Ready to kickstart your scientific career?
Are you an undergraduate student interested in cutting-edge scientific research? Look no further! The Carnegie Earth and Planets Laboratory (EPL) Summer Undergraduate Research Internship (SURI) is a full-time, paid 10-week research internship (June 5th to August 11th) and professional development program based on the EPL campus in Washington, DC.
The Summer Undergraduate Research Internship (SURI) at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Earth and Planets Laboratory (EPL) offers a unique opportunity for regionally local undergraduate students to gain hands-on experience in the field of Earth, planetary, and astronomical sciences.
During the 10-week program (June 5, 2023 - August 11, 2023), interns will work under the supervision of experienced researchers in the field of astronomy, astrobiology, biogeochemistry, cosmochemistry, data science, experimental geochemistry/petrology, geophysics, isotope geochemistry, high-pressure mineral physics, mineralogy, organic geochemistry, and petrology.
Interns will work with their Carnegie mentor on an assigned research project with the ultimate goal of developing an original research finding that is suitable for presentation at a national scientific meeting during the following academic year. Interns are full members of their mentors’ research groups, participate in regular group meetings, and attend weekly seminars and social events at the EPL aimed at establishing a collegial cohort.
- Program Dates: June 5, 2023 - August 11, 2023
- Applications Due: February 20, 2023
- Decisions will be made in March 2023
If you have specific questions at this point that are not answered in our FAQ, please contact Dr. Dionysis Foustoukos at email@example.com.
- This is a paid, full-time position with a stipend of $6200, dispersed bi-weekly.
- Housing will be provided at American University. This housing includes full linen sets, Wi-Fi and cable access, shuttle service to/from the nearest metro stop, and complimentary access to the university’s fitness facilities.
- Interns will also have access to the Earth and Planets Laboratory library and other research facilities necessary for carrying out their research, including necessary computing resources (e.g., a laptop, project-specific software).
- Work on a research project under the guidance of a mentor
Mentor(s) and mentee(s) sign a document after discussion that sets expectations and goals for their summer collaboration. The student carries out a research project crafted by the mentor(s), with the opportunity for modifications and/or additions based upon the student’s skills and motivation.
- Acquire expertise in research methods while carrying out a research project
Acquiring expertise in the research methods starts the first week the student is at EPL, and within several weeks, students can carry out independent work.
- Participate in research and science communication skills workshops.
The student participates in several research and science communication skills workshops that supplement the more topic-specific skills they gain from the research project, and meet weekly as a group with the coordinator to provide research updates.
- Meet weekly with the program coordinator to provide research updates
- Present results at a formal campus-wide symposium
The results of intern projects are presented at a campus-wide symposium open to all the scientific staff. The oral presentations are styled after national meetings (AG, GSA, or AAS), and questions by the audience are encouraged. An abstract for the presentation is required, which will if the student chooses, form the basis for an abstract to be submitted for a presentation at a national meeting during the following academic year.
- Participate in evaluations
Students and mentors participate in a series of beginning, mid-, and end-of-program evaluations to assess the mentor-mentee interactions, the progress of the students in gaining research skills, and overall experience in the full program.
- Must be an undergraduate student at time of application
- Must live in or go to school locally (DC, VA, or MD)
- Ability to commit to the full 10-week program (June 5, 2023 - August 11, 2023)
- Strong interest in Earth, planetary and astronomical Sciences
The online application form asks for information about you (name, address, demographic information), your previous research experience, and your motivation for pursuing this internship. There are several short prompts (<300 words.) We also ask for the contact information of one reference (but they do not need to submit letters), and that you upload a CV or resume and unofficial undergraduate transcripts.
Please read over the application first, and draft your response in a separate document before filling out the online form for submission.
- Curriculum Vitae
- Unofficial Transcript
- Reference Contact Information
2023 Internship Projects
In this project, we will explore the wonders of unraveling the processes that drive planet formation by looking at the disks of comets left over from exoplanetary formation. The composition of dust changes the amount of starlight that gets scattered and emitted by cometary dust. We can make images of disks around other stars at multiple wavelengths and model them to predict what other observations would best tell us their composition. The intern student will be mentored in Python programming, the careful assessment of uncertainties in telescopic observations, and the complementary use of observations together with modeling. The research will be conducted in person.
Subfield: Economic Geology / Geochemistry
In this project, we will investigate the rock-forming processes that yield development of metal deposits enriched in cobalt, copper, nickel among other metals. Several functions of our modern society require the abundance of such metals and this study will contribute to the industry of base metal exploration. The main hypothesis in this project is that the deposition of cobalt-bearing minerals is facilitated by geothermal fluid circulation and controlled by the physicochemical conditions established by other metal (Cu, Ni, Fe)-bearing minerals. The intern student will be trained in experimental petrology, physical chemistry of geothermal fluids, and in handling solid, liquid, and gaseous samples. Research will be conducted in-person.
