The NIH Office of Intramural Training & Education (OITE) is a division of the Office of Intramural Research (OIR), Office of the Director (OD). Our mission is to enhance the training experience of students and fellows on all of the NIH campuses. We work closely with the Training Offices in the NIH Institutes and Centers to help trainees in the Intramural Research Program (IRP).
Summer Internship Program in Biomedical Research(SIP)
Summer programs at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provide an opportunity to spend a summer working at the NIH side-by-side with some of the leading scientists in the world, in an environment devoted exclusively to biomedical research (At the NIH "biomedical sciences" includes everything from behavioral and social sciences, through biology and chemistry, to physics, mathematical modeling, computational biology, and biostatistics). The NIH consists of the 240-bed Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center and more than 1150 laboratories/research groups located on the main campus in Bethesda, MD, and the surrounding area as well as in Baltimore and Frederick, MD; Research Triangle Park, NC; Hamilton, MT; Framingham, MA; Phoenix, AZ; and Detroit, MI. Note: the number of positions in Hamilton, Framingham, Phoenix, and Detroit is limited.
Internships cover a minimum of eight weeks, with students generally arriving at the NIH in May or June. The NIH Institutes and the 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.
To increase your chances of being offered a position, please do four things: (1) Watch the Applying Successfully Video by clicking on the link to the right. (2) Read the SIP FAQs carefully. (3) Read our suggestions for creating a successful application. (4) After submitting your application, contact NIH investigators with whom you would like to work and explain why you would be a good addition to their groups. You can identify NIH investigators with projects that interest you by searching the NIH Intramural Annual Reports. Use the text search feature to find project descriptions that contain the key words you enter. You can also visit the NIH Intramural Research Program Web site for a list of investigators organized by scientific focus area. You can then find contact information for the investigators in the NIH Enterprise Directory.
The 2018 Summer Internship Program is for students who are sixteen years of age or older by June 15, 2018. To be eligible, candidates must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. U.S. citizens may apply if they are enrolled at least half-time in high school or an accredited college or university as undergraduate, graduate, or professional students. Students who have been accepted into an accredited college or university program may also apply. Permanent residents must be enrolled in or have been accepted into a high school or an accredited institution or higher education in the U.S. to be eligible.
Individuals who have been negatively impacted by recent natural disasters are particularly encouraged to apply.
The stipends for trainees are adjusted yearly; the level depends on education completed prior to starting at the NIH.
Prospective candidates must apply online. The application is available from mid-November to March 1. It requires submission of
- a curriculum vitae or resume,
- a list of coursework and grades (please note: we do not need a transcript at this time),
- a cover letter describing the applicant's research interests and career goals, and
- the names and contact information for two references.
Candidates may also specify the general subject areas, scientific methodologies and/or disease/organ systems that interest them.
The NIH Summer Internship Program is highly competitive. In 2017, more than 7500 completed applications were submitted, and about 1350 interns were selected. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis from November through April by scientists in the Institutes and Centers of the NIH. Individual scientists select their own summer interns and provide their funding; there is no centralized selection process. Data for 2017 indicate that applicants who submit their materials in the first two weeks have a success rate almost 3 times greater than those who submit during the 2 weeks just before the deadline.
Candidates will be informed of their selection by the hiring Institute, generally by May 1. Successful candidates will be required to submit the following documentation to their Institute or Center prior to beginning their training:
- Official high school, college, or graduate school transcripts
- Proof of U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status. U.S. citizens may submit a copy of their birth certificate or passport. Permanent residents will need to provide a copy of their permanent resident (green) card.
NIH SIP Subprograms
One of the goals of the NIH is to build a highly diverse and inclusive scientific workforce. Toward that goal, the NIH Office of Intramural Training & Education welcomes applications for six special subprograms of the NIH Summer Internship Program. The subprograms target high school students from schools with large numbers of students from financially-disadvantaged backgrounds, community college students, college students who would not normally have the opportunity to pursue research projects during the academic year, and beginning graduate students in the biomedical sciences. Note that an individual would normally be eligible to apply to only ONE subprogram.
The High School Scientific Training and Enrichment Program (HiSTEP) and HiSTEP 2.0 are programs for high school students in the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC, area within commuting distance of the main NIH campus in Bethesda. The programs aim to introduce students from high schools with a high percentage of financially-disadvantaged students to the exciting possibility of careers in the sciences and biomedical research. Unlike the other NIH summer programs, HiSTEP is not a hands-on, full-time research program. Instead, HiSTEP will combine an introduction to scientific, professional, and personal skills with leadership training and an exploration of STEM-M (science, technology, engineering, math, and medically-related) careers. In addition, college and career advising will help prepare HiSTEP participants for future scholarships and internships. If you are a current high school junior and interested, please read more about HiSTEP. HiSTEP 2.0 provides high school seniors and HiSTEP alumni an opportunity to spend eight weeks performing biomedical research. Students will work side-by-side with some of the world's leading scientists on the main NIH campus in Bethesda, MD. In addition, students will participate in weekly workshops and seminars aimed at developing ther scientific, professional, and personal skills. They will also discuss strategies for succeeding in college. If you are interested in HiSTEP 2.0.
