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For 2021 Virtual Summer Internship Mentors

The 2021 NIH Summer Intern Handbook is now available!

Thank you for being willing to mentor a summer intern during these troubled and virtual times. You have assumed a large responsibility, but this is also an opportunity to encourage an aspiring scientist and begin to develop your own mentoring practice and philosophy.

The NIH will welcome about 850 virtual interns, mostly of college age, in summer 2021. All the interns will be paid summer stipends, and the expectation is that they will "work" full-time on learning about biomedical research and the role it might play in their careers. Their virtual research projects should be the interns' first summer priority. We will, however, offer a program of virtual activities to help them grow personally and professionally, explore the areas of biomedical science that interest them, and master strategies for maintaining well-being, resilience, and mental health. Be certain to meet with your intern BEFORE the summer begins to get to know each other, introduce the intern's summer research project, and plan summer activities that will both meet the intern's interests/needs and be compatible with the research schedule.

The Summer Internship Program

The Summer Internship Program consists of multiple elements, some designed for high school SIP (HS-SIP) participants; some for SIP participants, i.e., students in college and beyond; and some open to all summer interns. Those elements are

  • The intern's virtual research project, the most important part of the summer experience and the one for which you are responsible
  • A summer curriculum provided by the OITE that will include orientations for both HS-SIP and SIP participants in addition to series of workshops addressing becoming a resilient scientist (with associated discussion sessions), career development for high school students, graduate and/or professional school preparation for college students, and career development and science skills.  Please take a look at the curriculum schedule. If you are mentoring a high school student, you will find additional useful information here.
  • Summer bootcamps that allow interns to explore a particular science issue in some depth, either as a multi-week series or an intensive one-week experience. Bootcamp titles will include Clinical Trials, Common Misconceptions about the Human Mind and Behavior, and Learn to Code: Python for Beginners.
  • Virtual Summer Journal Clubs facilitated by pairs of more advanced NIH trainees
  • Opportunities to Explore Data Science for Summer Interns, including workshops such as Introduction to Supercomputing and Biowulf, Introduction to R’ and R’ Studio, The “All of Us” Research Program,  and an end-of-summer Codeathon
  • Two summer lectures presented by distinguished NIH investigators
  • NIH Science at Home, a Friday series in which the NIH ICs present activities focused on their science and career opportunities in their disciplines
  • In Their Own Words: The NIH Experiences and Career Paths of Prior and Current NIH Trainees (additional information coming soon)
  • The 2021 Virtual Graduate & Professional School Fair: More than 300 institutions have registered to provide information sessions on their PhD, MD, MD/PhD, DDS and other biomedically related degree programs in the hope of recruiting NIH trainees.
  • Virtual Summer Presentation Week: YOUR intern will have the chance to present his/her summer research project in either a 3-minute talk or a poster.

As you can see, you will have plenty of help ensuring that your intern can fill the summer with meaningful activities. At the same time, you will need to work with him/her in advance to balance other activities with making certain the virtual research project receives the attention it deserves.

Again, you can find information on the summer curriculum and other activities on both the curriculum schedule page and the OITE Upcoming Events page.

Perhaps you are wondering HOW your intern is going to carry out a virtual research project. Enter the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure!

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure: How Summer Interns Will Get Things Done


What Is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure?

VDI is a technology that allows a summer intern to access a virtual desktop environment from a personal computer. The NIH VDI solution your summer intern will be using will provide her/him access to

  • NIH email and standard NIH applications (Microsoft 365, web browsers, Adobe Reader)
  • Web conferencing tools (e.g., Webex, Zoom)
  • File-storage and -sharing tools like OneDrive and SharePoint
  • IC-specific applications (e.g., Matlab, graphpad, python)
  • NIH enterprise systems including Biowulf, QVR, nVision, and the NIH Library

How Will My Summer Intern Get Access to VDI?


Accessing VDI is a three-step process: (1) your intern will need an Active Directory account in the NIH Enterprise Directory and the associated username and password, (2) the intern must set up multi-factor authentication (MFA) so that she/he can use a personal computer to access the VDI, and (3) the intern will download/login to the VDI. The result will be that your intern will be working on a virtual Windows 10 machine.

What Does This Mean for You as a Mentor?

Luckily for all of us, CIT has been working non-stop not only to make VDI available, but also to generate informative documents and help systems to get the interns going and solve their problems. Be certain to read the CIT VDI documentation so you can be supportive.

Your job will be to make certain that your intern’s instance of VDI includes the applications and tools needed for the research project. We believe that they will already have been loaded onto the desktop. If this is not the case, you will interface with the VDI IT contacts in your IC and with CIT to remedy the situation.

Other Resources to Help You and Your Summer Intern Make It through the Summer

The Virtual Mentoring Experience: Let's Talk about It!


The summer virtual mentoring experience will come with its shining moments and unexpected challenges.  Please join your fellow summer virtual mentors and Dr. Milgram to discuss your experiences, ideas, and challenges.  Grab your coffee or tea and attend this informal drop-in discussion and encouraging space for mentors! NOTE: The meeting link will be included in the OITE events email the morning of each session. If you have questions or cannot access the link, please email Dr. Ulli Klenke.

    • 3:00 pm, ET June 17; Getting started
    • 3:00 pm, ET July 1; Resilience and empathic communication
    • 3:00 pm, ET July 15; Feedback and difficult conversations
    • 3:00 pm, ET July 29; Getting set to say good-bye

Resources from the OITE

Other Resources

Writing Letters of Recommendation

Writing a Letter of Recommendation - Tips for Mentors from the OITE Careers Blog; see also Gender and Letters of Recommendation for Academia: Agentic and Communal Differences (2009) Madera, JM et al., Journal of Applied Psychology 94: 1591-1599.