Dear Colleague Letter: Non-Academic Research Internships for Graduate Students (INTERN) Supplemental Funding Opportunity

Funding Agency:
National Science Foundation

August 27, 2018

Dear Colleagues:

Fostering the growth of a globally competitive and diverse research workforce and advancing the scientific and innovation skills of the Nation is a strategic objective of the National Science Foundation (NSF). The Nation's global competitiveness depends critically on the readiness of the Nation's Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) workforce and NSF seeks to continue to invest in programs that directly advance this workforce. As part of this effort, a supplemental funding opportunity is available in fiscal years FY 2019 and FY 2020 to provide support for non-academic research internships for graduate students to support career opportunities in any sector of the U.S. economy. NSF currently invests in a number of graduate student preparedness activities and has historically encouraged principal investigators (PIs) to include such activities in research proposals to NSF. This Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) describes new funding opportunities at NSF to ensure graduate students are well prepared for the 21st-century STEM workforce.

With rapidly accelerating changes in technology-driven global and national economies, today's graduate students will have a wide choice of career paths to pursue over their professional lives. Graduate students have the potential to make important contributions in careers outside academia, in organizations including: startup businesses, small and large corporations, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. NSF's 2018 Science and Engineering Indicators report reveals 79 percent of master's level STEM graduates and 57 percent of doctoral degree holders work in industry or government. It is therefore important that graduate students supported by NSF grants be provided opportunities to develop skills that prepare them to be successful for a broad range of academic and non-academic career paths. In addition to deep and broad preparation in their technical areas of expertise, skills and knowledge regarding communication, innovation and entrepreneurship, leadership and management, and policy and outreach are becoming increasingly valuable to enter any sector of the workforce.

Supplemental funding requests may be submitted at any time but no later than May 1, 2019 (for available FY 2019 funds) and May 1, 2020 (for available FY 2020 funds).

Agency Website

Areas of Interest

NSF will consider supplemental funding requests that enable PIs to request up to six months of additional support for graduate students with the following goals:

  1. To provide graduate students with the opportunity to augment their research assistantships with non-academic research internship activities and training opportunities that will complement their academic research training;
  2. To allow graduate students to pursue new activities aimed at acquiring professional development experience that will enhance their preparation for multiple career pathways after graduation; and
  3. To encourage the participation of graduate students from groups that have traditionally been underrepresented and underserved in the STEM enterprise: women, persons with disabilities, African Americans/Blacks, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, Native Pacific Islanders, veterans, and persons from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

The PI of an active NSF award may request supplemental funding for one or more graduate students to gain knowledge, skills and experiences that will augment their preparation for a successful long-term career through an internship in a non-academic setting, including the following:

  • For-profit industry laboratories or industry research and development groups;
  • Start-up businesses, such as (but not limited to) those funded through the NSF's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program;
  • Government agencies (all levels) and National Laboratories;
  • Policy think-tanks; and
  • Non-profit organizations.

PIs are encouraged to discuss with the cognizant NSF program director activities that are synergistic with the project scope. It is expected that the graduate student and the PI on the NSF grant will work together to identify innovative experiences that add the most educational value for the graduate student on activities that are not already available at the student's academic institution. Further, it is expected that the internship will be on-site at the host organization and will be research-focused in a STEM field or in STEM education research.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible, graduate students must have completed at least one academic year in their graduate programs (master's or doctoral) and be making satisfactory progress towards the completion of their degrees.

This opportunity is open to PIs who are supporting graduate students through any active NSF award, except in the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE), the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS), and the Office of Integrative Activities (OIA). 

Amount Description

The total amount of funding requested must not exceed $55,000 per student per six-month period. NSF plans to fund up to approximately 200 supplements in fiscal years FY 2019 and FY 2020, depending on the availability of funds.

Funds may be used to support travel, tuition and fees, health insurance, additional stipend and temporary relocation costs for the graduate student. Up to $2,500 may be used for PI travel to work with the host organization in co-mentoring the student during the internship. Up to $2,500 may be used for materials and supplies to support the student during the internship. The grantee is permitted to request indirect costs in accordance with their approved/negotiated indirect cost rate. The total requested budget cannot exceed the limits listed under the "Supplement funding amount" section above. Note: Spousal and dependent travel are not supported.

Funding Type





Curriculum Development
Engineering and Physical Sciences
Environmental & Life Sciences
Social Sciences

External Deadline

May 1, 2020