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How to get lab experience in US to attend best Schools of Chemistry ?



Hi everybody,

I am a french student I got B.S in biochemestry and M.S in Pharmaceutical Sciences and Drug Discovery with High Honours (around 14/20). I have to mention I got quite few chemistry lectures I mainly learned everything by myself.

During my last internship I did a quite interesting work on total synthesis during 6 months and I am now willing to continue in this field since I literally had a crush for this kind of work.

I would like to apply in graduate schools with preference for very good universities (Top 20).

I’ve got 6 months experience in Molecular Modelling and 6 months in Organic Chemistry, I feel like it is not enough compared to US students who sometime got many months of experience and some of them already got their names in publications.

I would like to have lab experiences in US but I do not really know how to do...I don't even know if I have any chances to get hired in private labs with a 6 months experience...

I also plan doing all required tests (GRE and Toefl) but for what I know the scores does not really matter.

So if you have any tips I’ll take it !


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Hello Alexis,

It's always competitive here, and it's a tough political environment for foreign students, but there's probably a way to make research work! I guess my first advice would be to contact as many potential labs as possible. :) Professors are busy but I've found that they generally love to talk about their work and how you could fit into it. I would recommend against opening the conversation with "would you be willing to employ me", though, because that could put them in an awkward position. Look at some of the big state schools outside the "top 20" as well, they often have a lot of funding and are more open to foreign students.

TOEFL scores are  important for international students looking at admission, especially when US professors aren't very knowledgeable about your home country's educational system. I have gotten the impression that the French system isn't quite as "publish or perish" as the American system, so your lack of published papers might not be such a big handicap if you can explain it that way. However, you might want to write up thorough brief of each research project you have done as a "paper replacement" of sorts so potential employers could see what kind of work you have done. You might also have to explain the strict French grading system - Americans grade much more leniently, and for graduate programs grades less than a B+ (3.5 GPA, 17/20) or even an A (4.0 GPA,18/20) is considered a problem. I believe that in France an 18/20 is reserved for Voltaire and a 20/20 for God? :P

Unfortunately, our current political climate is making it much more difficult to get visas to work legally in the United States, and it is expensive for a university or a company to sponsor a foreign worker. A lab might be more than willing to take you on but not be able to afford the bureaucratic nonsense. You might want to look into the process for HB-1 visas. Can you think of a way of getting more research experience in France to make you more competitive before you apply across the Atlantic? I'm not convinced that research in France would be any less of an advantage than research in the USA, as long as you are able to make contacts in the USA through phone calls, etc.

Have you considered joining one of the US professional associations in your field? They're a great way to check out what's being done in your field, and who the major researchers are. You don't have to be an American to join. You might also contact the Alliance Francaise in the city of a potential university/employer to see if there's a local contact who could help you. I'm a member of the Alliance Francaise de Memphis (tennessee) and I know our chapter has helped to place French folks in internships at the local huge cancer research hospital, St. Jude.

Best of luck!

Edited by geologyninja13
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