Community College Summer Enrichment Program (CCSEP): In summer 2018, the NIH will again offer a special SIP program designed to recruit community college students to the NIH. Students in CCSEP can take advantage of all the opportunities available to other SIP interns. In addition, they will make a commitment to completing an enrichment curriculum.
College Summer Opportunities to Advance Research (C-SOAR): We are pleased to announce the new NIH College Summer Opportunities to Advance Research (C-SOAR). The goal of the program is to encourage a diverse group of individuals to consider careers in the biomedical sciences. In addition to performing full-time research in a laboratory or on a project at the NIH, C-SOAR interns will meet each week as a group with students in the Community College Summer Enrichment Program (CCSEP). Together they will participate in workshops and courses focused on the development of academic and professional skills in preparation for careers in health care and in social, behavioral, and biomedical research.
Students with disabilities; students who are Pell Grant-eligible; students who are enrolled in Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, or Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs); students who identify as LGBTQ; and individuals disadvantaged by circumstances that have negatively impacted their educational opportunities, including recent natural disasters, are encouraged to apply to C-SOAR.
The Amgen Scholars Program at NIH is a partnership between the Amgen Foundation, the Foundation for the NIH, and the NIH Office of Intramural Training & Education. This program is for undergraduates who are interested in learning more about health disparities and the role science, policy, and community engagement can play in their elimination. Preference will be given to students that lack opportunities to carry out independent research during the school year (due to family responsibilities, economic exigencies, or inability of their institutions to provide such opportunities). Amgen Scholars at NIH will spend the summer working on the main NIH campus in Bethesda. The Program will have four core components: 1) independent research performed under the mentorship of an NIH intramural scientist; 2) roundtable discussions exploring the intersection of research and public policy related to health disparities; 3) career guidance and mentorship focused on the broad array of biomedical careers; and 4) leadership training focused on the skills needed to successfully work in team-oriented global research environments.
Graduate Summer Opportunity to Advance Research (G-SOAR) Program: In summer 2016, the NIH launched a SIP subprogram designed around the unique experiences of graduate students in the biomedical sciences. This program is a partnership between the Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity and the NIH Office of Intramural Training & Education. G-SOAR students at NIH will spend the summer working on the main NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. In addition to working in a research group at the NIH, G-SOAR students will participate in an enrichment curriculum to develop critical thinking skills and graduate school survival skills, receive career guidance and mentorship focused on the broad array of biomedical careers, and attend leadership training focused on the skills needed to work successfully in team-oriented and global research environments.
Important Subprogram Notes:
- Although you use the online SIP application to apply for all these subprograms, eligibility criteria, application deadlines, and program curricula vary (view a program comparison chart). Please read each program's description carefully to decide which, if any, will best fit your needs.
- If you choose to apply to a subprogram, your application will not be available as part of the general SIP program until AFTER subprogram selections have been made. Individuals selected to participate in the subprogram will be matched with NIH investigators by the selection committee. If you are not selected for the subprogram, your application will be released to the general SIP applicant pool and you can then begin the process of finding a research group.
What is the purpose of this program?
The Summer Internship Program is designed to provide young people an opportunity to spend a summer working side-by-side with some of the most talented scientists in the world in an environment devoted exclusively to biomedical research.
What do summer interns actually do?
Summer interns conduct full-time biomedical research. They are expected to work just as hard as the postbacs, graduate students, and postdocs in their research groups, and the group will depend on their results. Although the particular techniques involved will depend on the research group that hosts the intern, it is our hope that each intern will have an independent project (possibly small) to work on during the summer.
Where are these training opportunities located?
These traineeships are available only in the intramural laboratories of the NIH. Most of the laboratories are located on the main NIH campus in Bethesda, MD. Several Institutes or their laboratories that focus on particular research areas are found at other sites around the country.
Is this a paid internship?
Yes, students who are selected receive a monthly stipend that is based on education level and experience. Stipends are provided by the laboratory or Institute that offers an applicant a position. If a lab does not have the funds to cover the stipend, they may invite you to join the lab as an unpaid volunteer.
What are the start and end dates for the program?
