Undergraduate Internships: How does it work?

Interested in become an NASA Space Grant Undergraduate Intern or Mentor? Here is how it works:

1.a. Potential Interns: Before July 8th, interested undergraduates (sophomores-seniors) submit an online application which will be reviewed and ranked.

Fill out an online Student Application.

1.b. Potential Mentors: Also before July 8th, faculty and professionals interested in mentoring motivated undergraduates submit online applications defining a potential research, research & development, science writing, science policy, or science education project to be offered for student intern participation. There tend to be more mentor applications than internship opportunities. Nevertheless, the selection process is entirely student-merit based. It is only after the highest ranked students are selected that the process of matching interns to the most suitable mentor application begins.

Fill out an online Mentor Application.

2.a. Review Process and Ranking Criteria: In July or August, the Space Grant Steering Committee (made up of some 20 faculty and professionals from almost every discipline at UA as well as participants from local industry) review all the applications. They rank the applications on merit, based on a number of factors. The most important factor -- by far -- is the content and quality of the responses to the three open-ended questions in the student applications. GPA, motivation for applying, interest-level, potential, and involvement (work, volunteerism, other activities) are also considered. (Experience is NOT a factor in the selection process as the internship is designed to provide opportunity, even to the less experienced.) ...

2.b. Award: The highest ranked (~40) applicants are awarded NASA Space Grant Internships to work with faculty or professional mentors for the forthcoming academic year for 10-20 hrs/wk, at $9.50/hr.

3.a. Matching Interns to Mentored Projects: After the selections are made, the process of matching the top applicants to the most suitable mentored project (see 1b) begins. The Steering Committee evaluates foremost the interests indicated on the student application. Experience and skills are also considered in making the match. Some limiting factors (e.g., ability to travel off campus) are also considered. The goal is to provide a new and rich experience to the applicant.

3.b. Will I know my mentor? Most students have no previous experience with any particular faculty member, which is the norm. However, some applicants (students and mentors) identify each other as desirable research/work partners prior to applying and so-indicate in their applications. If the student is highly ranked and is awarded an internship, he or she will be matched with that proposed mentor. Please note -– having established such a potential mentor/student match in advance has no bearing on the evaluation. Students are selected entirely based on their own merit irrespective of the mentor applications.

4.a. What is required of an intern? Curiosity, motivation, professionalism, patience (things do not always go as planned!), good communication and a commitment to learn and contribute!

Internships begin with an orientation that takes place at the beginning of the academic year early in the Fall semester, and culminate with a statewide Scientific Symposium at the end of the spring semester. These two meetings are mandatory. Several weeks in advance of the symposium, each intern is required to submit a brief abstract summarizing internship work for the formal symposium book of abstracts, and an associated PowerPoint presentation. Interns are also asked to complete tracking forms at the orientation and an online program evaluation at the end of the first semester. Attending the orientation, symposium and submitting the few noted deliverables represent your commitment required by NASA Space Grant. All other commitments are defined and agreed upon by you and your mentor when you establish your working relationship at the beginning of the academic year.

4.b. What is required of a mentor? Mentors commit to providing interns the opportunity to broaden their education with a rich, hands-on experience with the full process of inquiry and discovery. Whatever the internship emphasis -- research, research & development, science writing, science policy, or science education – the mentor will work to provide an environment where the intern can learn and can experience the research process from start to finish. In some cases interns will join existing projects, in others the project will evolve as the student's interests and skills and the mentors needs come together. The mentor acts as a guide, encouraging the intern to understand the discovery process, learn the fundamentals necessary to succeed, and ultimately drive the experience. Mentors attend an orientation at the beginning of the year, if they have not done so in the past. They assist in preparing the intern for the statewide Scientific Symposium at the end of the spring semester, including the brief abstract and PowerPoint presentation. Mentors are invited to participate in some Space Grant-organized activities during the year, and to attend the Scientific Symposium and banquet at the end. Like the interns, mentors are asked to complete an online program evaluation at the end of the first semester. The day-to-day interaction between the intern, the mentor and the mentor's team (where applicable) are defined and agreed upon by the intern and mentor as part of establishing a working relationship at the beginning of the academic year.

5. How is this funded? This internship is funded by NASA Space Grant, and whenever possible, through the generous contributions of mentors. The UA/NASA Space Grant Undergraduate Research Internship program works hard to engage the largest number of students possible. Each year we are able to extend the internship funding base to a larger group of undergraduates through much appreciated financial assistance provided by those of our mentors who are able to full-fund or split-fund their interns. Interns may work between 10 and 20 hrs/wk ($9.50/hr plus ERE). On average, they tend to work 15 hrs/wk. Thus, full-funding an intern for 30 weeks, at 15hrs/wk amounts to about $4,415 dollars while split-funding half the costs amounts to about $2,207 dollars.

Please note that cost-share is not considered in either the ranking/selection of interns or in the process of matching those students to mentor projects.