NSF/USGS Graduate Research Internships

Guidelines for USGS Researchers and Grad Student Applicants

Steps for GRIP or INTERN Collaborations at USGS

  • USGS researcher submits a proposal through the online form.
  • The proposal is reviewed and then posted on USGS/NSF Internship Opportunity site.
  • A student is identified in one of several ways.
  • Student and USGS researcher talk and agree on project goals, budget, etc.
  • The student writes and submits an application to NSF by the posted deadline.
  • NSF conducts eligibility review, merit review, and makes awards.

GRIP Specifics:

  • This program is for NSF Graduate Research Fellows. These students are fully supported by NSF on a fellowship that is in their name.
  • There is a $5000 maximum, meant to cover additional costs of coming to USGS and participating in research.
  • The internship can be 2-12 months
  • GRIP has two annual deadlines, December 4 and May 6. (Note: 2020 Deadline Extended to 6/8/20)
  • USGS researcher must provide an email to NSF or a letter indicating that the student is a suitable candidate for this opportunity.
  • If selected, NSF notifies USGS to confirm acceptance by USGS Researcher. Upon acceptance, NSF notifies the student who then contacts USGS researcher and arranges a start date.
  • USGS researcher informs YES office of arrangements.
  • At the end of the internship, the student submits a report to NSF with a copy to YES office.

INTERN Specifics (Note 4/12/20 - NSF has extended the deadline to 6/8/20)

  • This program is open to any M.S. or Ph.D. student who is supported by an NSF grant to their advisor.
  • The maximum amount is $50,000 for travel, tuition, stipend, and relocation costs, plus up to $2500 for materials and supplies, and $2500 for the Faculty Advisor to travel to USGS during the internship.
  • The internship is up to 6-months, and students can apply for an additional 6-months.
  • There are two required elements that USGS must provide:
  • This is submitted as a supplement to the original NSF Grant. The faculty advisor should contact their NSF program officer before submitting.
    • Review is usually quick
    • The Faculty member will be notified
  • USGS researcher informs YES office of arrangements.
  • At the end of the internship, the student submits a report to NSF with a copy to YES office

Notes for USGS Researchers

To participate in any of the GRO @USGS programs, USGS researchers need an approved USGS proposal. It is important to bear in mind the National Science Foundation’s goals for the programs as you draft your proposal. NSF’s core value for these programs is the professional growth of the student. The proposed collaboration should offer the student professional experiences they cannot get at their home institution, such as access to USGS facilities, field sites, or data they would not otherwise have, new skill development, or collaboration in a new scientific direction. Exposure to a different work culture was also important, so the students are expected to come to the USGS, rather than collaborate from their home institution.

Proposing an Opportunity

Use the online form to submit your project proposal. Of course, we expect it will be well written and good science. Beyond that, the internal evaluation process will focus primarily on two criteria: Does it represent a unique opportunity for the student, and can it be accomplished in the timeframe proposed? Note that approval from your Center Director is required. Pay particular attention to the Creative Summary and the Fields of Study. These will be posted online and will help students find opportunities and decide which to pursue. 

Assisting with the NSF Application

Students applying to these programs will submit a short supplemental funding request to NSF. It is expected that the student will contact the USGS researcher prior to preparing the application and that, although the student will take the lead in writing and submitting the application, you will collaborate on the description of the project, term, and budget. Together, you may develop a project that is somewhat different than the proposal you posted; that is just fine. You do not need to revise your opportunity proposal in that case.

How to Find Students

NSF links interested students to this USGS website where they can view posted opportunities. USGS YES Office is also working on ways to widely publicize the website. However, reaching out through your own networks to identify students who might be interested in your opportunity will improve your success. To be eligible, students must be pursuing an M.S. or Ph.D., supported by an NSF grant, and a U. S. citizen. Here are some strategies:

  • Reach out to researchers who are working in your field, friends, and colleagues, or through professional societies that you are involved in, and ask them if they have an NSF-supported student who would be interested.
  • Directly approach students you know, or students who presented interesting papers at the last meeting you attended.
  • Use the NSF website to search for active grants in your field, and approach the PIs. NSF Grant Search – all awards
  • You can narrow your search by NSF Directorate by using the formatting at NSF-GEO awards.
  • Search the list of NSF Graduate Research Fellows (GRIP Only). The list is sortable by field of study. Focus on awards in the last 5 years.

What About the Cost?

The cost to the USGS should be minimal for this opportunity. Students are supported by NSF and are engaged by USGS on Volunteer Agreements managed by the sponsoring Science Center, so there is no salary requirement. There is some cost associated with background checks and IDs. NSF provides funds that go directly to the student’s home institution to help support the research. They can be used in a variety of ways per NSF guidelines such as travel, field expenses, meeting costs, etc. You should talk this over with your prospective student during budget preparation.