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NIH seeks high school students with a 'passion for science'

Summer programs at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) offer hundreds of amazing opportunities for high school students to work side-by-side with some of the world's leading scientists in an environment devoted exclusively to biomedical research.

Individual investigators will be reviewing 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.
Nancy Griesemer

“If you have a passion for science and an interest in gaining hands-on experience doing biomedical, behavioral, or social science research, the NIH Summer Internship Program may be perfect for you,” explained Dr. Sharon Milgram, director of the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education.

As one of the premiere research facilities in the world, NIH consists of the 240-bed Hatfield Clinical Research Center and more than 1200 laboratories/research projects located on the main campus in Bethesda and the surrounding area, as well as in Frederick and Baltimore, MD; Research Triangle Park, NC; Hamilton, MT; Framingham, MA; and Detroit, MI. Note that the number of positions in Hamilton, Framingham, and Detroit is limited.

Program stipends cover a minimum of eight weeks, with students generally arriving at the NIH in May or June—start dates are negotiated individually by the applicant and the NIH investigator. And stipends are adjusted yearly with the amount depending on prior experience and educational level.

Be aware that this is not a commuter program; NIH does not provide housing to student interns. 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 NIH Institutes and Office of Intramural Training & Education sponsor a wide range of summer activities including lectures featuring distinguished NIH investigators, 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. Students who have already been accepted to college may also apply.

Interested students must apply online by no later than March 1, 2014, and all letters of recommendation are due by March 15, 2014 or within two weeks of request. The application requires

  • contact information
  • a resume
  • a list of coursework and grades
  • a cover letter describing research interests and career goals (applicants are welcome to specify scientific methodologies or disease/organ systems that interest them), and
  • names and contact information for two references.

Individual investigators will be reviewing 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 think about science in a mature way, 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. Only completed applications are available for review by NIH investigators and administrators. And be aware that in 2013, more than 6300 completed applications were submitted, and about 1000 interns were selected.

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