Fellow Alumni Reflections
* Reminder the program’s name changed from internship program to policy fellowship program in September 2004
“Anyone who is thinking of leaving the lab environment should do this internship. It’s a great experience.”
“This program is a great way to transition into a policy career. The encouragement to go to hearings seminars, and network were key to getting a real flavor for the policy sector. The experience can only enhance your future job regardless of what direction you pursue. And it’s a great way to meet people with similar interests outside of academia!”
“For a science Ph.D. who is not so sure about a career in either academia or industry, this internship is a fantastic opportunity to learn a lot about what else is out there. Even those planning to return to either academia or industry will bring with them invaluable knowledge about the policy and politics of science in Washington DC.”
“This is an all-around great program; it was “educational” and it was fun. I’d recommend it, even if you don’t know much about policy (like me) or don’t think you want to go into it. I’ve never followed politics much, but seeing how the government works and being so close to it all was fascinating even for me.”
“This internship provides a great opportunity to get one’s “feet wet” with respect to policy and the workings of Washington, DC. So, wade. Get those feet wet!”
“Enjoy your time here and go to a variety of committee meetings, congressional and senate meetings as you can with your fellow interns.”
“This internship program is a great way to get a broad introduction to science policy and to start building your network of connections in the science policy field.”
“Being a part of the NRC allows one to not only learn from and network with leading scientists and policy makers, but also to contribute to the betterment of society. Being an intern allows one to have the benefits of on-the-job learning, without the fear of being fired for mistakes!”
“Bring comfortable shoes – you’ll do A LOT of walking in this city.”
“The Academies is a prestigious organization that plays a vital role in science policy. Interning here can definitely be a valuable and enjoyable experience.”
“Great opportunity to immerse yourself in the Sci/Tek policy culture in Washington. Be prepared to interact with people from a multitude of backgrounds and expertise. I would expect that if you are applying to, or even considering applying to this program, you probably already think you know how Washington works. Honey, you ain’t seen anything yet!”
“It’s great! Definitely a great experience for any scientist!”
“Your experience as an intern at the NRC will be what you make of it. If you approach the experience as an opportunity to learn and contribute substantively to the efforts of your board, you will be awarded with projects and tasks that will allow you to do so. If on the other hand, you are looking for a "glitzy" internship with which to pad your resume and approach the experience as such, you will be rewarded with less-substantive and intellectually demanding work."
“Relish the experience of escaping your graduate-student identity for the summer.”
“Take advantage of making contacts through your Board. The National Academies are a great place to meet people who are experts in your field. Explore D.C. The city is a great place for arts, food, sports and Happy Hours. Food is expensive in DC. Be prepared. Don’t spend your stipend money before you even get here.”
"This is an important career building opportunity for people interested in the scientific community outside academia. Even if you plan to pursue a traditional academic track, seeing science from a policy perspective is very enlightening. There is something valuable in this experience for first year grad students to recent Ph.D’s. Come with an open mind and expect to learn more than you bargained for."
"You’d be silly not to."
"This is a wonderful and professional program. If you decide to take on the responsibility, make the most of utilizing your mentor, Capitol Hill, and the Academies itself. The time goes quick and DC offers a wealth of information, contacts, and first-hand policy decision making experience."
"Make the most of your opportunities while at the Academies. If you are interested in a certain program or project go talk to those in charge – they will value your ideas and appreciate your interest. Who knows, you could be asked to help out!"
"Make sure you balance the time with your assigned board with your time in Washington. Attend that congressional hearing or seminar you are interested in – you may only have the opportunity once!"
"Becoming an NRC intern will provide an opportunity to work for a well-respected and professionally run non-governmental institution. The work carried out within the National Academies is varied, allowing an intern to work with, or at least be exposed to, issues within the intern’s field of interest. It’s not easy for graduate students to get a chance like this so I would make the most of it by asking questions, attending committee meetings and congressional hearings, and spreading your name around among those who you would like to work with. However, the intern must work hard in order to prove that s/he is worthy of an employment recommendation. I think your mentor could make or break an employment possibility because of the stature of this institution. The internship expects and deserves hard work and dedication from the interns."
"I thought the NRC internship was a wonderful experience, and I came away from it with a better understanding of how science and its application relates to the public. The internship provides a way to learn about science policy, to meet the experts from around the country in your field, and to understand the organizations and structure of Washington."
"I would recommend that they communicate as much as possible with former interns and with the units to which they are considering applying. That way they can have a clear idea of what sort of situation they are getting into and what kind of experience they can look forward too."
"A wonderful opportunity to check out science policy and DC life! Definitely don’t miss out."
"DO IT! Talk to your mentors and other staff on your board before you come down. Keep an open mind and you will learn more than you expect."
