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U to launch engineering research internship for high schoolers

Teen students can now conduct research alongside world-renowned engineering scientists.

We all know about the crazy adventures Marty McFly had with scientist Doc Brown in “Back to the Future.” The University of Utah’s College of Engineering isn’t going to promise a trip back in time, but it is offering an exciting opportunity for high school students to conduct important hands-on research with some of our celebrated professors.

For the first time, the college is introducing a new summer internship program for students in which teens can spend eight weeks with U engineering professors and work on high-scale research in fields from civil and environmental engineering to mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering and computer science. During that time, the students will also create a project for the upcoming Utah Science and Engineering Fair, which will be held the following spring.

The “University of Utah College of Engineering Summer Research Internship (SRI)” welcomes any high school students planning to graduate in either 2023 or 2024 (current sophomores or juniors) to apply for the program, which runs June 6 through July 29 on the U’s College of Engineering campus in Salt Lake City. Click here to register. The deadline for registration is Feb. 18.

Program coordinator Megan Deon Bettilyon hopes to choose 40 to 50 applicants who will participate. Anywhere from one to three students will be working with each professor. Each week will include 30 hours of research and five hours of workshops and field trips, and it is currently expected to be an in-person internship, depending on the status of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This will be interesting, engaging, hands-on actual research, not just being a lab assistant,” Bettilyon said about the work the students will be doing. “And they will have an opportunity to pick what they want to do within the realm of that professor’s existing research.”

There are no educational requirements to apply for the internship other than the mentioned graduation dates, though certain professors may require a student have minimum math readiness or other basic technical skills.

There is no cost to participate in the program, though this is not a paid internship nor will students be provided on-campus housing. But Bettilyon said the opportunity to work with engineering professors will be a big boost for students’ college applications.

“Students who are interested in going into engineering, if they do this kind of internship in the summer, they can come to college in their first year already having the experience of working in a lab, and this gives them a huge leg up,” she said.

The University of Utah’s College of Engineering has more than 210 world-renowned tenure-track faculty members in seven engineering departments as well as in nuclear engineering, metallurgical engineering and one of the top video game design programs in the U.S.