An undergraduate internship experience can be a crucial factor in encouraging future scientists and engineers. It also serves as an important role in promoting a deeper understanding of what work in various STEM fields actually entails. A positive and exciting internship experience alongside a committed mentor can play an important role in ensuring students remain in the STEM pipeline, and you can be key to that experience. Space Grant mentors have an opportunity to make an important contribution to encouraging UArizona students to pursue STEM, while also benefiting their own research project(s) by being matched with a smart and motivated student.
Arizona Space Grant Consortium (AZSGC) affiliates, and University of Arizona affiliates, faculty, staff, research scientists, post-docs, and Tucson industry professionals interested in mentoring motivated undergraduate students are eligible to apply as mentors. Mentors with underrepresented identities in STEM are strongly encouraged to apply.
What a Mentor Provides
Potential mentors must work on research projects that relate to one or more NASA Mission Directorates (MDs). However, please note that NASA's research interests are broad and relate to many STEM fields. Mentors must be able to provide 5-20 hours per week (September - May) of meaningful work appropriate for an undergraduate student. Note that students' prior experience working on research projects may vary. Interns must be able to contact a mentor as needed and should have one-on-one meetings with a mentor at least once a week. Mentors may work collaboratively with post docs, graduate students, etc. in their workplace to provide a more robust mentorship experience to an intern. Mentors do not need to be the only individual mentoring an intern; this can be indicated in the mentor application.
Meaningful internship work must include a specific project or problem for your intern to solve. Projects do not have to be completed by the end of the program year, but interns must have a tangible "piece of the project puzzle" that they can actively work on throughout their internship, and then present on that work during the annual AZSGC Student Research Symposium. Internship work hours may include background reading, attendance at team/relevant meetings, field work, and especially data collection, processing, and analysis.
This program's success largely depends on a mentor providing a clear outline of responsibilities to an intern, setting up consistent forms of communication to allow an intern the space to ask questions, involving interns in team meetings, and setting weekly goals with interns that are then followed up on each week. While the research project and the intern's responsibilities may change over time, it is important to have both short and long-term goals clearly defined and written down.
Funding & Cost-Share
This internship is funded by the NASA National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program, and whenever possible, through the generous contributions of our mentors. Each year, we are able to extend internship opportunities to a larger group of undergraduates through much appreciated financial assistance provided by mentors who are able to full-fund or split-fund their interns. Interns may work up to 20 hours per week and receive $15.00 per hour. In 2022 on average, our interns worked 8.3 hours per week during the 35-week internship. Full-funding an intern at $15.00 per hour for 35 weeks at 8.3 hours per week amounts to $4,357.50, while split-funding this cost amounts to $2,178.75.
Deadlines, Events, & Other Commitments
In addition to what is mentioned above, mentors are expected to provide overall guidance and mentorship, are required to respond in a timely manner when first matched with an intern to confirm their participation, and mentors are asked to (optionally) provide cost-share to the program. Mentors must review and sign the program Welcome Packet, Code of Conduct Agreement, and (optional) Cost-Share Agreement before the start of the program year. Mentors are expected to attend a 1-hour orientation at the beginning of the program year (September) and are expected to respond to December and May program evaluations.
Mentors are invited to attend events and especially to attend and support their intern at the Statewide Student Research Symposium in April of each year. Mentors are strongly encouraged to share updates with the Space Grant team, including things that are going well and especially things that aren't, so that our team can follow up and make sure both intern and mentor are having a successful program year. We also encourage mentors to send updates about their intern's participation in conferences, presentations, and papers, and highlight stories with photos are much appreciated. Continued connection through social media, our newsletter, and attending annual events beyond the program year is also encouraged and appreciated.
Timeline of Program Year
June 30, 2023: Intern & Mentor applications due at midnight (MST).
Late July - August: Mentors notified of intern match; must respond to confirm their participation by given deadline. Cost-share paperwork (if applicable) must be signed. All mentors must review and sign the Welcome Packet, Code of Conduct Form by given deadline.
September: Mentor orientation; internship begins.
December: Mid-year evaluation due from interns and mentors.
March: Interns must submit a 150-word abstract for the AZSGC student research Symposium; mentors must review/approve this abstract.
April: Interns must submit a PowerPoint presentation for the Symposium; mentors must review/approve this PowerPoint. Mentors are invited to attend the Symposium to support their intern.
May: Internship ends; mentors complete a year-end evaluation.
What does Space Grant Provide?
Space Grant offers 34 years of successful internship program experience to both interns and mentors. The Space Grant Program provides a foundation for which interns may apply for a paid research experience to be matched with mentors and research opportunities in their community. Space Grant committee members review and rank intern applications so that mentors are matched with highly ranked undergraduate students that fit their project needs and requirements to the best of their ability. Space Grant hires interns as UArizona student employees and performs all payroll management, removing the administrative burden from the mentor. If a mentor chooses to cost-share with the program, Space Grant will charge the account accordingly.
Space Grant provides a support system of not only program staff that frequently check-in, hold office hours, meet with the interns, and more, but also of student peer advisors that offer your intern support. Space Grant provides weekly opportunity emails, additional NASA-sponsored events and programs only open to Space Grant students and organizes at least one group event per month (field trips to the Biosphere 2, Flandrau Planetarium, lunch talks with local scientists, etc.) to allow interns to network, learn something new, and get to know one another.
Space Grant management will hold orientation sessions at the start of the year to help prepare students for their internship and review and provide resources and tools needed for a successful year. Space Grant management will hold Symposium abstract and PowerPoint workshops to help prepare interns for this event.
How many Space Grant interns may I work with?
One of Space Grant's goals is to have diversity within our mentors and diversity within the topical areas we are supporting. The Space Grant Committee will typically not match a mentor with more than 2 interns total.
Is this program virtual or in person?
Internships may be virtual, in person, or a combination of both. Mentors are asked to describe research tasks and location of work during the application process so that the Space Grant Committee may match an intern to those needs and requirements. Once matched, interns and mentors may work together to come up with a schedule that works for them and the research project requirements during the program year.