About the role

The Fellows are practicing scientists and engineers who learn and lead in communication best practices. If you become a Communication Fellow, you will…

  • Contribute <5 hours/week for the Comm Lab, though the load varies significantly throughout the year depending on deadlines and your research/academic commitments. Fellows planning to take quals will not participate in Comm Lab activities during the months leading up to the exam.
  • May receive $2.5k/year to learn communication skills, coach your peers, and design other communication resources for NSE.
  • Participate in a year-long training (9 sessions × 2 hours each).
  • Be mentored by your manager and experienced Fellows.
  • Receive regular feedback on your own communication and coaching.
  • Have access to exclusive professional development opportunities.
  • Learn to design and run hands-on workshops and other educational resources for your peers.
  • Take the lead on projects that excite you, with support from Comm Lab staff.

Application process

Applications for Spring 2022 are now closed.

We solicit applications every February/March. Here’s what you can expect from the application process:

  • Request permission from your PI to join the Comm Lab before applying.
  • Write <500 words about why you want to become a Communication Fellow and what you would like to bring to the program.
  • Provide samples of your work.
  • Interviews by invitation to discuss your interest in the program and assess your approaches to communication and coaching.

Final decisions are made in consultation with our Comm Lab faculty advisor Prof. Scott Kemp and MIT Comm Lab Director Dr. Diana Chien. Note that international students are eligible to become Comm Fellows. Email Marina Dang (dangm@mit.edu) if you are interested in applying or have any questions about the process or Fellow experience.

Frequently asked questions

  • Who is eligible to apply?
    All Masters and PhD students affiliated with MIT NSE are invited to apply.
  • Are international students eligible?
    Yes. Circumstances vary person-to-person, but many Communication Fellows have been international students. Please email NSE Comm Lab Manager Marina Dang (dangm@mit.edu) to discuss your specific situation.
  • I need help with my own communication skills. Can I still apply?
    Yes! While we are looking for candidates who have experience with various forms of technical communication, you do not need to be a stellar communicator to be a Communication Fellow. The program is designed to support your growth in those areas.
  • I’m busy this semester but will have more time starting this summer. Should I apply now or wait for the next application cycle?
    Apply now. Newly accepted Fellows do not start coaching until June, and the expected commitment is about 2 hours/month between now and then.
  • What do you look for in a Communication Fellow?
    Some of the things we look for in a Communication Fellow are technical communication skills, interpersonal communication skills, teaching skills and experience, an interest in communication, a desire to help others, and a growth mindset.

Testimonials

I would highly recommend the Communication Lab to graduate students in the department. It helps to broaden your skills set, while also giving you an opportunity to add value to the department.

As someone who feels comfortable communicating to large groups, the training I received as a Communication Fellow really helped me to internalize the role of the audience and how best to tailor my presentation and mannerisms towards effective communication. Through working with Marina and my fellow coaches, I was able to understand how my default mannerisms can be perceived by different audiences. Through practice, both with clients and in my own academic presentations, my awareness to my own level of communication and ability to calibrate my approach in real-time has increased, and I continue to look for ways to improve.
– Mareena Robinson Snowden, PhD ’17, Comm Fellow 2014-2016

My experiences at the Comm Lab (both as a recipient of coaching and as a Fellow providing coaching) were absolutely essential in my development during grad school and later on in starting a technology company.

One of the most important things I learned in graduate school was how to become a better communicator. It’s easy to get sucked into your technical studies in grad school, but it’s so important to be able to communicate your results and more importantly, why they matter, to others. The great thing about the Comm Lab was that I was able to get feedback from others who deeply understood my field of study (as well as learn how to give this feedback once I became a Comm Lab Fellow). This is something that really sets the Comm Lab apart — it’s far beyond just wordsmithing, it’s about getting advice from your peers on how to most effectively craft your message to be accessible to any audience.
– Brandon Sorbom, PhD ’17, Comm Fellow 2015-2017

Often times scientists and engineers like to idealize that they work in a pure meritocracy, but the reality is that every work environment requires effective communication in order to value great work.

The Comm Lab provided me with a community and an environment in which I could experiment, challenge myself, and receive thoughtful feedback. It helped teach me how to take a step back and efficiently identify the core message I need to organize around. This experience and these skills have been invaluable at Exelon, especially when we are meeting tight deadlines. Communication is a skill one is always learning and developing; my experience in the Comm Lab provided me with an excellent foundation to build and grow from.
– Jake Jurewicz, SM ’15, Comm Fellow 2014-2015

The NSE Comm Lab team throughout the years

2020–2021 2021–2022
2019–2020 2018–2019 2017–2018
2016–2017 2015–2016 2014–2015