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Summer Internship Program (SIP) and High school SIP (HS-SIP) Frequently Asked Questions

What is a reliable source of information on SIP and HS-SIP?
Your 2021 Summer Handbook is a good place to start. Important note: Please ignore anything in the 2021 Summer Handbook that refers to being at the NIH. As we all now know, the summer program will be completely virtual in 2021.

Are there any rules that will apply to my summer experience "at" the NIH?
The rules and procedures that govern all programs and activities at the NIH are detailed in Manual Chapters.  SIP is part of the Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) program; you can find a complete description of its operation in the IRTA Manual Chapter. (NOTE: If your appointment is in the NCI, the appropriate document is the CRTA Chapter.) As a summer intern, you will be appointed as a Student IRTA.

Where can I find a list of summer stipends?
Summer stipends are determined by educational level.  Stipends are established each March by the Scientific Directors, go into effect on May 1, and are published in an appendix to the IRTA Manual Chapter. All summer interns will be paid stipends in summer 2021.

When and how will I be paid?  When will I get my first paycheck?
NIH Trainees are generally paid on the first of the month for work that was completed during the prior month.  The arrival of your first paycheck will be determined by how quickly your Administrative Officer manages to enter you into the Fellowship Payment Program.

How can I meet other summer interns?
All your meetings will be virtual, but that doesn't prevent you from "meeting" and working with other interesting young scientists. Small group meetings will make meeting other summer interns easier. If you sign up for a summer journal club, you will get to know 15 or 20 summer interns well. Other good choices would be finding an NIH community in which you feel comfortable or joining one of the multiple small group wellness, resilience, or mindfulness meditation groups offered by the OITE. You will find OITE wellness/resilience groups listed on the Summer Intern Wellness "at" the NIH webpage.

How can I make certain I don't miss out on opportunities this summer?
Make certain that you are receiving emails addressed to the OITE-HS-SIP or OITE-SIP listserv.  OITE uses this listserv to communicate official information on summer activities.  If you are not receiving these messages contact us and ask to be added to the listserv.

Where should I go if I need help completing the other administrative tasks associated with starting work at the NIH?
The first person you should contact is your IC Summer Program Coordinator.  These individuals have extensive experience with helping summer interns get started.  Feel free to contact them anytime during the summer, should you have a question.

What if I encounter a serious problem while I am "at" the NIH?
We certainly hope that your summer experience will be terrific and that you will leave the NIH with only good memories.  However, should you encounter difficulties while you are working with us, there are people who can help.  You may want to go first to your principal investigator (PI) or Summer Program Coordinator.  If the problem involves harassment, your being treated badly, something unsafe, or something you suspect may be scientific misconduct, please come to the OITE.  Drs. Sharon Milgram and Pat Sokolove, the Director and Deputy Director of the OITE, will help you work through the problem or will assist you in obtaining the resources you need.  If we are not able to provide the assistance you need, we may refer you to the Office of the Ombudsman, Center for Cooperative Resolution (for professional issues); the Employee Assistance Program (for personal or transition issues in the workplace or beyond); or Civil (for instances of threats or violence or harassment in the workplace).  All of these services are confidential.

How can I make certain I have a successful summer research experience?
Here are some simple suggestions:

  • At the beginning of the summer, discuss expectations with your supervisor.  Make certain that you know what is expected of you, and do your best to meet those expectations.
  • Treat this opportunity like a regular job.  Don't be late for online meetings or absent without letting your supervisor know, preferably in advance.
  • Take the time to observe how the research group works and try to fit in.  If everyone begins work at 7:30 am, make certain you begin at 7:30 am too.  If everyone goes (virtually) to the WALS lectures on Wednesday, you go too.
  • Participate actively in lab meeting.
  • Try to learn all you can about the projects going on in your research group, in collaborators' groups, and in your Lab or Branch.
  • Ask for papers to read, and learn as much as you can about your project.
  • Ask for help when you need it, and write down directions for complex tasks.
  • Try to contribute more than your fair share to keeping the group running smoothly.
  • Treat EVERYONE in the group with respect.

What can I do BEFORE I arrive at the NIH?
Ask your NIH supervisor for references to read in advance so you will be familiar with your experimental system when you arrive.  If appropriate, review course notes on subjects related to your summer research.  You should also check out the page for NIH Trainees entitled "Making the Most of Your NIH Experience" on the OITE website for information ways to spend your time and energy. The Summer Handbook is a good resource on activities that might enrich your summer experience and explanations of NIH processes.

How can I have a successful summer?
Remember that science is your first priority this summer, but that life is always important.  Consider doing some or all of the following:

  • Think more about your next career steps and the skills you will need to succeed, then work on gaining those skills.
  • Learn more about yourself.
  • Explore the Washington, DC, area and the NIH community virtually.
  • Meet new people; give back to the community.

Does the NIH have a dress code?
Here is what the answer to this question in a normal year. Take your cue on what to wear from the others in your group.  In general, researchers wear comfortable clothing that will keep them safe.  In a lab, this means closed toe shoes and long pants.  If others in your group wear jeans and running shoes, feel free to dress that way too.  Remember, you may spend long hours on your feet; make certain your shoes are comfortable.  If you will be seen by patients in the clinic, you should dress more professionally, meaning khakis and a shirt with a collar, a skirt and shirt/top, or a dress. Avoid clothing or accessories that are distracting.  The aim is to look professional and believable.

Here is the answer for summer 2021: This year there are no rules. However, many NIH presenters prefer people who attend their meetings to turn on their cameras. So think about the impression you want to make, and dress accordingly.

This whole summer orientation business looks complex. What's really going on?
There are 3 possible situations:

  1. if you are participating in HS-SIP, you should attend two orientations: one of the mandatory OITE orientations (scheduled for June 21st and 28th from 10:30 am to 2:30 pm) AND your IC orientation.
  2. If you are participating in HS-SIP in an IC that has chosen to provide its own mandatory orientation, you should attend the IC mandatory high school orientation and any other orientation your IC offers.
  3. If you are participating in SIP, we strongly recommend that you attend one of the sessions of "Planning a Successful NIH Summer Internship" (offered by OITE on the four Fridays in June, 10:30 am-12:00 pm) AND your IC orientation.

The OITE focuses on how to be successful in your time here at the NIH and when you move on.  We also talk a lot about getting to know yourself, learning to prioritize wellness and resilience, and developing a career plan.  Your IC Orientation will focus more on the details of your summer position: administrative actions you need to take, safety training, people in your IC you need to know, IC-specific training opportunities.

Can I register for an OITE Orientation before I actually join the NIH?
Yes.  To register for any OITE event before you are actually at the NIH or have access to your NIH credentials, you can create a "Guest" account on the OITE Web site and use that to register.

I have read all of this and I STILL have questions.  What should I do?
Contact us at Summer_Postbac_Questions@mail.nih.gov.  We aim to respond within 24 hours.