The links in the table below are bookmarked to the sections of this page that describe all the details needed for about internships in computer science.
Why Have an Internship?
Internships are invaluable. Internship experiences can expose you to a wealth of new ideas, techniques, and applications that will greatly enhance your knowledge of computational science and other disciplines, thereby your classroom education more meaningful. As an intern, you have the opportunity to make contacts with professionals, meet other students from around the world, and visit different areas of the country. Besides the more immediate benefits, you can leverage the internship to obtain another internship, admission to a good graduate school program, a graduate assistantship or fellowship, and a better professional position than would have been possible otherwise. You will have new responsibilities, learn new ways of thinking and interacting; you will grow and be forever changed.
Getting an Internship
The search for internships should start early in the fall, even though application deadlines vary widely. Some laboratories and companies have deadlines in the fall, perhaps as early as the end of October, while others wait until spring. Even in the latter case, it is beneficial to develop a contact at the organization well before the application due date. Some laboratories require that potential mentors indicate their intern needs early for budget and other considerations. The application process takes time.
Career or internship services at the university or college can be helpful in finding opportunities and in assisting with resume development. Several sources on the World Wide Web (have links to a number of organizations with internships. Most large companies and government laboratories have established internship programs. Also, each year, the National Science Foundation funds a number of Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) at universities around the country.
Personal contact--whether through friends, family or faculty--is very beneficial in securing a position, as contacts may know of opportunities or others who can help you and may even communicate directly with someone for you. Make sure that you are serious in pursuing the position and plan to accept the internship, if offered. A known contact at an organization is far more preferable than dealing entirely with the human resources (HR) department. HR might not understand who in the organization can use someone with your computational science background; and, after having talked with you, a scientist might create an internship position that did not previously exist. Before starting such enquiries or discussions, however, you should have a resume.
Writing a Resume and Cover Letter
Besides contacting your school's career or internship services, you can find several good resources for writing resumes on the World Wide Web (see below). The following is a list of the contents of a resume:
Name in boldface with address(es), phone number(s), and email addresses
College education: Name of institution, expected graduation date, major, minor/emphasis/concentration, grade point average (if good)
Relevant courses: Computer science (include programming languages), mathematics, science
High school education: School name, year of graduation
Academic awards, honors, scholarships
Work Experience: Organizations, locations, dates, duties, emphasizing tasks, responsibilities, skills, and results. As appropriate, indicate leadership, communication, responsibility, organizational, and teamwork opportunities.
References: List with contact information or state, "Available upon request." Ask at least three people if you can list them as references.
The following are some tips for writing a resume:
Have the resume in a form that can be read electronically. Most people can read Microsoft Word or PDF files. Some templates can be difficult to use, so choose carefully.
Do not use complete sentences or periods, unless necessary
List items in reverse chronological order with most recent items first
Spell check the document and have another reader check your work as well
Keep the resume to one page
Have a prominent heading, such as boldface and to the left side, for each section
Where appropriate, use action verbs, such as "developed" and "programmed"
Have a professor or someone in career or internship services proofread your resume
The following are tips for a cover letter or email:
Have the cover letter or email be about a half page in length
Address the letter to a particular person
Give your most outstanding qualities or experiences
Indicate your interest in an internship and be specific about which one, if possible
Perhaps indicate that you will contact the individual in about a week to discuss the possibility of an internship further. (Do not forget to call!)
Spell check the document
Have a professor or someone in career or internship services proofread your cover letter or email
Accepting or Rejecting
If you get an internship offer, accept or reject promptly so that the organization can plan for the summer. In the case where you are accepting another offer, tactfully phrase the rejection.
Finding a Place to Live
Because of competition, it is a good idea to start your search for housing immediately after learning of your acceptance for an internship. A large organization with many interns often has a housing office that can provide a housing and apartment list along with names of other interns with whom you can share housing.
Universities often rent dorm rooms to student interns from other schools during the summer. You can usually obtain the contact information for a university's housing office through the school's web site.
During the Internship
It is natural to be fearful of a new situation, especially one involving a project for which you know little or nothing. Almost every other intern shares your anxiety and anticipation. Be assured, however, a mentor almost always does not expect you to be familiar with the particular project and will help you gain the necessary background. Part of the benefit of an internship is having the experience of working with a team on something beyond your previous classroom work.
During the internship, be prompt for work and meetings and perform your assigned tasks diligently. If you have any difficulties after seriously attempting to do a task, do not hesitate to ask your mentor or others for assistance. Often, such people can quickly guide you in the correct direction and keep you from wasting valuable time.
An organization that has a number of interns often has a series of talks, tours, and social activities for the students. Try to participate in as many of these opportunities as possible. Besides being fun, you can learn much and meet many interesting people through such experiences. Outside of work, try to see as much of the surrounding country with other interns. The learning experience should extend far beyond your work at the company or laboratory.
Presenting Your Work
Most organizations will ask you to write an abstract of what you accomplished during the summer and to make a final presentation on your project. The abstract and presentation can server as a basis for a later conference paper (see below). A daily journal can be helpful in summarizing the summer's activities and in realizing just how much you are accomplishing.
The following are some hints on giving an effective presentation using presentation software, such as PowerPoint:
On the first slide, give the title, your name, your mentor's name, the organization, and the date.
Have a short topic header at the top of each slide.
