Many of our students pursue summer research and related internships as a great way to get more hands-on experience and to learn about what it’s like to be a professional scientist or engineer in both academic and industrial settings. There are lots of these opportunities out there; below is a list of some places to get started looking for a summer job in physics or a related field. Most of these are paid opportunities, but if the internship you’re most excited turns out to be unpaid, see below for links to Williams summer fellowships.
Note that application deadlines for off-campus internships are usually in January and February, with some as early as December; be sure to check the specific deadlines for programs you’re excited about, and to ask professors early (ideally 3-4 weeks in advance!) for recommendation letters if you need them.
If you are interested in a summer research position on campus at Williams, the application deadline is usually in mid-February. Watch for an informational email sent to all physics students in late January as well as information on the department web site, and/or come to the “All about Physics and Astronomy Research” informational meeting which usually takes place as the first colloquium of the spring semester.
Summer Research at Universities and National Laboratories
National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)
The NSF sponsors hundreds of REU programs at colleges and universities all around the United States. The link above lets you search for sites by subject area, location, etc.
Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships (SULI) at the US National Laboratories
The Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships (SULI) program encourages undergraduate students and recent graduates to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers by providing research experiences at the Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories.
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): SURFing the Engineering Laboratory
11-week paid internships that pair undergraduate students to work closely with a research scientist or engineer at NIST. See web site for this year’s project areas, which can range from atomic physics to robotics to fire prevention, and are broadly open to students with different backgrounds. Note that there are separate internship applications for the two different NIST sites in Gaithersburg, VA and Boulder, CO, respectively.
Opportunities at Specific Schools and Research Laboratories
(These are just a few specific opportunities that Williams students have participated in previously or that might be of particular interest.)
Harvard MRSEC REU
Research internships in science and engineering, including biomaterials, materials science, nanotechnology, robotics, computer science, and energy and the environment.
REU Program at Dartmouth in Materials Science
Nine weeks of hands-on research laboratory experience in either engineering or chemistry.
Princeton Center for Complex Materials REU
The PCCM REU program provides opportunities for undergraduates to carry out research at the forefront of materials science and engineering. Application here.
Purdue University College of Engineering SURF Program
Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships in science, engineering, and technology.
Emory University Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE)
The SURE program is a ten-week summer program during which undergraduate research fellows conduct full-time independent research under the direction of a faculty mentor.
Related: Emory Laney Graduate School Summer Opportunity for Academic Research, which recruits scholars from historically underrepresented ethnic and racial backgrounds or who are first-generation college scholars.
Caltech SURF Program
Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships at Caltech.
Caltech WAVE Fellows program
The WAVE Fellows program provides support for talented undergraduates intent on pursuing a Ph.D. to conduct a 10-week summer research project at Caltech.
Caltech Amgen Scholars Program
Caltech’s Amgen Scholars Program is geared towards students in biology, chemistry, and biotechnology fields. Some of these fields include biology, biochemistry, bioengineering, medical engineering, chemical and biomolecular engineering, and chemistry.
U.S. Navy Research Laboratory STEM Interns
The Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program (NREIP) places college and university students in Department of Navy laboratories where they take part in real Naval research for ten weeks during the summer. Limited to sophomores and beyond, and to U.S. Citizens (with some exceptions for U.S. Permanent Residents).
Summer Internships in Industry and Applied Science
(As with the specific university-based internships above, these are just a few specific opportunities that Williams students have participated in previously or that might be of particular interest — you’ll find lots more out there!)
Internships at MonoSol – includes R&D, business, and engineering opportunities; click on “Careers” and search for “Summer Internship”
SC Johnson Internships – includes R&D, business, and engineering opportunities
Summer Research Internships Abroad
There are fewer programs with centralized applications like the REU and SURF programs abroad than in the US (some exceptions listed below), but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t awesome opportunities for summer research abroad — you might just have to do a little extra work to find them and work out the logistics of the internship.
Ask your professors if they might be able to suggest colleagues abroad who could be a good match for you both in terms of country/language and research area. You can also search online for research groups doing exciting things in areas you’re interested in and inquire about possible summer research opportunities — for example, one recent physics grad reached out to an acoustics lab at the Sorbonne and ended up working and living in Paris for the summer, supported by a Williams travel fellowship (see unpaid internships below).
Meanwhile, here’s at least one specific program abroad:
Research Internships in Science and Engineering at top German universities and research institutions. No German language requirement. December deadline. Limited to sophomores and beyond.
Williams funding possibilities to support unpaid internships
If you find an unpaid internship opportunity you’re excited about, be sure to check out the Williams Summer Funding Opportunities, as there may be a Williams fellowship that could pay for your summer work abroad or domestically. For example, past physics students have been funded by the Alumni Sponsored Internship Program (ASIP) as well as by Williams summer travel fellowships.