My Penn Path: Will Marble

willmarbLast spring, we asked several current Penn students in the College of Arts & Sciences to talk to us about their summer internship experience.

We hope these brief interviews give you some insight into the many opportunities and career fields that await you out in the world!

Today’s interview is with Will Marble, CAS ’15

Name: Will Marble
Hometown: Erdenheim, Pennsylvania
Year/Majors: 2015, majoring in political science and economics

Favorite class at Penn: Two of my favorite classes were actually with professors I worked with over the summer: Prof. John Lapinski’s class, “Elections, Polling, and the Media,” and Prof. Marc Meredith’s class, “Statistical Methods in Political Science.” Both involved original research papers, which was challenging but rewarding.

Where did you work and what was your job title?
Last summer I worked as an undergraduate research fellow for a political science program at Penn, the Program for Opinion Research and Election Studies (PORES). I did research assistance for Profs. John Lapinski, Marc Meredith, and Matt Levendusky on projects related to election administration and public opinion.

How did you get involved in your summer position?
PORES is a new program, and I first heard about the plans for the program from Prof. Lapinski, the program director, last winter. However, it dropped off my radar until I saw an email on the political science major listserv advertising the research fellow position. I sent an application to Prof. Lapinski and set up the job in mid-April.

Did you have any background with this subject/field before?
I had a bit of background in this subject before, since I am a political science major. My job involved a lot of quantitative data analysis, which touched on topics I learned about in my introductory statistics and econometrics classes. But I had not done any political science research prior to last summer.

What was your favorite part of the experience?
My favorite part of the experience was learning the nitty-gritty of quantitative political science research. When you read a published paper, it’s easy to take for granted all of the small bits of work that go into it (from finding data sources, to cleaning the data, to analyzing it). Over the summer, I learned how to take those steps to generate interesting, original research.

What was something you learned/did that you didn’t expect?
I was surprised to learn how inconsistent and messy some government data is (particularly at the local level). To overcome the problem of really, really messy data — for example, a 10,000-page PDF that needs to be turned into a spreadsheet of a few hundred lines) — and to analyze it once it was cleaned, I became fairly good at programming in the statistics package Stata, which is a really valuable skill for doing quantitative research.

What was the most valuable lesson you took away from this experience?
The most valuable lesson I took away was how to think about the research process: from doing background research to developing theories and hypotheses, to identifying how to where to find the data to test those theories, to actually doing the analysis. Another valuable lesson in realism is something Prof. Meredith told me: If you want to know how long a research project will take, make a first guess. Multiply that number by eight, and then you have a reasonable estimate.

How has this experience influenced your long-term career plans/goals?
I’m still involved in the PORES program as a research assistant for Prof. Lapinski, and the experience has convinced me that I want to pursue graduate studies in political science. I’ve really enjoyed being involved with original research, so I’m planning on applying to Ph.D. programs next school year.

Curiosity & Careers: How Informational Interviewing Can Build Your Network (Revisited)

My colleague Xiu Mei Long has offered some food for thought on networking, particularly for those who are more introverted or those who seek to strengthen their connections. From my observation, it seems that informational interviewing remains a relatively underutilized means of developing a solid network. With that in mind, I have updated and reposted a previous article on this topic.

Wherever you are in the career planning process, it never hurts to chat with people in careers that have piqued your curiosity.   This process, often referred to as informational interviewing, is a great way to gather helpful insight on a career and receive advice on moving into that career. Why not schedule some interviews this fall? Here are some tips to get you started:

1) Be open to the many opportunities to engage people.

You may want to start with Penn alumni, who are generally happy to help. Check out QuakerNet, Penn’s online alumni community, and search for alumni who are in careers that interest you. Assuming that they don’t have major time constraints, many alumni are glad to talk about the work they do and offer their own perspective on what it takes to be successful in their field.  You can also identify alumni with careers of interest by way of LinkedIn alumni groups and Penn Regional Alumni clubs.

Don’t feel like you are limited to alumni. It is often tempting to overlook those closest to you, such as family, friends of the family, and relatives of friends. Peruse the website of an organization that you respect and see if you can locate staff biographies and identify those doing work that you could see yourself doing in the future; if any Penn alumni are working there, all the better.

Once you develop a list of potential contacts, send an e-mail message introducing yourself and stating how you became aware of the person’s work. Mention that you have developed an interest in the contact’s career field and that you would like to talk with him/her for 30 minutes to glean insight and advice. Informational interviews can be conducted by phone or in person, depending on what is most convenient.

2) Prepare well.

Once the informational interview is scheduled, make sure to read up on basic information about the career field as well as the organization at which your contact works. Good preparation is key to asking thoughtful and focused questions that spark engaging conversation and leave a great impression. Helpful tips and sample questions are available on the Career Services website and you can make an appointment with a career advisor who can help with preparation. Though you will not be going to a job interview, professionalism is still important. If you are meeting your contact in person, be clear on what attire is appropriate and where the contact’s office is located. If you are talking over the phone, you should be in a quiet place during the interview. Be sure to send a thank you note after the interview, and keep in touch periodically.

3) Respect the boundaries.

It is crucial to remember that an informational interview is neither a job interview nor the venue to ask for one. The purpose of an informational interview is to gather information and advice as well as more networking contacts. That being said, a contact who is very impressed with you may choose to offer additional assistance to you at his or her discretion.

4) Enjoy!

Informational interviewing allows for an intentional conversation where there is relatively little pressure to convince someone that you are totally committed to a given career or the best fit for a job. The process offers a great opportunity for you to learn from another’s experiences and get clarity regarding your own career goals. It can be one of the more enjoyable aspects of networking, even for those who typically see networking as a daunting task.


5 Tips for Medical and Dental School Interviews

by Mia Carpiniello

Interview season has begun for medical and dental school applicants. Here are five things that you can do to prepare for a traditional medical or dental school interview. (For advice on preparing for a Multiple Mini-Interview, please see this blog post.)

  1. Remember the purpose of the interview. The interview is an opportunity for the school to get to know you as a person, evaluate your interpersonal skills, and gauge your enthusiasm for their school and the profession. They are talking to you for a reason. Namely, they are interested in you and want to know more about you that they can’t get from your paper application. This prior blog post will shed some light on the interviewer’s perspective.
  2. Refamiliarize yourself with your application materials. Be ready to share about yourself, your experiences, and why you want to become a physician/dentist. Review your primary application, your personal statement, your secondary applications, highlights from your classes, and anecdotes from your clinical experiences.
  3. Practice having a conversation about yourself. Don’t go into the interview with an agenda, a script, or a sales pitch. Instead, have a conversation with the interviewer. Be reflective and introspective. Offer specific examples and anecdotes, rather than vague descriptions or a recitation of your resume. Once you have been invited for an interview, you are welcome to schedule a 30-minute, one-on-one mock interview with one our pre-health advisors.
  4. Read up on bioethics issues and current events in health care. You are not expected to be an expert, but you should be well-read on hot topics in health care. Read the health and science sections of a major, national newspaper on a regular basis.
  5. Familiarize yourself with the individual school. Have some questions ready to ask the interviewer if you get the opportunity. Ask questions that reflect your actual interests. Take advantage of this opportunity to demonstrate your interest in the particular school and get answers to things that you couldn’t easily find the answer to on your own.

kidMost of all, try to relax, be yourself, and let your enthusiasm for the school and the profession come through!

For additional advice, we encourage current applicants to attend our Pre-Health Interview Tips Workshop. Check our events calendar for upcoming workshops.