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Guidelines for USGS Researchers and Grad Student Applicants

The steps in the process are outlined below. 

Steps for INTERN Collaborations at USGS

  • A student is identified in one of several ways.
    • USGS researcher who would like to attract a graduate student intern submits a profile through this form, and a prospective student finds you through the public GRO Opportunities page
    • USGS researchers reach out to their academic colleagues to share their interest in hosting an intern
    • A student approaches a USGS researcher with a project idea
  • Student and USGS researcher talk and agree on project goals, budget, etc.
  • The student writes and submits an application to NSF.
    • This program is a supplemental grant program, so the proposal must be linked to an existing NSF grant.
    • That existing grant might the the student's Graduate Research Fellowship, or it might be a grant to a faculty member at the university, commonly the student's advisor.
    • It is recommended that the student and advisor have a conversation with the NSF Program Officer who oversees the grant before submitting the INTERN proposal.
    • Start with the IP agreement early (below) since that may take some time to get through the University approval
  • NSF conducts eligibility review, merit review, and makes awards.

NSF INTERN Program Specifics (DCL 21-013)

  • This program is open to any M.S. or Ph.D. student who is supported by an NSF grant to their advisor or another researcher
  • The maximum amount is $55,000 for travel, tuition, stipend, and relocation costs; up to $2500 can be used 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 second grant for an additional 6-months.
  • There are two required elements that USGS must provide:
    • A letter from the host mentor describing the opportunity and mentorship
    • A signed agreement on Intellectual Property Rights (here)
      • NOTE: This form has been approved by USGS. The first step for applicants is to get their University signature, which may take some time. If the University requests changes to the form, bring that to Eleanour Snow (esnow at who will get USGS approval for the changes. 
  • 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
  • Deadline: These are accepted anytime, but there is a target date of April 15th for current fiscal year funding. That means that if a great proposal is submitted in May or June, it might be funded, but it might be pushed to the next fiscal year instead.

Notes for USGS Researchers

The YES office is responsible for managing, facilitating, and reporting on this program. Please visit our on internal SharePoint site for additional information and a very short reporting form for recording application, award, and outcomes. Don't hesitate to contact us with questions.

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.

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 and the USGS researcher will have conversations 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. 

How to Find Students

NSF links interested students to this USGS website where they can view posted research profiles. 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. 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.