Riverlane’s top tips for an internship application in quantum computing

After receiving more than 250 applications for our undergraduate and master’s internship scheme, we recently awarded seven places to students from across the UK and Europe. Over 10 weeks this summer, the students will join our team in Cambridge and work with a dedicated supervisor to help translate their skills and experience into a commercial research environment.

We know how many young researchers are passionate and enthusiastic about quantum computing, but even we were surprised (and delighted!) by the huge interest in our scheme. This years’ experience will be invaluable as we make improvements to the 2021 application process. To help everyone who might want to apply for next year’s scheme, we would like to share our learning about what makes a good internship application.

Here’s a quick summary of what made an application rise to the top of the pile.

A passion for quantum computing

The best applications from our 2020 competition were submitted by students who could demonstrate a sustained interest and passion for quantum computing.

We understand that many applicants may not have had significant exposure to quantum computing at this early stage in their career. However, whether through attending relevant lectures, playing with quantum development packages or joining hackathons, the best candidates were able to demonstrate a genuine interest in the field.

A clear reason for wanting to complete an internship at Riverlane

Many candidates effectively described the reasons that they were well qualified to apply for the internship but did not tell us why they wanted to complete an internship or why they wanted to do it at Riverlane. Good applications explored a few reasons – for example, an interest in topics that Riverlane’s employees work on or the chance to gain industry / start-up experience.

Matching the cover letter to the internship criteria

This is standard advice, but many candidates did not address the criteria outlined in the advert in their cover letter. We asked for evidence of critical thinking and problem-solving ability, strong communication skills, and team-working experience.

We especially enjoyed reading applications that provided specific examples to demonstrate these skills. The best applicants also signposted their response to the different criteria by using sub-headings. With over 250 applications to read, anything that makes it easier for us to navigate a cover letter is a real bonus.

Our 2020 summer interns

Our interns hail from Manchester, Cambridge, Oxford, Heidelberg, and Edinburgh universities. Six students are studying physics and we have one chemist. We’ll report back on their experience over the summer and share what projects they are working on.

In the meantime, we’re thinking about ways to encourage more applications from women, who represented less than 10% of all candidates. We would also like to increase applications from disciplines outside physics, including maths, computer science, and chemistry.

Details about our internship schemes can be found here. Our summer 2021 internship scheme will be advertised in January 2021 with a closing date of mid-February 2021.