There are hundreds of opportunities available to science students at all levels–from scholarships to competitive internship programs. Each opportunity has a distinct timeline, and the purpose of this “scrollable” is simply to introduce a sampling of major opportunities, and to inform you about how the NCA office can help you put together a competitive application. We will start with opportunities that are more tailored to highly particular fields and research interests, and conclude with those that are “open”–those that require you to make the case for a certain research project or plan of study.
There are hundreds of NSF-sponsored REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) opportunities across the US and various territories sponsored by individual REU sponsors–colleges, universities, and research institutions that have received NSF funding to provide outstanding research opportunities to undergraduates. The process can be a mess: deadlines vary from December to May, and it can be difficult to find application information on individual opportunities (some opportunities have nicely curated websites, others have phone numbers associated with them, and sometimes neither of the above are updated) but these experiences are well worth it. Search opportunities through the link above–you’ll find everything from basic biology and chemistry projects to projects involving polar programs to cyber-infrastructure. Happy hunting!
SIP: The National Institutes of Health–the nation’s federal medical research agency–runs a Summer Internship Program (SIP) that provides a full-time biomedical research experience. Supporting students at various levels, beginning in high-school and extending into graduate and professional school–the NIH is home to about 1100 interns each summer, all of whom are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
The NIH also runs a generous Undergraduate Scholarship for aspiring scientists who can demonstrate exceptional financial need.
Housed in the broader SIP program, you will find more focused internships, such as those offered through the National Institution of Environmental Health Sciences that focus on biomedical, molecular, and analytical techniques in related fields. You should also check out the AMGEN Scholars Program at the NIH for internships focusing on biomedical research. Note, the application does not open until mid-November.
- Eligibility: varies
- Award: Varies, but includes paid summer internship
- Deadline: Early March
NIH Technical Irta: The NIH Technical IRTA Program is designed to produce a cadre of highly trained research support personnel. College graduates (or those who will have a degree by the time they begin the appointment) and individuals who hold a master’s degree spend two years (possibly three) mastering the latest and most advanced techniques for basic and/or applied research working in an environment devoted exclusively to biomedical research. The NIH consists of the 240-bed Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center and more than 1200 laboratories/research projects located on the main campus in Bethesda, MD and the surrounding area as well as in Baltimore and Frederick, MD; Research Triangle Park, NC; Hamilton, MT; Framingham, MA; and Detroit, MI.
The NIH Postbac IRTA program (CRTA, Cancer Research Training Award, in the National Cancer Institute) provides recent college graduates who are planning to apply to graduate or professional (medical/dental/pharmacy) school an opportunity to spend one or two years performing full-time research at the NIH. Postbac IRTAs/CRTAs work side-by-side with some of the leading scientists in the world, in an environment devoted exclusively to biomedical research. The NIH consists of the 240-bed Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center and more than 1200 laboratories/research projects located on the main campus in Bethesda, MD and the surrounding area as well as in Baltimore and Frederick, MD; Research Triangle Park, NC; Hamilton, MT; Framingham, MA; and Detroit, MI
The CDC has a number of programs focusing on undergraduates, including the Collegiate Leaders in Environmental Health program.
This is a paid 10-week summer environmental internship for undergraduate students who are passionate about the environment, interested in human health, and curious about how they are linked.
Environmental health professionals engage in a broad and exciting range of activities—basic and applied research, surveillance and tracking, direct health protection efforts such as disaster preparedness and response, health education, patient care, policy support, and more. For students interested in the environment, health, or both, few fields are more fascinating.
Interns will be placed in environmental health programs at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (NCEH/ATSDR) at CDC in Atlanta, GA (please note, the CDC has multiple locations in Atlanta and CLEH interns will be reporting to CDC’s Chamblee Campus and not CDC’s Roybal campus (the main CDC campus)). Over the course of the summer, interns will be exposed to a broad overview of environmental public health issues at the federal level.
- Eligibility: Junior or Senior
- Award: Paid summer internship
- Deadline: Late January
If the EPAs grow program offers one of the more complex applications, the established Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Science Administration offers one of the more transparent processes.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Ernest F. Hollings scholarship program is designed to increase undergraduate training in oceanic and atmospheric science, research, technology, and education and foster multidisciplinary training opportunities; increase public understanding and support for stewardship of the ocean and atmosphere and improve environmental literacy; recruit and prepare students for public service careers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other natural resource and science agencies at the federal, state and local levels of government; and recruit and prepare students for careers as teachers and educators in oceanic and atmospheric science and to improve scientific and environmental education in the United States.
