Summer Physics Opportunities

Summer undergraduate physics opportunities are available in basic research, applied research, engineering, public science policy, and more.  Many of these programs have common traits:

  • Work alongside faculty, senior researchers, and graduate students
  • 8-12 week program lengths
  • $3,000-$6,000 summer stipends
  • Open to students that have not yet graduated
  • Social activities and field trips to other facilities
  • Application due dates ranging from October through February.  Most applications are online and require at least the following:
    • A statement about your future plans and how the program will benefit you
    • College transcript
    • One or more letters of recommendation

See the links below for some possible opportunities.  Note that this list is definitely NOT exhaustive, there are certainly many more programs and internships you can find by searching the internet.  Note also that some of these links may not yet be updated for the summer of 2014 applications.

  

Help! There are too many options - how do I know where to apply?

Yes, there are a lot of options - apply to anything that looks interesting to you.  It will take some time to sift through the many programs, so start looking soon and make a list of the possibilities.

  

Help! These programs look too specialized!

Yes, most programs ARE specialized - the idea is to learn what it is like to focus intensely on an advanced field of study.  Don't worry, they understand that you are an undergraduate who is motivated and eager to learn, but has a typical undergraduate physics background.

  

Help! I'm afraid these are too competitive!

Yes, they are competitive - so make many applications.  Some programs might be more selective, depending on:  if a place is somewhat famous (Princeton, Caltech, NASA, etc.), if the location is somewhat exotic (Hawaii, Paris, Chile, etc.), if they receive a high number of applications (because the website comes up first in a search, or the website looks flashy and exciting, etc.).  But you won't know until you apply.  Try the following strategy:

  • Make sure your application is clear, concise, error-free, and a week or two ahead of the deadline.  (Most programs will gladly throw out applications that contain typos or don't make sense). 
  • Apply to many programs (Try 5-10 programs to increase your odds).
  • Apply to a mix of program types (Include several REUs at large and small institutions, the DOE-SULI or NASA-OneStop applications, a few of the National Labs, and anything that looks "off-the-beaten-path").
  • Apply to programs with a range of application deadlines (The earlier or later deadlines may end up with fewer applicants).

 

Help! They all seem to require US citizenship!

Yes, it is true that many programs require US citizenship or permanent resident status.  You can often find this information quickly by searching for "Eligibility" near the application information.  A few programs that might be open to non-US citizens are listed separately below.  In addition, many of the REU programs have funding available for non-US citizens, but you will have to go to each program's website to find this information.

  

Help! These all seem like research positions, but I'm interested in interning at a company!

Yes, most of the links are for academic or government institutions - they tend to have programs that are similar from year to year and easy to put in a list.  There are some industry internship links listed separately below, but you might have better luck searching the internet or looking at the CSB/SJU Career Services website.  But even if your long-term goal is working in industry, a research summer experience can teach you a lot and help expand your resume.

  

Help! I'm waiting to hear about my first choice program, but I have an offer from another internship or summer job!

That's a good problem to have - if you are really being forced to accept/decline an offer somewhere else and can't wait any longer, try writing a polite email to the contact person of the program you are waiting for.  Explain your situation, and ask if there is any way that you might learn about your standing in the application process.  What's the worst that can happen? 

 

 

National Science Foundation (NSF)

  • Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)
  • Research in all areas of science and engineering
  • Hundreds of locations, separate application necessary for each program
  • NSF-REU

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

  • Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF)
  • Research in physics, engineering, electronics, information technology, and more
  • Two locations (Gaithersburg, MD and Boulder CO), with separate applications
  • SURF-NIST Gaithersburg
  • SURF-NIST Boulder

Department of Energy (DOE) programs

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

  • Internships in astronomy, instrumentation, engineering, and more
  • Several locations across the country
  • NASA-OSSI

Other programs (not part of NSF-REU, NIST, NASA, or DOE)

Industry related programs

Programs that might have openings for non-US citizens

There are definitely more possibilities than just the list below - be sure to look at other programs as well (especially the REUs).  If a website is not clear on citizenship requirements, try sending an email to the program's contact person for clarification.

Other lists of programs

The following links point to additional lists - many of the programs on these lists are duplicates from above, but it is worth looking through for more options.