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Summer Internship Program (SIP) Frequently Asked Questions

What is a reliable source of information on the Summer Internship Program?
Your 2017 Summer Handbook is a good place to start.  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.)

Where can I find a list of SIP stipends?
SIP stipends are determined by educational level.  Stipends are established each March by the Scientific Directors and are published in an appendix to the IRTA Manual Chapter.

I am not yet eighteen years old.  I think I will need a Work Permit.  How can I find out about that?
Visit http://www.dllr.state.md.us/labor/wages/empm.shtml#minorinst External Link for information on obtaining work permits in the State of Maryland.

Are there any rules that will apply to my summer experience at the NIH?
If you are appointed as an IRTA, please refer to http://oma1.od.nih.gov/manualchapters/person/2300-320-7/ for a complete description of the rules and regulations that apply to IRTA appointments.  You are a "Student" IRTA.  If you are a summer intern in the National Cancer Institute, you are a CRTA.  You should refer to http://intranet.cancer.gov/admin/crta/.

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?
Begin by attending an orientation session presented by your Institute or Center (IC) and one of the sessions of "Planning a Successful NIH Summer Internship" offered by the NIH Office of Intramural Training & Education (OITE); this will allow you to begin building your summer network from day one.  Another good way to meet summer interns is to attend career development workshops.  While you are learning how to create a scientific poster or soaking up advice on getting to medical school, you will be meeting summer interns with similar interests.  If you sign up for a summer journal club, you will get to know 15 or 20 summer interns well.

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-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 getting my NIH ID badge or 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 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, 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 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.  Do not be late or absent without letting your supervisor know, preferably in advance.
  • Take the time to observe how the lab works and try to fit in.  If everyone arrives at work at 7:30 am, make certain you arrive at 7:30 am too.  If everyone goes to the WALS lectures on Wednesday, you go too.  If no one uses a cell phone in the lab, turn yours off (unless you are expecting a particularly important call).  The same advice applies to iPods and other electronic devices.
  • Participate actively in lab meeting.
  • Try to learn all you can about the projects going on in your research group, in collaborators' groups, and down the hall.
  • 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 any complex tasks.
  • Try to contribute more than your fair share to keeping the lab running smoothly.
  • Treat EVERYONE in the lab 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 both the 2017 Summer Handbook and the Summer Intern News page on the OITE Web site for information on activities that might enrich your summer experience and explanations of NIH processes, like getting your ID badge and email account or signing up for Transhare.

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.
  • Meet new people; give back to the community.

Does the NIH have a dresscode?
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.

What's the difference between OITE's "Planning a Successful NIH Summer Internship" and the Orientations in the Institutes/Centers (ICs)? Which one should I attend?
"Planning a Successful NIH Summer Internship" is designed to complement orientations in the ICs.  That means you should attend both, and you should be certain to keep them straight.  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 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 get to the NIH?
Yes.  To register for any OITE event before you are actually at the NIH and have your NIH ID badge, 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.