"The internship is a great introduction to the working of science policy and advising. I knew very little about policy to begin with and this summer was perfect for someone just starting to consider policy as a career interest. However, other interns had quite a bit of experience in this area and still got a lot out of the internship. In addition to gaining insight into policy development, trips to places like the Urban Institute and AED as well as various congressional meetings provided a fascinating look at political life. The NAS internship is not only flexible enough to allow you to visit other institutions, they strongly encourage it. I also was able to hone various important skills for my graduate work such as writing literature reviews and working in various professional groups. If you get a chance, I would strongly recommend attending a committee meeting to watch the consensus forming processing up close and personal. It is fascinating to see experts from different fields sit down together and engage in thoughtful conversation with the intent on agreeing. The group dynamics are amazing to watch! Another great aspect of the program is that you are one of a group. Really get to know the other interns. Our group came from a variety of fields I might not normally interact with and they offered great points of view as well as friendship. Overall, it was a fantastic learning experience."
“It is a great experience to learn about how research data can lead to policy. I would recommend it to every scientist.”
“Being a research fan, I cannot believe that I enjoyed so much working outside a chemistry laboratory.”
“Unlike my experience, I heard that a few individual were a little bored and had not much to do. I would suggest that you make sure that Boards are truly in need for interns before any interns commit to that unit and that mentors really have the time to assist interns and to guide them.”
“This program provides people with the opportunity to gain policy experience in the most appropriate setting, Washington, DC. However, interns will have the most rewarding experiences if they take initiative and take advantage of other available opportunities such as attending Congressional hearings, meeting other NAS employees and maintaining connections, and meeting other leaders in their fields of interest. Do not spend three months in Washington without seeking out other opportunities. This program is geared towards people who will look beyond their 9-5 jobs and try to complement their work with other enriching experiences.”
“A great opportunity to…
See how science influences politics in Washington.
Learn how research is transformed into government policy.
Meet scientists who guide the President and Congress.
Watch as NAS research reports make the news!”
“Go ahead with your application for internship in National Academy of Science (NAS). This internship will offer you the best experience in academic pursuit. Your internship there will only enhance your professional background but nothing to lose. Devoting your bit for the national academy will be rewarded abundantly soon in NAS, in DC, and in future career build-up. Go Ahead! Your choice is absolutely on the right track!”
“This internship delivers everything it promises and more. For me the most amazing aspect of the program has been the opportunity to work with such an amazing range of people including lawyers, economists, doctors, engineers, scientists, judges, corporate CEOs, journalists, policy makers, and politicians. The program has given me a fresh perspective on my research and the world of politics and policy.
“The program makes you look at the skills developed in graduate school in a completely new light and opens your eyes to a new world of career possibilities.”
“This program is unique in that it attracts graduate students from all different disciplines and regions throughout the country and world. We all are like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, coming from diverse scientific backgrounds. We each have something new and intriguing to contribute to the summer group experience. Never before have I had the opportunity to interact with so many students who represent such an array of scientific fields. This in itself was such a powerful learning tool.”
"I'm going to be doing research on positive youth development, fatherhood issues, and the effects of welfare on children. They're all projects that I'm excited about! And, I have to say, that working at the NRC probably helped get me the job. When I interviewed, they asked if I could work on multiple projects (and if I had ever experienced the cost center system). When I stressed the fact that I had been at the NRC, I think that they were readily convinced that I could do the job. One more thing to use to plug the internship: "Participate in the NRC internship and great jobs await!"
“The National Academies Internship has been one of the most valuable life experiences I have had thus far. In the ten weeks of this internship, I have not only been exposed to the exciting work done at the Academies, but also to policymaking related to research undertaken by the National Academies, within the unique setting of Washington D.C., where “it all happens.” The scope of the influence of the Academies in helping shape science, medical and engineering related policy is amazing to witness. Through this internship, I have learned more about my work as a social scientist than I imagined, and I have a better sense of how my research can relate to public policy.”
“If you can, get in touch with your mentor before you join the NRC. A good professional relationship with her/him can definitively open many interesting doors. Also, read some reports of your committee, so you don’t have to start from scratch. And be prepared to take initiative and design your own summer project. At times the mentor can be very busy or out of town, so it helps if you actively pursue relevant projects without much guidance. Furthermore, don’t miss out on congressional hearings and other activities on Capitol Hill. Observing senators and representatives in action in one of the most beautiful buildings of this country is definitively worth some hours. Finally, check out the phenomenal Library of Congress and the many free films in the museums on the Mall!”
“The NRC is a great place to make contacts with brilliant people in your field, an ideal spot to begin your job search.”
“This internship was an incredible chance to learn about issues outside of my specific field of research. I've learned an enormous amount and am so glad I took advantage of a wide variety of experiences both here at the NRC and in DC in general.”
“If you want to learn about the interaction of science and policy in the United States this is the place to do it. I cannot think of a more innovative and powerful organization that does this type of research.”
