Summer Internships for Undergrads

students doing science students doing science2 students doing science3

"​​Simply put, this experience exceeded my expectations: instead of getting a mere window into research at a major institution, I felt like I was knee-deep in truly engaging work at the bench and contributing to the lab."​


Applications for Summer 2021 are Closed!



About the Program

The Undergraduate Summer Internship is our headline program for bringing new minds into our scientific community. Each year, we recruit a vibrant cohort of undergraduates with a passion for science and a curiosity about what doing a PhD or MD/PhD might look like. Interns are paid $5000 to work in labs at Harvard's Quantitative Biology Initiative and the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School for 10 weeks (June 7th – August 13th). Interns learn together as a cohort through interactive journal clubs, and workshops, and participate in Harvard seminars and activities. 

Participants in our summer program can expect to emerge with: (i) increased confidence in scientific research, writing, and communication; (ii) increased awareness of the research opportunities and career paths a biology PhD offers; and (iii) connections with the Harvard faculty, students, and researchers who make our university great. Participants will also gain a group of peers who are also embarking on an exciting adventure into higher education in science and medicine. 

Last year, we conducted our immersive research program in an entirely remote fashion and still had a blast. This year, we expect to do the same. Research projects will use computational approaches to address questions in biology. Experience in computation is not required, you will be taught the skills needed for your project during the internship. 

Are we right for you?

We are eager to receive applications from enthusiastic, thoughtful undergraduates excited by the idea of pursuing a PhD or MD/PhD one day. We are most interested in attracting eager students who can bring new perspectives to our enterprise, who are dedicated to learning as much as they can, who are willing to try and fail and try again, and who are committed to creating a vibrant, respectful, and supportive community. Students from under-represented minorities or disadvantaged backgrounds are especially encouraged to apply.

Remote projects will be all over the biological map: how cells grow, divide, and differentiate in health and disease; how DNA damage impacts cell cycle and cancer; how brains learn and remember; how proteins transport molecules across cell membranes; how branching things (plants, coral, etc) build themselves; how RNA folds into functional molecules; how ants behave; how to make sense of genetic sequences; how the environment and genes interact in health and disease; everything! Some projects will involve statistics or math, some physics or theory, some will involve image or sequence analysis. If you have experience in these areas, great. If not, we'll teach you. Don't worry if you have been a "wet lab" person up til now. We'll make sure we match you to a project that's a good fit to your background and interests.

Our Community

Last year’s cohort included freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Our interns were majoring in all sorts of things: molecular & cellular biology, English, bioengineering, computer science, electrical engineering, math, music, and statistics. Students participated from all over the US (entirely from their ‘home offices,’ i.e., bedrooms) and proudly represented UMass Boston, UC Berkeley, Northeastern, Kenyon, Johns Hopkins, Gettysburg, Duke, Columbia, and Clemson. 


While we welcome different years, majors, and backgrounds, there are 3 hard requirements: candidates must be: (a) US citizens or permanent residents, (b) currently enrolled full-time in good standing at an accredited public or private college or university in the United States or a US territory, and (c) 18 years or older by the start of the program.

Application Process

To apply, please prepare the following materials and upload them as PDF files to this portal

Instructions for creating an application portal account:

  • Non- Harvard Students please create an XID HERE.  
  • Harvard Students please use your Harvard Key to sign on.
  • Once your XID is created, log-in to begin your application HERE.  
  • Make sure you click on the XID tab at the top. 
  • This will serve as your log-in to come back to your application if needed. 

Deadline: February 7th 2021 at 11:59 EST

Materials to upload to the application portal: 

(1) Resume/CV: Please include a 1-2 page document which summarizes your educational and work experience. Feel free to include scientific and non-scientific work, activities, hobbies, groups, etc. We are interested in seeing evidence that you are a hard worker and a good community member. An example resume template can be found here. 

(2) Transcripts: You don’t need perfect grades to apply (though we’ll be impressed if you have them!). We are interested in seeing evidence that you are serious about learning, that you push yourself, and that you’re not afraid of a challenge. Transcripts should include information for all undergraduate courses you have taken at the time you apply. If you have attended multiple institutions, you can upload one transcript if that transcript lists all transfer credits. If it does not, you should upload a transcript from each institution you have attended. 

(3) Writing prompts: Please answer Essay 1. For Essay 2, choose ONE of the four options. Plan on writing a total of two pages double-spaced. 

Essay 1: Why are you thinking of getting a PhD or MD/PhD? What are you thinking of doing with the degree? This is an opportunity to let us know who you are, where you’re going, and how we can help. Were there courses you took, research you did, books you read, teachers you had, or problems you encountered that made you want to get the degree? What are the things that motivate you to keep going? What are you hoping to get from this summer program? 

Essay 2: Choose ONE of the following options 

Option A (Mentality): Getting a PhD is fun but hard. You’re trying to solve a problem no one has ever solved before. Being smart is great but you’ll need something else. Some people are very creative, others are very focused. Some people don’t get down when times are tough, others bounce back quickly or have figured out ways of brushing themselves off and getting back at it. What are some of the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them? What mentality or perspective can you bring to your own work or share with others? 

Option B (Making it better): Are there any things about science you dislike? Is there anything about your career path that scares you or intimidates you or gets you down? Do you have an idea for how we could do better? Or have you done something in the past to help make it better? This can be about any aspect of science: your classes, your mentors, your research experiences, this application process, anything. We’re interested in seeing evidence that you are thinking critically about the world and that you’re devoted to making it better. 

Option C (My alter ego): What is the most important aspect of your life outside of lab? Last year’s cohort had a lot of dancers and musicians, from amateurs to the captain of the university salsa team. A couple of our students were really interested in history. One of our students takes care of her grandma. Another writes profiles of women scientists to put on Wikipedia. What are you up to when you’re not in lab? Why is it important to you? Does it make it harder to be a scientist or does it make it easier? 

Option D (My goodness!): We love biology. We want to know what you love about it, too. Tell us about something in biology you find fascinating. It can be an organism that does something neat (e.g., squid camouflage themselves in the moonlight using a symbiotic relationship with bacteria!). It can be a cellular process you find fascinating (e.g., cells can reliably line up their insides and then rip themselves in half to replicate). It can be whatever you want. If you’re stuck, look at some of the labs we have here at Harvard or at your own institution and write about why their work interests you (this does not commit you to working in that lab). You should be prepared to discuss the system in some detail, explain what about it you find fascinating, and what you’d like to learn more about. If you’d like to include ideas for experiments or analyses or projects, you can feel free, but you don’t have to.
If you are interested in any of the listed projects, please indicate which one(s). However other projects may become available, so if you don’t see a perfect match yet, don’t worry!

(4) Two Recommendations: We need recommendations from 2 different people who are familiar with your work in an academic or research setting. Please ask them ahead of time – everyone is busy and you want them to give you a good letter. Ideally, ask them 1-2 months ahead of time. Then remind them 1 month and also 2 weeks ahead of the deadline. It’s not rude. Just respond to your initial email, thank them again, and ask if they need anything. If you feel comfortable, you can send them your resume and/or your transcript and/or your answers to the prompts above. 

Thank you for applying. We look forward to reading your application!



                                                                   Please contact jennie_epp AT with questions.

       Other Science Internships at Harvard 

          Summer Honors Undergraduate Research Program (SHURP)

          Summer Clinical and Translational Research Program (SCTRP)

          Life Science Internships