The most common type of stars in the Galaxy are the faint and red M dwarfs. While we are now finding thousands of planets around these types of stars, massive Jupiter-type planets continue to be rare. As part of this project, the intern student will analyze data from NASA's TESS mission as well as ground-based telescopes to search for transiting giant planets and measure their size and masses. This project would help develop the student's Python coding skills towards data analysis and visualization.vIt could lead to co-authorship on a peer-reviewed scientific publication. While in-person attendance is not mandatory, it is encouraged.
Subfield: Planetary Science
The Earth's record of meteorite/asteroid impacts is key to understanding the delivery of volatiles and carbonaceous materials to the early Earth. The project would seek to utilize Raman imaging spectroscopy to map the distribution of carbonaceous materials within impacted terrestrial rocks and elucidate the nature of co-occurring minerals in these rocks. From these observations, it may be possible to further analyze the minerals using microprobe and electron microscopy to understand the interaction of extraterrestrial carbonaceous materials delivered to the Earth during the impact process. Specific examples of carbonaceous species of interest that would be formed during the impact process are graphite, graphite whiskers, diamonds, and other high-temperature polymorphs. Research will be conducted in-person.
Planets form in disks of gas and dust around young stars. But how do the properties of the host star affect the planet-forming materials that surround it? In this project, we aim to simulate the chemical evolution of pre-planetary materials around a variety of low-mass stars. By exploring the range of gas and dust compositions around different stars, we can better understand the initial conditions needed to form the planets that we see today—both in our own solar system and in extrasolar planetary systems across the galaxy. By participating in this project, the intern student will gain skills in research computing, including computational modeling of chemistry in planet-forming environments, data visualization, and the communication of scientific results. Virtual participation is possible, but in-person participation is strongly encouraged.
Subfield: Mineral Physics
The thermal history of the core and mantle and their dynamics is one of the most fundamental topics in geophysics. It is related to the processes of planetary accretion and differentiation, the time evolution of mantle and core temperatures, and the generation of Earth’s magnetic field. The thermal conductivity of materials in the Earth’s and planetary interiors is the key to understanding these phenomena. In this project, the intern student will conduct direct measurements of thermal conductivity of Earth’s minerals and alloys in a laser-heated diamond anvil cell at extreme pressure- temperature conditions representative for the Earth’s interior. The student will gain familiarity with optical experiments with diamond anvil cells, electron microprobe methods, and finite element calculations of heat flux propagation. Research will be conducted in-person.
Subfield: Planetary Science, Data Science
The goal of this project is to develop a data-driven approach to characterize and classify the diversity of planetary objects in the cosmos using multi-dimensional exoplanet data, including mass, radius, temperature, age, chemical composition, host star type, orbital parameters, dynamical relationship to other planets in the system, and more. The intern will learn to curate planetary data and develop machine-learning techniques to achieve our goal of identifying planetary kinds, thereby helping us create a more complex planetary analog to the temperature–luminosity diagram for stars. The student will gain experience in all aspects of planetary informatics, including planetary data resource management, data visualization, data analysis and interpretation of machine learning models, and communication of key scientific findings. Research will be conducted in-person.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, the Carnegie internship is not an NSF REU, although we aim for a similar experience as other NSF REU programs.
Students should be pursuing undergraduate study at a local (DC, MD, VA) college or university in astronomy, chemistry, computer science, geology, physics, planetary science, or a related field. We will also accept applications from students who are from DC, MD, or VA and pursuing undergraduate study in one or more of these fields at a non-local college or university. Students are equally encouraged to apply whether or not they have prior research experience.
Our program does not require US citizenship, but we do focus on students who are based in and reside in the US full-time and require interns to hold visas to study in the US or DACA status. While we appreciate that there are many students worldwide who are enthusiastic about research, we are not able to accommodate students from abroad.
Yes. We consider applications from current seniors, even if you would potentially be attending our program after you graduate. If this applies to you, please include a brief description of your plans in the "other information" part of the application (e.g. I’ve applied to graduate schools, I want to take a year off and work, I have a job lined up at Observatory X / Research Lab Y, etc.).
Our program is primarily intended for students pursuing STEM degrees and careers. We will also consider applications from students pursuing a degree in a related field like engineering or mathematics if there is a clear connection expressed to one of the research subfields on our campus.
Interns are not required to stay at our accommodation at AU, although they are encouraged to, and a daily travel stipend will be offered.
Please email Dr. Dionysis Foustoukos (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions.
Thank you to our program sponsors: The New York Community Trust and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.