On August 27, 2018, the National Science Foundation published a “Dear Colleagues” letter announcing a supplemental source of funding for principal investigators to help provide non-academic research experience to their graduate students. The INTERN program, as it is called, is geared at increasing the competitiveness of STEM workforce in the US. This program is a great opportunity for students supported by a PI’s active NSF award to gain experience outside of academia and expose themselves to anything from new equipment/methods to building relationships with future employers. NSF is hoping to award up to 200 of these funding supplements in fiscal years 2019 and 2020.
The INTERN program is for six months of funding and has a fairly broad scope. The announcement specifically mentions for-profit industry, start-up businesses, government agencies, national laboratories, policy think-tanks, and non-profit organizations all as potential sites where students could use the funding. The award can fund travel, tuition and fees, health insurance, stipends, and temporary relocation costs. Additionally, some of the money is available for materials and supplies. Because this award is so broad, PIs and students across almost any NSF-related discipline can apply. A student could conduct research on anything from product development at a pharmaceutical company to measuring museum specimens at a private or non-profit institution. Be creative, come up with an idea alongside your advisor, and talk to your program officer!
Graduate students of all levels are eligible, including both master’s and doctoral students, if they have completed at least one year in their program. The most restrictive requirement is that a student’s advisor must have a current NSF award that somehow supports the graduate student. GradFund recommends that anyone interested in applying for these funds should contact their program officer to determine if they qualify. The deadline to submit requests on FastLane this year is May 1, 2019 for fiscal year 2019 funds. Check out the “Dear Colleague” letter for specific application and program information (https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2018/nsf18102/nsf18102.jsp) and don’t be afraid to contact GradFund for any questions you may have!