“Do this! Great people (interns and staff), and you can find out just how strange DC actually is and someone will pay you for the adventure (you won't get rich, but you will eat...). If you work to make this experience yours, it will be well worth every effort. Like many things, though, it isn't a free ride. If this isn't what you expected coming in, that may be partly because this isn't like many other institutions. But if you are flexible, and are willing to take part of the responsibility for what is going on in the area to which you are assigned, then you will learn something. That something may not be what you expected to learn, but it will be useful. Just be sure to introduce yourself to everybody within sight -- including the security guards, shuttle drivers, and other workers. While "important people" may be useful to your future life, the other folks who work here can make contributions to your stay that you need or want, even though you may not realize beforehand that you either need or want their help! (And besides, it'll make your stay here even more pleasant.)”
"If you are considering a career in science policy it is a must do. Only through actually experiencing Washington can such a career decision be made."
“Learn policy making in Washington DC in a friendly atmosphere, without harassment, while getting paid for it. Get an education and a tan as well!!”
“This is a wonderful experience if you feel like you’re practicing science out of a social context and you want to become a professional who is conscious of how science and policy interact so that you may become a better-informed and more active participant in the process.”
“Great opportunities for social interactions with fellow interns, people in the academy, and others. From the first day on the program you are involved in all kinds of social activities you can imagine, much more fun than being just an “independent” intern. When you are not at work just be a tourist in Washington and in the area, there are plenty of exciting plays and festivals, etc. Just be sure to rent in place that has A/C.”
“A summer internship at the NRC offers the chance to learn about the National Academy of Science, a unique organization, and to meet interesting people who are participating in the internship. NAS has a friendly atmosphere, with an appreciation of scientific discovery and advancement, and the experience can provide career connections, for those who are interested.”
“Be prepared to work hard but have a great 10 week ride. Be sure to attend as many tours as possible - which may be difficult because you have to balance work with play.”
“It is an awesome opportunity that can change that way you think about your career opportunities.”
“If you are a scientist chances are that the scope of your studies has become very specific. The internship at the National Academy of Sciences is an excellent opportunity to broaden your science understanding and to realize the contributions you make to field with your specialized interests.”
“The NRC Internship program provides an exceptional opportunity for scientists to explore various facets of scholarly research and policymaking. As an intern, you will work with an eclectic mix of highly educated, diverse intellectuals who help advance the future of science. You will leave not only armed with important and influential contacts but also with invaluable skills and experiences.”
“Don’t be afraid of applying and coming to Washington. When you begin the program, you meet many fascinating people in the other interns, and the people who work for the Academies in all manner of capacities. The whole summer is an experience that was well worth delaying graduating a quarter for. I would do it again!”
"For students who are interested in a policy career or being involved in policy from their own field this is the perfect opportunity to see how it works. The many things I learned do not fit into a neat package but I know I will use them often in the future. And, it’s fun."
“This program will open your mind to a world rarely envisioned from the confines of laboratory bench work. I learned an immeasurable amount about the policy and politics behind science-and after the internship opens your mind, it opens career doors.”
“Go for it. And if you come here, don't sit in your office all summer. There's a lot more to being an NRC intern than working at the Academy. Also, call your Congressional representative and ask him/her to sign you up for VIP tours. This will save you hours of waiting on line at popular sights like the White House.”
“THUMBS UP to everybody!! Definitely encourage anyone applying to the program.
The NRC internship is a great experience where you can learn about other career opportunities in science that would be difficult for many to find out about without such a program.”
“This program has been a great experience, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who asked me.”
“The potential for learning at the Academy is tremendous. Whether you are in the social sciences, life sciences, engineering, or some other discipline, there is something to be learned here at the highest level. Granting oneself this opportunity by applying can yield a notable reward.“
“I would encourage other students to apply for this program, because it is a unique learning experience. Even if you are not interested in policy directly, policy will affect your research or teaching, and this program gives you the opportunity to see how some policy decisions are made. The ten weeks spent in this program were an enrichment and growing experience for me, and has opened my eyes to career opportunities that I was not aware of before.”
“This internship is an exciting eye-opening experience which provides students a glimpse into the most influential scientific advisory agency in our country. It has been a phenomenal summer!”
“Interning at the Academy also exposes you to other groups in DC (government and non-government) and around the country and sometimes world. I think that while Academy is in a unique position, it does more to investigate the boundaries and uses of science and technology because of its interactions and connections. The staff is so receptive to all questions from your internship project requirements to future career plans. I encourage you to get to know your intern cohort and take advantage of all the recreational opportunities that DC and the surrounding areas have to offer.
Remember to take some time to explore the agencies rather than work all day... maybe one day a week. Also, people are more willing to chat about what they work on than you might think.”
