There are many great summer research opportunities right here at Wake Forest through the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities center (URECA). However, for some, pursuing research at another institution over the summer can provide an important opportunity to broaden perspective or a pathway into a graduate program of choice.
Many colleges and universities offer summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates, funded through the National Science Foundation; you can browse through current opportunities on the NSF REU program webpage. Alternatively, some universities, departments, or academic research groups may use their own internal funding to support summer research internships; in these cases, the opportunities are usually advertised through the university, and you’ll have to do your own browsing through the webpages of schools of interest to you.
Many of the federally funded labs, including the Department of Defense labs and Department of Energy labs, also offer summer research internships for engineering undergraduate students. Even the Departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, and Agriculture offer internships ranging from science/technical to public policy opportunities. Or if you’ve been thinking about pursuing a legal career after college, an internship at the Patent and Trademark Office might be the perfect opportunity to learn about patent law at a high level.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Student Intern Program (SIP)
- U.S. Department of Defense Science, Mathematics & Research for Transformation program (SMART)
- U.S. Department of Energy Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships (SULI)
- U.S. Department of Homeland Security student programs
- U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration student opportunities
- U.S. Patent and Trademark Office student programs
- (Or search www.usajobs.gov for other internship opportunities.)
However, maybe you’re more interested in a position in industry or government after you complete your degree. A summer internship at a private company (or several, at different companies), non-profit, or public agency can help you learn which sector best fits your interests, or even what work atmosphere or team size is ideal for you. Such positions can also lead into job offers right out of college, and many employers will help co-fund advanced education. Major corporations have specific webpages just for student opportunities, whereas smaller companies might accept summer interns but not advertise on their website (you can always contact human resources directly with an inquiry).
Be advised that larger companies often offer both internships and co-ops to undergraduates, where an internship can usually take place during the summer, but a co-op would require you to work for a summer and a semester. Co-ops, therefore, despite their many benefits can create scheduling challenges in a curriculum where courses might be offered only in the spring or fall terms, and will by default delay your graduation date. Be up-front with potential employers when applying and interviewing regarding your availability.
Of course, the opportunities and information provided here are just a start, to help you begin thinking about your early career pathway. Questions to ask yourself are, Am I more interested in research, design, or consulting (or do I even know at this point)? Would I prefer to work in an industry research environment, knowing that projects may be driven by profit margins, or a more academic environment, such as a federal lab, where I can pursue more basic science? Would I rather begin a doctoral program immediately after my undergraduate degree, or should I work for a few years to gain experience? Are you considering a study abroad experience? Perhaps an internship or research experience abroad would be a good fit.
No one expects you to have all of the answers – in fact, if you have more questions than answers, that’s probably a good thing! After all, you have a team of Wake Forest Department of Engineering faculty (and the campus Office of Personal and Career Development) to help you begin answering these questions. So reach out, and make an appointment with one of us today.