Field Museum Women in Science Internships

Field Museum Women in Science (FMWIS) and the Women's Board are proud to offer the Women in Science Internships. This program aims to build a foundation and set the standard for diversity across the museum and within the sciences through student internships.  

Interns work in departments throughout the museum. They gain knowledge and experience in the sciences by engaging in collections-based research and communicating science to a broader community. The program hosts five high school and five undergraduate paid interns for six weeks in the summer each year.

All interns work full-time, five days per week, 8:30am to 4:30pm (unless otherwise arranged with the supervisor). Applicants must be a Chicagoland or Northwest Indiana resident. 

2021 internships

All internships are hosted online. Interns are expected to work full-time, Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm (unless otherwise arranged with the supervisor).

To qualify, applicants must:

  • Be an undergraduate at time of application.
  • Be talented and motivated individuals interested in the sciences. (Those who identify as female are highly encouraged to apply.)
  • Have an Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, or Michigan address to be considered

How to apply

Applications for our 2021 internships are now closed.

For questions about your application or the internships program please contact Lesley de Souza, ldesouza@fieldmuseum.org.

2021 projects

An image of a zorilla digging captured on a wildlife camera

Scientist: Dr. Adam Ferguson

The development of high-quality but inexpensive camera traps has revolutionized our ability to study elusive animals inhabiting remote corners of the globe. Museum scientists often deploy such cameras to augment their traditional survey techniques for assessing an area's biodiversity. Nocturnal and difficult to observe species such as mammalian carnivores are particularly conducive to studies using camera traps. This project will use camera trap images from two studies focused on small carnivores in Kenya, the (1) dung dependency project and (2) mammals of the Mau Forest study. Project (1) employs camera traps to study small carnivore interactions with natural, anthropogenic, and manipulative concentrations of animal dung, a key resource for insect eating carnivores like mongooses, genets, and zorillas. Project (2) is using remote camera traps to study the mammal fauna of the nearly inaccessible Mau Forest, Kenya's wettest and least studied forest. Join Field Museum scientists in their efforts to use technology to document and study Kenya's elusive mammals and test hypotheses regarding impacts of human disturbance on mammal behavior and diversity.

Apply

Image of a fossilized, feathered dinosaur.

Scientist: Dr. Jingmai O’Connor

A recent breakthrough in the study of feathered dinosaurs is the discovery that the structures responsible for melanin-based coloration—melanosomes—quite commonly fossilize. This allows paleontologists to at least partially reconstruct plumage coloration in extinct birds and other feathered dinosaurs. In this project, melanosomes will be measured from SEM images taken from samples of fossil feathers from Early Cretaceous birds and compared statistically to a database of extant avian melanosomes in order to determine color and understand Early Cretaceous plumage color diversity. Access allowing, samples may also be collected from fossil birds in the FMNH collection from the Green River Formation and examined under SEM in search of melanosomes in these younger Eocene birds.

Apply

Image of a fish

Scientists: Dr. Andrew George and Dr. Lesley de Souza 

Fish biologists Andrew George and Lesley de Souza are seeking an intern to join an exciting conservation project. This project combines specimen-based functional morphology, biogeography and evolutionary biology research techniques to assess the impacts of protection status on the biodiversity (number of species) and functional diversity (variety of ecological roles) of characiform fishes in and around Yaguas National Park, Peru. We are studying relationships between fish body shapes, habitat use, and geographical distribution to better understand how trends among fish form and function can inform conservation efforts. With about 2,000 species of ecologically and morphologically diverse fishes including piranhas, tetras, and hatchetfishes, the order Characiformes is as an ideal system for our research. Freshwater hatchetfishes in the family Gasteropelecidae inhabit a variety of river, stream and lake ecosystems across South America. More than half of the species can be found in the Yaguas River watershed, both inside and outside of national park protection boundaries. These unusual fish species eat a variety of organisms on the water’s surface and use their unusually large pectoral fins to launch themselves out of the water when threatened by predators. The intern on this project will learn how to use photographs of museum specimens to quantify morphological diversity and how to use online databases to study the geographical distributions and ecological requirements of these species. She will apply these skills to study how hatchetfish morphology is related to the geographical and ecological distributions of these fishes in both evolutionary and conservation contexts. The intern will be involved in experimental design, data collection, statistical analyses, and dissemination of results in written and oral formats. She will also gain mentorship experience by working with high school student researchers on this project. Finally, the hatchetfish data and results collected during this internship will be applied to a larger characiform-wide study to more broadly assess fish conservation efforts in the Yaguas River watershed.

Apply

Two researchers reviewing collections materials in a lab.

Scientist: Dr. Matt Von Konrat

Matt von Konrat is a researcher at the Field Museum interested in the biodiversity of ferns, mosses, and moss-like plants called liverworts. This internship would be focusing on these early land plants, which are used as environmental indicators of climate change and are considered evolutionary very significant. These early land plants have an amazing evolutionary history spanning 420 million years ago and were the dominant plant groups for hundreds of millions of years afterwards. Today these ecologically significant group of plants form a dominant and conspicuous part of the ecosystem in many regions all around the world. You will join a team helping unlock valuable information from 1000’s of scientific collections. This will include the capture of digital images and data on the distribution and biology of fossil and modern ferns and their relatives. Some plants are microscopic in their size, yet have remarkable and stunning features that can also be investigated. The project will provide online access of collections data to researchers worldwide who will be able to address pressing questions about the evolution, distribution, and biology of land plants. Applications of this data extend to conservation, climate change, and global warming. You will be joining a research and collection team that are directly involved in projects funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). In addition to collections-based research, there is the potential to be involved in community science projects connecting natural history to the general public and educators and students. Opportunities might also extend to machine learning depending on interest and skill set. Machine learning applications have achieved state-of-the-art performance in various computer vision tasks and have been applied to medical diagnoses and speech recognition. Images produced during this project can be applied to this rapidly expanding technology. This has substantial potential for supporting taxonomy, natural history collection management, and species identification using previously unidentified morphological landmarks, and for understanding important evolutionary and ecological innovations.

Apply