“Typically students have more than one choice pending over the summer, so opportunity costs are important. Shop around! Compare the NRC intern program with almost any other summer activity, and you will find the NRC internship hard to beat.
For anyone else who is thinking about applying, I would tell them do not pass up one of the best experiences of your academic career. The NRC internship was gave me greater focus and direction, truly valuable experiences, and a lot of fun with intelligent and talented scholars and has made me a better scientist in the process!
Come with an open mind. Be flexible. And be prepared to read a lot and then speak to what you have found. Talk with other interns and staff outside of your assigned area on a regular basis. Read/scan some of the published reports from the unit where you will work prior to starting the internship so that you have a sense of what study reports look like.”
“I would like to tell prospective interns that this place, the Academy, the work done here and the work that you will do here is something special and rare. Enthusiasm for science here is infectious and you get the idea that your presence is seen as good and stimulating and somehow meaningful. You will learn a lot and come away with a feeling that more needs to be done and that you can do it. I am left with a sense of accomplishment that I didn't expect to have and a sense of possibility, which is even better.”
“This experience is invaluable for graduate students who want to make the transition from benchwork to policy. It is the best way to do it. The ideal intern is outgoing, enthusisastic, and curious, and not afraid to ask questions. This program is great for a policy novice (like me) as well as for someone who has had exposure to policy already. It really gets one up-to-speed. I highly recommend it.”
“Very good program. Enjoy your stay here in DC and make sure that you experience all of what DC has to offer.”
“My experience working at the NRC was professionally beneficial in a unique way. The Academy fulfills an important role in national science policy, and the knowledge gained from interacting with Academy people provides valuable insight on the interaction of science and public policy.”
“Really think about which units you would like to be assigned to, and contact people in those units before applying to get a better sense of where you would best fit. I would also caution students to be prepared to take on a lot of initiative, and to come to the internship with both an open mind and a willingness to get involved in whatever projects their respective units are currently engaged in.”
"Ten weeks of time devoted to the lab might yield 1 real result. Ten weeks of time devoted to this program will give you a broader perspective of the interaction of science and society, and societies impact on science. This information could be useful for a lifetime.
"For those worried about a potential 10 week cut in pay, think of it as a long term investment in yourself."
"Working at the National Research Council has really been an eye-opening experience. It allows you to see the big picture of how science can affect society as a whole. Its also a great opportunity to learn how science doctorates can get involved in other areas besides research such as policy or education."
"I highly recommend the program to anyone interested in science and technology policy and the government. This is a great opportunity to get hands on experience with science policy and learn the workings of Washington. The assignments will not necessarily be related to your graduate work but the skills you learned during graduate school are applicable. You will participate in individual projects and also go to meetings within and outside the Academy that will generate a broad picture of science policy. Furthermore, people at the Academy are very open to sharing their career experiences and you can learn much about your potential future directions."
"This is a program for young scientists and engineers to take two and half months to immerse themselves in a particular aspect of science and technology policy of interest to them and at the same time obtain a really broad view of many policy areas of national and global significance.
"It is the first time since college that I had two and half months to spend all of my time exploring and thinking about so many diverse subject areas from automated highway systems to radioactive waste management to the ethical implications of informed consent in clinical trials to the implementation of science education reform measures.
"This was the best way I can imagine to spend a summer for someone who is interested in or is contemplating a career in science and technology policy."
"This is a wonderful opportunity for graduates to broaden their experience, minds, and find new career paths. This internship presents a wonderful chance to learn about science and technology policy where it really happens. You will be immersed in an intense and motivating environment and given the opportunity to have a hand in creating science and technology policy that will directly affect the future of the U.S. Many of you will be choosing between a job in your chosen field or this internship and as a first year law student; I could have taken a job with a law firm for the summer. Your field will always be there when you get back from the summer, but this is a rare opportunity to get involved with an organization that tries to make a difference in everything it does. If that doesn't sell you, then perhaps this is not the right place."
"I would just say that the Internship Program is a great chance to learn a great deal about science policy in a relatively short time."
"Jane Groan, Eefke Smith, and Juurd Eijsvoogel in The Discipline of Curiosity state: Scientific information is essential, not only for the scientist. The politician, the entrepreneur and the public at large need to know about it too. The people find that neither the mass media nor the specialized scientific press are providing the information needed. General information is no longer enough, specialist information is only digestible for the learned. Who will bridge the gap?
"It is our responsibility: after all isn't the point of science to understand the world well enough to survive in it? It is not only our responsibility to understand how to do science, but also to understand what to do with it. The NRC-IP is a unique opportunity to experience and appreciate the meaning of science."
"If there's a better internship around Washington DC for people interested in policy issues, Id like to know about it.
"The National Academy of Science internship provides experience of the nexus between science and policy making in a setting that provides interns unprecedented access."