Feb 20, 2015

NIH expands summer internship program to target disadvantaged students

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) manages one of the most popular and widely-respected summer internship programs in the country.  And it’s one of the most competitive.

A federal agency composed of 27 institutes and centers (IEC’s), NIH is the nation’s primary “biomedical research institution.”  Each IEC has its own focus but they all share the common goal of translating scientific discoveries into treatments and cures for rare and common diseases.

The main NIH campus is in Bethesda, Maryland, but there are other campuses across the United States and summer interns may be invited to work on any NIH campus, including locations in North Carolina, Montana, Massachusetts and Michigan.

For the summer of 2015, NIH has expanded its outreach to students who are generally disadvantaged in the application process.  In addition to its core summer internship program, NIH has created three special subprograms with specific target groups in mind:
  • The High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP):  For students within commuting distance of the main NIH campus in Bethesda, this program is designed to introduce students from high schools with a high percentage of financially-disadvantaged families to careers in the sciences and biomedical research.
  • Community College Summer Enrichment Program (CCSEP): This purpose of this program is to increase the number of community college students who participate in the NIH summer internship program and ultimately transfer to four-year colleges and universities.
  • Amgen Scholars Program:  This program is specifically targeted to undergraduates who lack opportunities to carry out independent research during the school year.
All NIH summer internship programs offer stipends of varying amounts, with students generally arriving at the NIH in May or June—start dates are negotiated individually. And stipends are adjusted yearly with the amount depending on prior experience and educational level.

NIH does not provide housing. Every year, however, out-of-area students apply and make their own living arrangements for the summer. Nevertheless, students living in the DC metropolitan area or near one of the other locations have a clear advantage for many of the internships.

To support the program, the Office of Intramural Training & Education sponsors a wide range of summer activities including lectures, career/professional development workshops, and Summer Poster Day. These are incomparable opportunities which can provide the basis for independent research and related science competitions such as the JSHS, Google Science Fair, Intel STS, Siemens, and ISEF.

Summer internships are available for students who will be 16 years of age or older at the time they begin the program and who are currently enrolled at least half-time in high school or an accredited US college or university.

Interested students must apply online by no later than March 1, 2015, and all letters of recommendation are due by March 15, 2015. The application requires
  • a resume
  • a list of coursework and grades (no transcripts need to be sent at the time of initial application)
  • a cover letter describing research interests and career goals (applicants are welcome to specify scientific methodologies or disease/organ systems that interest them)
  • names and contact information for two references.
Individual investigators will review applications to find individuals who will fit most comfortably into their programs or groups and who are most likely to make significant contributions to ongoing projects.  They usually look for applicants who speak and write well, who have some prior successful research experience, who are creative, who take initiative and are self-motivated, and/or who work well in teams.

Because applications are reviewed on a rolling basis from November through April by NIH scientists, students are encouraged to submit their applications as soon as possible (note that some deadlines may have already passed).  Only completed applications are available for review by NIH investigators and administrators.

For more information as well as tips on how to increase your chances of winning an internship, visit the NIH website

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