Start and end dates are negotiated individually by the applicant and the NIH investigator who extends an internship offer. Students selected for the program usually begin work between mid-May and the end of June. The minimum time commitment is eight weeks, 40 hours a week.
Can this award be used for research training outside of the NIH?
No, this award is intended to provide support for training in the intramural research program at the NIH. It cannot be used for any other purpose.
Is there a separate program for students currently enrolled in medical or dental school?
No. All individuals interested in coming to the NIH for the summer should apply to the Summer Internship Program. If you are enrolled in medical or dental school, please state that fact in your cover letter.
Are there separate summer internship programs for high school, college, and graduate students?
No, there is a single Summer Internship Program at the NIH. The applications from high school, college, and graduate students are stored in a single database. Each year about 30% of summer interns are in high school, 60% in college, and 10% in graduate, medical, or dental school.
I'm looking for an administrative (or engineering or IT) position at the NIH. Should I apply to SIP?
SIP provides training in biomedical research. If you are interested in coming to the NIH in some other capacity, please take a look at the NIH Pathways Student Trainee Program operated by Human Resources. (NOTE: these positions are usually posted in March.)
I am interested in one of the summer subprograms (HiSTEP, HiSTEP 2.0, CCSEP, C-SOAR AMGEN Scholars at NIH, G-SOAR). How will this affect the application process?
The summer subprograms have their own eligibility criteria, application deadlines, and deadlines for submission of reference letters. Please read the subprogram webpage carefully and follow the directions for the program the interests you. The subprogram deadlines are all substantially earlier than the general SIP deadlines. We have posted a table that compares all of the subprograms.
Can I apply if I am not a citizen or permanent resident of the United States?
No. Only citizens and permanent residents of the U.S. are eligible to apply to this program. NOTE: residents of US territories/commonwealths are also eligible to apply. This includes citizens of Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Guam, Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
Are there any eligibility criteria in addition to citizenship?
Yes, you must be sixteen years of age or older by June 15, 2018 to be an intern in summer 2018. If you are a U.S. citizen you must either be enrolled at least half-time in high school or an accredited college or university or plan to be enrolled in the fall. If you are a permanent resident, in addition, your institution must be in the U.S.
Is the summer program limited to specific majors?
No. However, most summer positions are in research laboratories or research groups with a biomedical focus. You should have successfully completed courses in biology and chemistry. That said, research at the NIH runs the gamut from behavioral and social science through computational biology and biophysics.
Is there a minimum GPA to participate in this program?
No. However, NIH investigators will clearly want to select applicants who appear likely to make the greatest research contributions to their research groups. Few program participants have a GPA below 3.0.
Are students who are U.S. citizens attending foreign institutions eligible to apply?
If you are a U.S. citizen attending a foreign institution, you are eligible to apply. If you are a permanent resident, you must be attending a high school or an accredited institution of higher education in the U.S.
I will be graduating from college (or high school) in the spring. Am I eligible to participate in SIP?
Individuals are eligible to participate in the NIH Summer Internship Program if they are enrolled either the semester before or the semester after the summer. Since acceptances may not be received by the deadline for SIP application, we consider application to college, graduate school, or professional school the same as being enrolled for the fall. NOTE: it may be that NIEHS differs on this point. If you are interested in NIEHS, contact them directly.
Is there a deadline for submission of applications?
Yes, the application deadline is March 1 for all participating NIH Institutes and Centers. Note: Partial applications that are not completed by the March 1 deadline will not receive further consideration. The SIP application is available online from mid-November through March 1.
When should I apply?
We recommend that you apply as soon as possible after the application site becomes available, as acceptances are made on a rolling basis. In 2015 applicants who submitted their materials during the first 2 weeks were 3 times as likely to find a position as those who submitted during the 2 weeks just before the deadline.
Can I update my application from last year?
No. You will need to reapply and request new letters from your references.
Who should write my letters of recommendation?
You should select references who are able to explain why you would be a good addition to a research group. Anyone who could comment on your skills in the laboratory, creativity, problem solving abilities, motivation, ability to handle complex scientific literature and concepts, etc. would be a good choice. Recommendations from individuals with a science research background are likely to carry more weight than recommendations from those with less understanding of biomedical research. Recommendations from family members are never appropriate. Also, note that letters from "services" and letters assembled for medical/dental school applicants by the pre-professional offices of their colleges and universities will not be accepted. You may wish to provide your references some information on the program, your resume or CV, and a description of what you hope to accomplish during the program, so that they can write a highly relevant letter.
Is there a deadline for receipt of my reference letters?
We ask references to submit their letters within two weeks of our request. All letters must be received by March 15.
Who ensures that letters of reference are received?
