Department of Earth Sciences
Newton Horace Winchell School of Earth Sciences

Summer Internship Program

UPDATE: Unfortunately we were just notified by the US National Science Foundation that it would not support our internship program in the coming summer. This was quite unexpected after running the program very successfully over the past 16 years. 

As a result, I regret to inform you that we will need to cancel the summer internship program. I hope that you will be able to turn to other worthwhile opportunities in the summer. 

Finally, I note that some of our faculty may be interested in accepting  a limited number of summer interns with their own funds. You may hear from us in that case.

Our Department is seeking undergraduate science majors to participate in a 10 week NSF-sponsored summer research program designed around the theme of "Physics, Chemistry, and Biology in Earth Processes from Surface to Core". Participants will work on individual research projects with individual faculty members and their research groups.


Here is a list of possible faculty sponsors and research areas, with links to their web pages

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About the Program

The main goal of the program is to provide students with the opportunity to "learn by doing" and to gain scientific research as undergraduates.  Through this program, we hope to encourage students to pursue graduate studies and academic careers in the physical and biological sciences. The general theme of the internship program is "Physics, chemistry, and biology in Earth processes from surface to core." Earth sciences are exceptionally interdisciplinary. Concepts and tools from physics, chemistry, and biology are fundamental to understanding Earth processes. For example, first principles of fluid mechanics govern convection of fluid iron in the outer core, dynamics of the mantle, groundwater flow through porous media, and general circulation of the ocean and atmosphere. Our grasp of chemical and physical properties of rocks and minerals at different temperatures and pressures, with and without water, forms the foundation of current knowledge about the geochemical and geodynamical evolution of Earth’s principal layers.


Near the surface, Earth processes are understood in terms of physics and chemistry but also increasingly in terms of biology. For example, in the hydrothermal vent systems at mid-ocean ridges, fluids with very high temperatures and enriched in elements not abundantly present in seawater emanate from the vents. Understanding the geochemistry of the fluids requires rigorous application of physical chemistry and opens the door to deciphering the long-term evolution of seawater. The vent systems also support unique ecosystems based on chemosynthesis. Microbiological techniques are employed to understand the genetics and energetics of the unique autotrophs and explore the importance of these systems to both modern extreme environments and ancient Earth. On land, the flow of water physically carves the landscape, as rocks are weathered and sediments are transported. In polar latitudes and during the glacial periods, ice drives physical erosion. In warm climates, biology and chemistry drive chemical weathering, which in turn controls the long term evolution of atmosphere, CO2 and thus climate.


Research can be field-oriented, analytical, experimental, or theoretical. In recent years, some interns have conducted field research in British Columbia, Sweden, Montana, Washington (North Cascades), and Minnesota. Interns in the program will work with individual faculty members and their research groups on currently active projects.  Research activities will vary from research group to research group, so we encourage applicants to contact potential advisors to find out more about possible projects.  In past years, some interns have continued their summer research project as senior theses at their own colleges/universities, and some have published their work as papers and/or conference abstracts.


The program offers two opportunities for interns to discuss their research projects. The first mid-program is for interns to briefly and orally describe their projects to other interns, giving them the chance to see the various research projects that are being conducted. The second end-of-program poster session gives the interns opportunities to draw closure to their work and present the research to the department as a whole. (See photos from a recent departmental poster session).


During the summer, interns will go on three field trips.  In the past, interns have explored caves in southern Minnesota and western Wisconsin, gone on a research cruise on Lake Superior, collected fossils, examined 3 billion year old metamorphic rocks, and hiked on billion year old mid-continent rift lavas and intrusions.



The program is designed for a 10 week internship, generally from the beginning of June to mid August.  However, dates are somewhat flexible - individual schedules can be arranged to suit the student and faculty supervisor.  Internships of less than ten weeks may also be arranged.

    • Approximately $5000 will be provided for a 10 week program. In addition, funds are available to reimburse for travel to and from Minneapolis (up to approximately $500).
    • For students from outside the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, housing is provided. Interns will live in double rooms in University of Minnesota dormitories, and are responsible for their own meals.

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    Previous Years' Internships

    This program was started in 1998.  You can learn about the previous years' interns and in which projects they were involved (web site restructuring in progress, if you hit a dead link, please try back later):

    1998 1999    
    2000 2001 2002  
    2003 2004 2005 2006
    2007 2008 2009 2010
    2011 2012 2013  

    Application and Eligibility

    The program is open to undergraduate students majoring in the geosciences, biology, chemistry, physics, math, and other related fields. The majority of students accepted into the program will be from outside the University of Minnesota. We encourage applications from underrepresented minority students from diverse backgrounds.  Freshmen from four year colleges and universities will not be considered, but freshmen from two year colleges will be considered. Seniors from four year colleges and universities are only eligible if they have at least one more semester of undergraduate schooling after the program ends. Students must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States. All application materials must be received by the deadline, February 13, 2015.

    The application must include the following items:

    • Application Form:UMN_intern_application_2015.doc
    • Cover Letter should address your motivation; reason for choosing our UMN program; goals and expectations from our program. Also, note anything else that will help us understand you better.
    • One letter of recommendation from a professor who can vouch for your research experience and/or potential.
    • One original official undergraduate transcript(s).

    Transcripts must be official and sent via postal mail to Ms. Petrie, all other application materials may be sent by email to Ms. Petrie (see contact information below)

    Notification of acceptance will be made in March through April. At that time, faculty members will contact successful applicants to discuss further details of the research projects.

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    Contact Information

    Should you have questions about an individual faculty member and his/her research, you may contact the faculty member directly.  The email addresses are listed on their individual web pages.


    Send application materials (via email), and direct questions about the program to:

    Jennifer Petrie


    Have official transcripts sent to:

    Ms. Jennifer Petrie
    Re: Summer Internship Program
    Department of Earth Sciences
    310 Pillsbury Dr. S.E.
    University of Minnesota
    Minneapolis, MN 55455



    You may also contact Professor Katsumi Matsumoto who is the Program Director.

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