undergraduate research internships

Judith Gibber jrg43 at columbia.edu
Sun Aug 17 14:08:51 EST 1997

I've gotten a question about what these are, and since there may 
be undergrads who are unfamiliar with them, I'll answer this here.

Undergrads may want to work in research labs because they are considering
becoming either scientists or medical doctors, and want to see what 
biomedical research is really like.  Usually they work during the summer.

Some students simply approach a scientist and ask about working in the 
lab.  Many volunteer, but in some cases the scientist is able to give
the student a small stipend from their grant.  Here in New York City,
they're paid about $6-7/hr, or about $1000/month.  The hourly rate 
is similar to work-study, but getting the position is not dependent on
financial need.

There are also many organized internship programs, where undergrads
compete for a limited number of stipends.  These programs generally
last 10 weeks during the summer, and the students are paid about 
$2500 for that period.  Programs at some institutions (like the 
one we have here in the Biology Department) accept applications only 
from their own students.  Other programs, accept applicants from 
other schools, and may be funded by the NSF, NIH, Hughes Foundation.
Many programs, especially those at large medical schools, seem to 
offer these summer internships in part as a recruiting mechanism,
hoping that these undergrads will want to attend their own graduate 

The programs offer the undergraduates an experience that is a sort
of like a graduate student apprenticeship.  Lab work on a real research
project (not just washing testtubes) is combined with other activities:
could be research seminars, talks on careers in science, field trips,
social get togethers.  The students also give oral, written, and/or poster

Most programs focus on a particular area of biology, such as
neurosciences, pharmacology, field biology, etc.  Deadlines for 
application are around the beginning of February, but a few are 
earlier (NIH, NASA, Weizmann Inst, Mayo Clinic) and a few are later
(especially the field work types).

Announcements for these programs are generally sent to Bio Depts and 
Career Services in Dec/Jan.  If your school doesn't post such
announcements on bulletin boards, you can search for information 
about them on the Web.  Do a search on terms like REU, Research Experience
for Undergraduates, SURF, Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, SURP,
Summer Undergraduate Research Program.

A few sites set up links to a variety of these programs, for example:


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