You are responsible for making certain that we receive your letters of reference. You should check to make sure your references have received our email requesting a letter. After two weeks you should log in to our system and check your application to make certain that the letters have arrived. If not, you can either resend the request for a letter electronically or contact your reference directly. IMPORTANT NOTE: remember that some SIP subprograms have deadlines for receipt of reference letters that are earlier than the general SIP deadline. It is your responsibility to inform your references.
Can I submit more than the required two letters of reference?
No, the online application system will accept only two reference letters.
Can I change my reference(s) after I have submitted my application?
You can change a reference IF the original reference has not yet submitted a letter on your behalf. After a letter has been submitted, you cannot make such a change. If you replace an existing reference, please notify that individual that you will no longer require a letter.
If I change a reference, will my original reference be notified?
It is your responsibility to let your original reference know that a letter will no longer be required.
Do you have any advice on writing my resume/CV?
Here is a summary of our advice on resumes/CVs.
To whom should I address my cover letter?
Since your cover letter can be read by any investigator in the NIH intramural program, you may wish to use the salutation "To Whom It May Concern:". Another option is "Dear NIH Investigator".
After I apply, can I make changes to my application?
Yes. Prior to the March 1 application deadline, whether you have submitted a partial or a complete application, you can use the login credentials sent to you in your confirmation email to make any changes/updates you wish. IF you have submitted a COMPLETE application by March 1, you can continue to refine your application until the deadline for receipt of reference letters (11:59 pm, March 15). After March 15, you will no longer be able to access your application.
How are applications reviewed?
Investigators in the NIH intramural program have access to the database containing the electronic applications to this program. They can search for applicants with particular interests or specific GPAs or who are enrolled at selected universities. Each investigator decides to whom he/she will offer summer positions. Investigators (or their Institutes) also provide the stipends for summer interns. The OITE is not involved in the selection process, nor does it provide funding for the program.
How will I be notified if I am selected?
The investigator who has selected you or an administrative officer in the investigator's Institute or Center will contact you by phone, email, or letter.
How soon can I expect to hear that I am selected?
There is no definite answer to this question. You will be selected only if/when an investigator who has a position available visits the database and is impressed with your credentials. On or about May 15, those who have not been selected will be informed via e-mail. Remember, there is no central selection committee for this program.
What are my chances of receiving a position in the Summer Internship Program?
Like many of the research training programs at the NIH, the Summer Internship Program is highly competitive. Over the past several years, less than 20% of applicants were selected for the program. In 2017 we received more than 7500 completed applications; about 1350 applicants were offered positions.
How can I improve my chances of being selected for the Summer Internship Program?
After you submit your application you should contact investigators with whom you would like to work. This does not mean that you should send a general email to fifty investigators. Such an e-mail is likely to be ignored. Instead, identify four or five investigators whose work interests you. Learn enough about what they are working on so that you can write focused specific emails describing why you would like to work with them.
Is there a list of investigators who are taking students for the summer?
The NIH does not keep a list of investigators who are planning to have summer interns. You can, however, go to the COMPLETE 2017 Summer Poster Day Program to find out which investigators (Preceptors) had interns in summer 2017. IMPORTANT NOTE: some preceptors are postdocs and advanced graduate students rather than investigators. You will not find entries for postdocs or graduate students in the NIH Annual Reports.
How can I get information about specific NIH investigators whom I might contact about the research that they are conducting?
You can find information regarding NIH intramural research programs in two places. You can visit the NIH Annual Reports and conduct text searches on the subjects that interest you. Alternatively, the Intramural Research Program webpage presents investigators sorted by research topic. Once you identify investigators whose projects interest you, you can email them to refer them to your SIP application. You can find contact information for NIH investigators in the NIH Enterprise Directory. You can find a YouTube video entitled "Finding an NIH Mentor", which demonstrates how to use these resources, on the OITE YouTube page.
How will I decide which offer to accept?
You should determine which research group would be best suited for you. You will want to have a phone or in-person interview with the investigator who is considering you and to get all the information you can so that you make a good decision.
Do I need to submit an official transcript even though I entered my grades into the electronic application system?
Only those who are accepted into the program need to submit an official transcript. In the event that you are accepted into the program, you will be informed where to send this documentation. Otherwise, it is not necessary for you to send a transcript.
Other Training Opportunities
Are there other research training opportunities at the NIH that I might find of interest?
If you are a recent college graduate, you may be eligible for the Postbaccalaureate IRTA program. If you are interested in coming to the NIH in some other capacity, please take a look at the NIH Pathways Student Trainee Program operated by Human Resources. (NOTE: these positions are usually posted in March.)
Where else might I find information on research opportunities?
You can find this information on our Other Summer Programs at the NIH and Summer Programs Outside the NIH pages.