- Eligibility: sophomores (or juniors if taking a fifth year) studying biological, life, and agricultural sciences; physical sciences; mathematics; engineering; computer and information sciences; social and behavioral science; and teacher education.
- Award: The Hollings Scholarship Program provides successful undergraduate applicants with awards that include academic assistance (up to a maximum of $8,000 per year) for full-time study during the 9-month academic year; a 10-week, full-time internship position ($650/week) during the summer at a NOAA facility; and, if reappointed, academic assistance (up to a maximum of $8,000) for full-time study during a second 9-month academic year.
- Deadline: Late January
Department of Defense’s SMART scholarships (over 200 offered per year) offer generous scholarship support in exchange for a commitment to work for the DOD after graduation for a period of time. The Science, Mathematics And Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship for Service Program is an opportunity for students pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines to receive a full scholarship and be gainfully employed upon degree completion.
- Eligibility: first-year through graduate
- Award: Full scholarship
- Deadline: Mid-December
The Goldwater Scholarship is a premier award for undergraduates preparing for careers in engineering, math, and the natural sciences. Applicants are evaluated based on outstanding academic performance and potential for careers in related areas. Pre-medical students may apply only if their career interest is research rather than clinical. Institutional nomination required. About 300 awards are given each year. CofC can nominate up to 4 students, and earning the campus nomination itself is often a competitive process with more applicants than nominations.
- Eligibility: Current sophomores or juniors with research experience and strong mentor support.Applicants must work through the NCA office to receive internal nomination.
- Award: Maximum of $7,500 annually, covers eligible undergraduate tuition, fees, books, and room and board(for one or two years, depending on whether student wins as a junior or as a sophomore).
- Internal: Early January / Late December
- National: End of January
- Notes: research experience will help you be more competitive, but a high GPA is essential as well: in 2013, winners had a 3.9 average GPA.
The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship is one of the most widely recognized graduate awards in the sciences, and most students in Ph.D. programs will apply for one of these awards. Importantly, undergraduate applicants are reviewed separately from graduate applicants, so these are very accessible awards. The NSF GRFP awards recognize and support outstanding seniors (who are applying to graduate school) and graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions. As the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, the GRFP has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers.
- Eligibility: Seniors applying to graduate school and grad students in NSF-supported fields; significant research experience is expected for successful applicants.
- Award: Fellows benefit from a three-year annual stipend of $32,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees (paid to the institution), opportunities for international research and professional development, and the freedom to conduct their own research at any accredited U.S. institution of graduate education they choose.
- Deadline: Early November (varies by field)
Fulbright awards are grants for one year of study, research, or English teaching assistantships in almost any country in the world; this is the U.S. Government’s premier scholarship program. About 1,000 awards are given each year, and opportunities vary by number and requirement for each country, so researching and reflecting upon the many opportunities available is absolutely essential.
- Eligibility: U.S. citizen, holding bachelor’s degree by the time overseas project would commence.
- Award: One-year award (though some are longer) typically covering round-trip transportation, language or orientation courses, tuition where necessary, book and research allowances, and living expenses.
- Internal: September 24 (subject to change)
- External: October 14
- Notes: Many research grants require what Fulbright calls an “affiliation.” This is an overseas research mentor who will oversee and consult on your self-designed project. You might also join a larger research project, but it will be important that your role is distinct and substantial. These awards don’t go to lab assistants. Overseas experience is not necessary. It is important to begin the Fulbright application process as soon as possible given complications around affiliations that can arise.
And so, the question arises once again….
What’s Your Award?
There’s an award out there for you–I didn’t even touch on opportunities available through the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies. The application processes for all of these awards are intensive, so careful planning is crucial: most of these awards require letters of recommendation, which should be requested well in advance of the deadline; most require detailed and compelling personal statements; and all require that you have carefully reflected on how your skills, interests, and experience align with a given opportunity. Fortunately, the NCA office is here to help you at each step, especially when it comes to composing and revising personal and research statements. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment to discuss these and other opportunities available to you.
Many of you here have received locally competitive SURF or HHMI grants. The opportunities discussed here are nationally competitive opportunities–opportunities that create the kinds of connections and that come with a certain prestige that will serve you well as you move on from the College to other research and post-graduate opportunities.
Check out the NCA Blog and Awards Search site for more awards in and beyond science. Be sure to fill out an Applicant Profile form on that site if you would like me to contact you about award opportunities or to schedule an appointment. You can also access the Profile form, and get tips on all aspects of the awards application process, on the main NCA website.