Friday, January 22, 2010

Summer Internships

Many readers of the 4th edition of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology are undergraduate majors in science or engineering. This time of the year, these students are searching for summer internships. I have a few suggestions.

My first choice is the NIH Summer Internship Program in Biomedical Research. The intramural campus of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland is the best place in the world to do biomedical research. My years working there in the 1990s were wonderful. Apply now. The deadline is March 1.

The National Science Foundation supports Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) programs throughout the US. Click here for a list (it is long, but probably incomplete). Often NSF requires schools to not just select from their own undergraduates, but also to open some positions in their REU program to students from throughout the country. You might also try to Google “REU” and see what you come up with. Each program has different deadlines and eligibility requirements. For several years Oakland University, where I work, had an REU program run by the physics department. We have applied for funding again, but have not heard yet if we were successful. If lucky, we will run the program this summer, with a somewhat later deadline than most.

Last year, as part of the federal government’s stimulus package, the National Institutes of Health encouraged researchers supported by NIH grants to apply for a supplement to fund undergraduate students in the summer. Most of these supplements were for two years, and this will be the second summer. Therefore, I expect there will be extra opportunities for undergraduate students to do biomedical research in the coming months. Strike while the iron’s hot! The stimulus program is scheduled to end next year.

Finally, one of the best ways for undergraduate students to find opportunities to do research in the summer is to ask around among your professors. Get a copy of your department’s annual report and find out which professors have funding. Attend department seminars and colloquia to find out who is doing research that interests you. Or just show up at a faculty member’s door and ask (first read what you can about his or her research, and have your resume in hand). If you can manage it financially, consider working without pay for the first summer, just to get your foot in the door.

When I look back on my undergraduate education at the University of Kansas, one of the most valuable experiences was doing research in Professor Wes Unruh’s lab. I learned more from Unruh and his graduate students than I did in my classes. But such opportunities don’t just fall into your lap. You need to look for them. Ask around, knock on some doors, and keep your eyes open. And start now, because many of the formal internship programs have deadlines coming up soon.

If, dear reader, you are fortunate enough to get an internship this summer, but it is far from home, then don’t forget to pack your copy of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology when you go. After working all day in the lab, you can relax with it in the evening!

Good luck.

1 comment:

  1. Here is yet another summer internship program, at Howard Hughes Medical Institute: http://www.hhmi.org/janelia/undergrad.html

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