How to get a 'Research Technician' position at the Broad Institute of Harvard/MIT
Proud 'Broadie' posing with the sign in front of 7 Cambridge Center.
Why work at the Broad?
History of the Broad
The Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT (pronounced Brode) is a nonprofit institution that is privately funded by Eli and Edyth Broad, philanthropists who have donated $600 million dollars since the Broad's beginning. If they think it is worthy of their money it must be a great place, right? In fact, the Broad is a one of a kind place to work that boasts some of the best salaries, a great location, an amazing work environment, stimulating coworkers, and a dedication to moving science towards solving some of humankind's most riveting health problems. In addition to being announced by the Boston Globe as one of the top 100 mid-sized companies to work for in Boston, the Broad is a world leader in cancer, genetics, proteomics, and many other human health related topics.
Perks They Won't Tell You About in the Job Summary
- You get a really nice workspace. The broad has so many windows and glass walls that you will sometimes swear that you are actually outside. Some of the jobs that I applied to were in the basement and what few windows they had were covered with -80 C freezers or BL2 tissue culture hoods. You will be spending 40 hours a week at your new job so it may as well be uplifting!
- You work in a very accessible and fun location. The Broad is right across from the MIT campus. This means that you get off of the Red Line at the Kendall stop and walk for a few minutes and you are there. Accessibility is a huge plus in the city of Boston! Additionally, there are many restaurants and stores very close to the Broad. We are attached to a Sebastian's (a very delicious but pricey sandwich shop), there is a Starbucks on the corner of our block, the MIT Coop cafeteria and food trucks are right across the street, there is a bank down the road, and a whole lot more! Boston is right at your fingertips!
- The social opportunities are regular, fun, and have free food and drinks. This is a huge plus for morale, networking, and just plain having a good time. There are often social hours and organized birthday parties as well as public meetings held at the Broad. The public meetings will have free food for everyone, and the private happy hours will often have food, beer, and wine. There are often also organized birthday parties or social hours organized independently by the labs. These events are very fun, and a great way to get to know the people in your lab.
- You will have the opportunity to go to retreats, off-site meetings, and other conferences. There is an annual Broad Retreat in the city of Boston. it is usually 2-3 days of free conferences, presentations, posters, and food. The experience is really fun and there is a lot of opportunity to learn about what is going on at the Broad. Depending on which group you work with, you may also go on a lab retreat (usually an off-site retreat where technicians will be able to present their projects as well). Conferences such as the annual Koch Institute conference are always available (and you get the pricing discount because of your affiliation).
- You will be working with top-notch scientists from all over the world that have come here to enhance their understanding of human health and disease. You will have more freedom and more control over your career once you work at the Broad. You will learn more than technicians at other institutes because the finances here allow us to use more expensive technologies that are usually unavailable at academic labs.
- The salary at the Broad is probably one of the best in Boston. As a 'Research Associate I' (the entry level Technician position), the starting salary is above $35 K per year, which is extremely rare for an entry level job. The price of living in Boston can be overwhelming, but having a fair salary definitely helps to keep those bills under control!
- You get a really nice computer (Apple or PC, depending on your preference) upon starting your job. Coming in as a new technician, I received a brand new 27 inch wide-screen Dell computer.
- You are coming into a young group of scientists. The average age here at the Broad is a mere 35 years old! With over 1700 employees, that is a staggeringly young population. I see this as a positive thing as well because the benefits package fits the fact that there are few people who are sick or dying! The health and dental insurance is great.
- On any given day, you may run into a science super-star! Broad Institute Director Eric Lander was a Human Genome Project leader and is co-chair of Obama's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology. There are also many meetings held here at the Broad when they rent out the auditorium and we have seen the likes of many famous scientists.
The Best Jobs Look for the Best Employees
I am sure that this all sounds great. The catch? The Broad only accepts the best of the best; the cream of the crop. This article will share a bit of my experience about how to land a technician job at the Broad (or as we are called here: "Research Associates").
There are many interesting levels of research going on here. To see if you may be interested in a specific program, take a look at the various topics of research we do here:
- Cancer Program
- Program in Medical and Population Genetics
- Genome Biology and Cell Circuits Program
- Chemical Biology Program
- Metabolic Disease Initiative
- Infectious Disease Initiative
- Psychiatric Disease Initiative
- Computational Biology and Bioinformatics
Although you need not have experience in the specific field in order to apply, some kind of research experienced is pretty much required to land a job here at the Broad. If you worked in a lab at your school for 2 years researching planarian regeneration processes, you could certainly still apply to the Cancer Program or the Infectious Disease program, as long as your interests lie there. If you are a computer science major and have experience coding because you completed an internship in Chicago for two summers, you would qualify to work for pretty much any program, because low-level programmers are needed in all areas of study!
How to Apply
Building your Resume
Use as many resources as you can online to help you with building your resume. There are lots of great online resources. Also make sure that your references know what the Broad Institute is and what the job means to you. Also see the next section "What Does a Good Candidate Look Like" for helpful tips.
Submitting your Resume
Although there might not be an official job opening, the Broad is always on the lookout for a qualified candidate. Email the PI's or post-docs with a short email giving a brief background of yourself (your school, your research experience, and your area of scientific interest). Then tell them that you are interested in applying for a job. Ask who you should direct your resume to.
What Does a Good Candidate Look Like?
I have interviewed many people for the position of research technician here at the Broad. Among all of the candidates, the best resumes show this:
- Biology, chemistry, computer science, or related major
- Have about 1-2 years of research experience through internships, work at a college or university, a master's program, or even through another job
- GPA of 3.3 or higher
- Show a dedicated and consistent interest in science
- Have good references
If you make it that far and land an interview at the Broad, you can expect almost 7 hours of interviews. During this time, you will meet several post-docs (post-doctoral fellows: aka the boss), your new potential PI (principal investigator: aka the big boss), and your potential fellow research associates (research technicians: aka your coworkers). The best candidates exhibit the following qualities:
- Excited, excited, EXCITED about science! Ask questions, be interested, stay engaged. Ask about projects; DO NOT HESITATE TO ASK QUESTIONS! You are not expected to know anything at all, so if you are genuinely interested, you will ask, ask, ask!
- Know a little about the projects in the program before the interview. Find out the program that you are applying to and look up the most recent publications. Even if you only understand every 3rd word, it will show initiative and interest if you have done some research beforehand.
- Tout your good qualities without bragging about yourself and show that you can fit the high ethical standard required here at the Broad (and any large bioscience institute for that matter).
- Be yourself! The interviewers are real people who are thinking of you as a potential coworker. Be genuine, smile, and convince them that you are dedicated to the advancement of science.
I was offered a job! Now what?
- Find a place to live that is either on the red line or along the 87, 85, CT-2, or 68 bus routes. You can use the Google Maps "directions to" functionality by putting in the Broad's address and the potential apartment address.
- Contact the Broad to see if there are any new technicians coming in who are also looking for a place to live. You may be able to room with them if you are coming from out of state!
- Use the MIT/Harvard boards to find younger students who are looking for people to room with as these universities are fairly close to the Broad.
Good luck and I hope that this helps someone! I know that I wish I had all of this information when I was applying, interviewing, and trying to move to Boston for the first time.
Please feel free to let me know if I forgot anything.