NOAA College-Supported Internship Program

Overview and History

For 15 years, NOAA has partnered with selected colleges to provide undergraduate students college-funded summer internship opportunities. NOAA provides students experience in science, policy, and science communication. In return, we benefit from the assistance of hard-working, enthusiastic students.

Last year 21 students provided NOAA science, policy, and outreach support at no cost to NOAA. Interns investigated climate trends, ecosystem services valuation, ecotoxicology, invasive species, coastal ecology, and more. Others contributed to policy for protected species, designed web sites, and worked on science communication and historical data recovery.

You must be enrolled at a partner school to participate and apply through that school.

Partner Schools

NOAA has a formal memorandum of understanding with the Five Colleges (University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Amherst College, Smith College, Hampshire College, and Mount Holyoke College), placing about 15 Five College students per year. Interns are sophomores or juniors from Biology, Chemistry, Engineering, and Environmental Science and Policy programs. Interns are funded (up to $3800) by Five Colleges for a period of 10 weeks. Their mentors can be located anywhere in the country. Internship starting dates are flexible, but most students start their internship in June and end in August.

We have expanded the program to include students from Clark University, Stony Brook University, Duke, the University of North Carolina, and Washington, Vassar, Hartwick, Grinnell, Middlebury, Holy Cross, and Bates Colleges. Vassar students are supported by an endowment and Clark has an institute that supports applied experiences. These schools place 1-5 students with us each summer. Some have dedicated funding for NOAA, others may support students working with us from a general internship fund.

The Process

NOAA solicits mentors for opportunities in research, policy, and science communication and posts the compiled project list. Some years a NOAA representative visits the campuses to talk about the program, present that year’s opportunities, and answer questions, but participating colleges generally advertise the program themselves.

The colleges run their student application and selection process. Students must be enrolled at a participating college and apply to their college, not to NOAA. A faculty committee interviews and selects students, and we work collaboratively to match student and projects. Students and prospective mentors talk and assess the match. If either has concerns, we can work to place the student with a different mentor. Final selections are completed in March and April.

Once a match is made, the colleges work with students to complete NOAA’s volunteer paperwork. Because the funding comes from the colleges, NOAA considers the students volunteers, making it much easier for them to work with us. PIs and students work together to refine the students’ role and identify goals for the summer, find housing, set start and end dates, and other logistics.

Expanding the Partnership

We are open to working with additional colleges. We usually have twice as many awesome PIs willing to mentor than we have students. The catch is that the colleges must have funding for the students. Other than that, we are flexible with respect to most parts of the process. For more information, or to explore partnering with us to offer students opportunities in marine and atmospheric science, policy, and communication, contact Wendy Piniak or Ruth Kelty.