get.  This is also of course not including if you interview with someone who is in a very similar if not the same research field and can really talk the nitty gritty.  Generally my interviews were not very technical but I had heard of other interviewees who were being asked specific textbook questions.  They also tended to be the people still in undergrad so maybe had less research to talk about.  The more confident and comfortable you are in the first few minutes of the interview the easier it'll be, PIs back off when they know you know your shit.

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I've only had 2 interviews via skype (same overseas school, two different PIs and programs) and neither were very technical.

One (where the PI is doing something very different from what I've done as an undergrad) was mostly a discussion of my interests and my willingness to learn new stuff. In the other (where the PI is working in the same realm as my current research), we discussed interests, what kind of projects I'd like to take on, and current developments in this research topic and where I think the field is going.


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  • 2 weeks later...

I just got back from a bioengineering interview weekend, and honestly, it depends a lot on who your interviewer is. I interviewed with three professors. The first was a very casual chat; I just talked about my interests, etc., and half of the conversation wasn't even research related. My next two were more interview-style, so I had to go a bit more in depth with my work and what exactly I was interested in, why, etc. If you're comfortable with your work then you should be fine. The most technical questions I've gotten involved something like "how exactly did you test for this property of the samples?" or maybe just a detailed explanation of the kind of data processing I was doing. One professor explained a project goal and asked me how I would design a material to fulfill both of its needs; that involved a bit more thought, but it was rather fun, and I think she was just trying to see my brainstorming process. 

Really, it's nothing you need to sit down and study for; just be comfortable/confident in your past work, what you want to do, and what the professors are doing. If you worked on a project a long time ago and you think it'll come up, maybe just refresh with the paper or procedure a bit. Asking good questions about their research definitely makes the interview go by much faster. 

Though I did hear of a few people getting some more technical/unexpected questions in their interviews, so, again, it depends a lot on who is interviewing you. But if you're confident in your work then you have nothing to worry about.

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