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Application Process

Summers of Discovery

Summers of Discovery employees assist researchers by performing various duties that depend upon the qualifications and abilities of the individual, including: preparing simple solutions, buffers, and compounds; performing biological and chemical assays; taking tissue specimens; searching scientific literature; and keeping records of research observations.

Summers of Discovery program participant
"I had a chance to work independently and assemble most of my work into a poster and hopefully a future publication. The research experience obtained here is crucial in developing skills involving independent study, analysis data, and publishing of data and conclusions from work performed." - Undergraduate Senior

Students who are enrolled in school (high school through their senior year of college) but who have not yet graduated with a bachelor's degree as of May 2005, qualify as Biological Science Aids or Technicians. Students who have completed a bachelor's or graduate degree, or are enrolled in a graduate program, qualify for professional occupations such as Biologist, Chemist, and Mathematician.

The NIEHS is building a culturally diverse community and strongly encourages applications from female and minority candidates as well as persons with disabilities. The Institute, NIH and DHHS are Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employers.

NIEHS is a Smoke-Free Environment. Smoking is not allowed in any NIEHS building.


To apply, fill out the online application Exit NIEHS ( for the NIH Summer Internship Program in Biomedical Research (SIP). This electronic application site typically opens in mid-November annually. Please note, if you are a medical or dental student, use the Summer Research Fellowship Program Exit NIEHS ( (SRFP) form to apply. Complete all applicable blocks of information:

  • A brief cover letter (including your name, mailing address, phone number, current school and grade or classification in school) describing academic plans for the fall, your interest in the biomedical sciences, and reasons for seeking a summer research position. Graduating seniors, both high school and college, will have to provide proof of admittance for the upcoming fall semester to an academic program at the next higher level. "Terminal" bachelor or masters degree students are not eligible for this program. To ensure your package is appropriately assigned for consideration in the NIEHS Summers of Discovery program, please indicate your interest in this program in your application. Failure to do so may result in your application not receiving appropriate consideration by NIEHS mentors. It is strongly suggested that you spell check and review all your information carefully for accuracy (have a friend or mentor review as well).
  • A resume (be sure to include research activities, honors, awards, and any other relevant accomplishments).
  • A listing of current coursework grades from the school you are attending. (An official transcript is only requested if/when selected/offered a position).
  • Two reference letters of recommendation preferably from individuals having direct knowledge of your scientific interests and abilities (e.g., science and/or mathematics faculty, etc.), three letters of reference if applying via SRFP. Approach your reference letter writers early with your verbal request and be sure their contact information is listed accurately in your application. An auto-generated e-mail requesting your recommendation letter will be e-mailed with specific instructions as to how to submit it electronically (both reference letters should be submitted by March 1 receipt date).

Be as enthusiastic as possible in your cover letter. Include any honors/awards, high GPAs, or other information relevant to your background. Provide as much applicable information as possible to enhance your application and convey your interest in science.

The above materials must be submitted/ posted online by March 1 to receive consideration for the following summer. Individual applications may be updated/revised at any time up until March 1 during that year's application process. If you have previously applied, you must fill out a new application and provide new reference letters each year.

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Teachers/College Faculty

Additionally at NIEHS, teachers and college faculty are also eligible to apply for the Summers of Discovery program. As most other NIH Institutes do not accept teachers and college faculty, please submit your resume or CV directly to Charle League indicating your current employment institution, college, or university of higher learning and area(s) of research interest. Whether applying by e-mail or surface mail submission, your application must be submitted by March 1. If you have applied before, you must submit a new application each year.

Post Application Process

It is advisable to contact references beforehand to let them know you will be listing them and requesting an electronic reference letter. "Hard copy" reference letters are not accepted as they must be available electronically as part of your application for mentors’ review. If your reference letter writer needs to receive duplicate instructions, log into your application in the application database and resubmit the reference letter writer’s contact information. When you submit the update, the database system will automatically regenerate an e-mail sending instructions.

Once you have applied, you may want to visit the Division of Intramural Research to review the various laboratory research program descriptions. If any are of particular interest, contact those labs directly to make them aware of your application and interest in their research (include a copy of your resume and a statement of your research interests). Indicate you would appreciate their consideration of your application if they are hiring a Summers of Discovery program participant.

NIEHS mentors will begin reviewing the electronic applications after March 1 and will then indicate their selections after talking with applicants. An informal e-mail notice of "acceptance" will be sent to selected applicants once mentors have indicated their selections to Ms. League. A formal offer letter will follow later from the NIEHS Human Resources or the Division of Intramural Research Office.

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Last Reviewed: June 29, 2007