Co-curricular experiences such as internships, volunteer opportunities, and undergraduate research are an integral part of the undergraduate academic program. They provide insight into career paths, job-specific training, and the chance to begin developing a professional network. Students in CMNS have a wealth of opportunities in faculty research laboratories on campus, or with the wide range of federal laboratories, research institutes, and private companies in the Baltimore-Washington corridor.
University of Maryland students have the best of both worlds.
On campus, you have opportunities to do undergraduate research in world-class laboratories under the mentorship of renowned faculty researchers.
If you choose to go off campus, you are a short commute away from one of the nation’s largest concentrations of companies, federal research labs and research hospitals. Most students do more than one internship during their undergraduate years.
Finding a suitable research experience takes some work on your part.
Here are the usual steps:
1. Browse through descriptions of each faculty member's research to identify several potential mentors who are doing research that matches your own intellectual interests and career goals. For students interested in the chemical and life sciences, here are some places to start:
- College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
College of Behavioral and Social Sciences
School of Public Health
Clark School of Engineering
2. Ask around
- Your current and past professors may be accepting students or know of any colleagues who are
- Your academic advisor might know of mentors who would be a good match for your interests
3. Contact potential mentors (email is usually best, but stopping by their labs or offices is also okay) to determine whether they are interested in having you join their research program. In your first contact with potential faculty mentors, you should tell them:
- Your year (e.g., sophomore)
- Your GPA
- Any relevant research or laboratory experience you already have
- Your general research interests or goals
4. Plan to meet with each potential faculty mentor in person, tour their lab and speak to other students in the lab (both graduate and undergraduate) before making a final decision
5. After you have decided upon which research opportunity is best for you, it’s a good idea to make an explicit agreement with your mentor that specifies:
- How much time you will spend in the lab
- The days and hours you will work
- Your responsibilities
If you wish to receive academic credit for your work, you should then contact the Coordinating Advisor or Undergraduate Program Director in the department to which your faculty mentor belongs. Each faculty member has a specific course and section number for undergraduate research, and each department has its own procedures for registering for credit.
More Structured Programs Include:
Maryland Center for Undergraduate Research - introduces students to scholarly research, allowing them to spend 4-6 hours per week working under the direction of a faculty mentor on that faculty member's own research. At the conclusion of the assistantship, the student receives a notation on their transcript. No academic credit or grade is earned.
The Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program – designed to prepare students who are primarily from low-income, first-generation and traditionally underrepresented groups to pursue doctoral studies. Full-time University juniors and seniors who wish to pursue doctoral studies, enhance their skills to prepare for graduate study, and participate in undergraduate research with faculty members are eligible.
Departmental Honors Programs – offered in each department. These are typically four semester programs, with students applying in the spring of their sophomore year or fall of their junior year. Students work under the supervision of a faculty mentor to design and carry out an independent research project, which culminates in a formal defense of the research. Students receive academic credit for their research that can be applied toward their degree requirements, participate in honors seminars and, upon completion of the program, graduate "With Honors".
Funding for on-campus research
Many students, especially those who are new to research, volunteer their time or receive academic credit. However, there are some sources of financial support:
Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program offers a summer research stipend, room and board, professional development workshops and the opportunity to attend research conferences.
Maryland Summer Scholars program provides a $3,000 stipend for rising seniors engaged in undergraduate research.
Faculty research grants (at the discretion of the faculty mentor).
Federal work study: A small number of laboratory positions are usually available to those who qualify.
The Washington D.C. area provides our students the opportunity to participate in research internships at federal research centers, research hospitals, and companies. Some internships offer a stipend or hourly wage, while others are unpaid. In some cases, if the internship has a strong academic component, it is possible to earn academic credit for an internship experience.
Finding the perfect internship requires a combination of luck, determination, and ingenuity. It's best to use a variety of strategies.
Keep your eyes open
- Subscribe to CMNS Undergrad News
- Consult with Peer Mentors (1317 Symons Hall)
- Visit the University Career Center (3rd floor, Hornbake Library)
- Check out the bulletin boards in academic buildings
- Create your own personal network of friends, professors, teaching assistants, and academic/career advisors. Many openings are never advertised widely because they are quickly filled by word of mouth.
- Be sure to visit campus career fairs (see the Career Center's website for dates of upcoming fairs)
- University Career Center: provides career counseling, maintains resources on career planning and job hunting, sponsors information sessions and workshops, and assists with internship, part-time and full-time job placement.
- Careers 4 Terps: 24-hour access to job and internship listings, resume referral, on-campus interviewing, and updates on employer events.
- CMNS Job and Internship opportunities: a listing of recent internship and job opportunities
- JIFSAN internship program: research internships in a variety of areas (e.g., animal health, analytical chemistry, immunology, microbiology, risk assessment, and toxicology) sponsored by the University of Maryland, College Park and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
- National Park Service internship program: a collaboration between the University of Maryland, College Park and the NPS that allows students to gain experience in science education and communication.
- Other regions of the U.S.: Try the internship websites of colleges and universities in other regions and explore The University Career Center's listing of reciprocal arrangements with other colleges that allows you to search for opportunities across the country.
- International Internships: GoAbroad.com and StudyAbroad.com have comprehensive listings of programs and resources. The Career Center can also help you find these kinds of opportunities.
Tips for locating specific types of opportunities
- The Research Opportunities on Campus website has links to a variety of on-campus research resources and suggestions for locating a mentor.
- Keep an eye out for flyers posted in hallways, too...
- Check out the JIFSAN internship program, a collaboration between our campus and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- The National Institutes of Health sponsors many research internship programs. See the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education website for more details.
- Search for National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) summer internships.
- Become a Campus Health Center Peer Educator.
- The Health Professions Advising Office lists a wide variety of extracurricular experiences in the health professions, including clinical opportunities, summer programs, volunteer opportunities, and international internships.
- The Leadership and Community Service Learning Office lets you search online for opportunities in many fields, including health care.
Non-profit Organizations and Community Service
- Leadership and Community Service Learning Office has gathered a large number of resources to assist students, faculty, and staff in finding service opportunities. These resources can be found on their website or by visiting Suite 1110 in Stamp Student Union.
- Search for volunteer and internship opportunities in the U.S. and abroad on the Idealist website.
For questions about research and internships, contact:
Dr. Kaci Thompson
Assistant Dean for Science Education Initiatives
College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences
1313 Symons Hall