Do not use complete sentences.
Do not have too much on a slide.
Make sure the font size is large enough to read.
Use graphics and pictures in your slides.
For a graph, have a title and labels for the axes with units.
Practice the talk by yourself and in front of others. Have them give you suggestions for improvement.
In your practice, time the presentation to allow for a few minutes of questions at the end.
Set up everything, such as computer programs, before the time for your presentation.
Before your session, try to practice at least a few slides in the room where you will give your paper so that you can become familiar with the arrangements.
During the presentation, look at the audience and make eye contact with a number of people.
Speak loud enough for people to hear you.
Avoid saying fluff words, such as "uh" and "basically."
If you stumble verbally, do not apologize but continue.
Do not criticize the internship or organization with which you had the internship
Do not rush the presentation.
Look at the computer screen or a print-out of your slides, not the screen behind you
Do not read your slides or have your presentation memorized word-for-word, but speak about your work from the bullets on the slide.
Use a pointer very sparingly or not at all. An arrow or point of light whirling around the screen can be very distracting.
Light-hearted, tasteful, relevant humor is appreciated.
Remember, the audience is on your side and wants you to succeed.
Upon returning to campus, volunteer to give a presentation on the work of your internship. Student discipline-related organizations, such as the Association for Computing Machinery or Tri-Beta, are usually delighted to get speakers. Other students and faculty can learn from your presentation, which might also inspire other students to seek internships. Moreover, such experiences add to your poise in such situations and can help to prepare you for conference presentations.
Most conferences have sessions for undergraduate papers or posters. By presenting your work at a conference, you have the opportunity to connect with other professors and students with similar interests. Also, such a presentation makes a valuable addition to your resume. Ask professors for appropriate conferences. Many conferences only require that a student submit an abstract of one or two paragraphs instead of a lengthy paper. In the proposal and conference presentation, be sure to give the location of the internship and to acknowledge your mentor. Have a professor or your mentor review the abstract or paper before submission. Be sure to start the process early enough so that there is time for revision and completion of the application.
Some conferences provide assistance for students making presentations. Universities and colleges also might pay all or part of your expenses. If several students and professors are attending the conference, they can share driving and hotel charges.
Several organizations that have student sessions appropriate for computational science topics are as follows:
Resources over the Internet
Below are links to resources involving the following categories:
Wofford College provides these links as a service but does NOT endorse any institution, resource, or internship program. The appearance of a link below does not imply an endorsement on the behalf of Wofford College.
Please tell us about any broken or inaccurate link (be specific) by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those wishing to add their link to one of the lists, please send email to email@example.com indicating the following information:
Your name, title, email address, affiliation, phone number, and address
Above category under which to place link
URL for link
Name of page
Links to Internships at Colleges, Universities, and Organizations
American Society of Microbiology’s (ASM) Undergraduate Research Fellowship
The Computing Research Association (CRA) Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W) Distributed Mentor Project
National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) - Numerous summer internships at various universities, listed by discipline, many of which involve computing in the sciences
NPACI COOP/ Internship Program at the San Diego Supercomputer Center
The Scripps Research Institute’s Undergraduate Summer Research
Woods Whole Summer Student Fellowship Program
Washington Internships for Students of Engineering
Summer Experience in Biomedical Science at the University of Texas Medical Branch
Links to Internships at Companies
The Shodor Educational Foundation
Chemical Industry Institute Of Toxicology (CIIT) Summer Intern Program; CIIT's Home Page
Merck Computational Biology and Chemistry Program, Undergraduate Programs
Proctor & Gamble Company Summer Research Program; Proctor & Gamble's Home Page
Smith Kline Beecham Pharmaceuticals Research Development - 180 interns/year
Xerox PARC Summer Intern Program; Xerox PARC's Home Page
Links to Internships at Government Laboratories
Army Acquisition Career Management Office's Career Experience (ACE) Program
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC); CDC's Home Page
Department of Energy (DOE) internships by state. Opportunities include the following:
Energy Research Undergraduate Laboratory Fellowship (ERULF) at various DOE Laboratories
Oakridge National Laboratory (ORNL) Computing and Computational Sciences (CCSC) Student Research; ORNL's Home Page
Oak Ridge National Laboratory Research Alliance for Minorities Summer Research Internship Program
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) Student Research Participation Program; LLNL's Home Page
LLNL's Biology & Biotechnology Research Program
Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Internships, Fellowships, and Student Programs; EPA’s Home Page
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – Lists internships at various NASA sites, such as the following:
Ames - students from small colleges are encouraged to apply
Johnson Space Center Student Internship Program (SIP); Johnson's Home Page
Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Student Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF); JPL home page
NASA Academy at Goddard Space Flight; Goddard's Home Page
National Institutes of Health (NIH) has various internship pages, including the following:
Summer Internship Programs in Biomedical Research, NIH Office of Education
Introduction to Biomedical Research Program
NIH Undergraduate Scholarship Program
National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) The Student Page
Links to Other Lists of Internship Opportunities
Association for Computing Machinery's (ACM) Crossroads Student Magazine Internship & Co-Op Opportunities
Towson University’s list of Undergraduate Summer Research Internships
Internship Opportunities by the NASA Academy Alumni Association
World Wide Web Resources on Resumes and Cover Letters
Job Hunter’s Bible Building your resume survey of sites
How to write a cover letter