I worked at Mathematical Sciences Research Institute as an intern
Helene Barcelo and David Eisenbud are amazing mathematicians who are very personable, helpful, and there to talk to you. The REU students in my cohort were really brilliant and kind as well, the staff is amazing, and the mentors (a rotating set of professors) were awesome my year. Logistically, it's very well-stocked with office supplies and has great amounts of chalkboard space, and lunch is catered and (in my opinion) good, which is convenient since the institute is located on a hill and is therefore a bit far from restaurants/stores.
None that I can think of; the only issue would be if you're looking for a longer research experience, as their REU is typically 6 weeks. However, this can be a pro if you're trying to fit two shorter internships into one summer.
I applied online. The process took 5+ months. I interviewed at Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (Berkeley, CA) in February 2017.
1. Pretty standard screening interview, asking why you want the position and so on
2. In-person interview with top organizational leadership. Pretty loose, very friendly. In retrospect, this was the "good cop" interview, probably meant to just get an initial feel for the candidate in person
3. In-person interview with additional organizational leadership. This was the bad cop interview, a stunt really. Claimed to have zero prior knowledge of candidacy and no communication/coordination with other interviewers, so whole conversation was starting from zero
4. Invented take-home test and gave very little turnaround time. Would have been more palatable had it been a clear part of the process from the beginning, but it was obvious they made this up for me only
5. Unsupervised phone interview with potential candidate for another open position, which was weird but fine
Reasons for Declining
Ultimately received but declined offer due to a number of concerns with the organization:
1. I got the sense that MSRI was stuck in its ways, not really open to outside perspectives.
2. Hiring practices implied a top-down, command-and-control approach: you are hired to do a specific role, and senior employees will tell you how to do it. This might work for some places or some roles, but in a position where you need to be creative and at an organization that could use some new thinking, it seemed like I was signing up for an uphill battle.
3. They showed a lack of trust during offer negotiation process, asking to see my other offers as proof before making their own final offer.
4. They declined to make offer to the other candidate they had me talk to, even though he seemed totally qualified. Later found out he'd been told he didn't "present" as having the math background they wanted, but that should have been clear from his resume. In my experience, this kind of language is just code for saying he wasn't white. Indeed, the vast majority of this organization is white, including 100% of its leadership.
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