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. 

New projects are offered each summer, with updates posted in mid-February. Applicants are welcome to apply to more than one project. 


Applications for 2020 internships are now open! The program runs from Monday, June 22, 2020 through Monday, August 3, 2020.

Applications are due Monday, March 2, 2020. All applicants chosen to be a 2020 Women in Science intern will be notified the week of March 30, 2020.


Application Instructions

  1. Visit our application site to apply.
  2. Sign up for an account and follow the confirmation instructions or sign in if you already have an account.
  3. Click on the “View Programs” button. Next, click “Create Submissions” and then “Start.”
  4. Fill out the application, selecting the internship(s) you would like to apply to and answering all of the applicable questions.
  5. One letter of recommendation from a non-family member is required as part of the application process. They will submit this letter of recommendation via the application platform.
  6. All application materials, including letters of recommendation, must be received by Monday, March 2, 2020.  All application materials, including letters of recommendation, must be received by Monday, March 2, 2020. 
  7. All applicants chosen to be a 2020 Women in Science intern will be notified the week of March 30, 2020.

General Qualifications

  1. Those who are undergraduates at the time of the application should apply for the undergraduate internship. Those who are high school students at the time of the application should apply for the high school internship.
  2. Talented and motivated individuals interested in the sciences; those who identify as female are highly encouraged to apply.
  3. Applicants must be connected with a Chicagoland or Northwest Indiana address (whether it is your permanent residence, or that of a person you know who you would live with during your internship).
  4. Applicants must be 16 years old by June 22, 2020.

2020 Projects

Expand each listing below for more details on each project.

In the course of this project, the interns will

  • Investigate Carboniferous (~320-310 million-year-old) coal swamp plants for fossil fungi by creating and microscopically examining paleontological thin-sections
  • Contribute to a citizen science-driven project in which they will isolate, culture, and collect/analyze ecological data for fungi inhabiting urban milkweeds

Plants and fungi have engaged in a continuum of mutualistic to pathogenic relationships throughout geologic time; today ~90% of all plants on Earth form mycorrhizae (symbiotic associations with fungal partners) and most also have complex mycobiomes of latent pathogens, putative mutualists, or weakly parasitic fungi.

Intern Responsibilities

  • Prepare paleontological thin-sections (1-2 per week)
  • Conduct microscopic examinations of thin-sections, photomicrography of fungal fossils
  • Prepare fungal growth media
  • Execute isolation, culturing, and maintenance of fungal cultures

Following training, you will work as a member of an independent team with frequent progress meetings with Dr. Klymiuk. You will also be expected to contribute to long-term collections-space projects for a portion of most days (e.g., ongoing inventory of fossil plant collection, outreach, Collections Club, social media content creation). You may work alongside other interns or volunteers, and may be responsible for providing training and oversight for some work in those cases.

Expect long (1-2 hour) periods of sustained standing. Some people experience motion-sickness with prolonged microscope use. Possible environmental allergen exposure (Aspergillus or Penicillium). Thin-sectioning can exacerbate existing carpal tunnel syndrome. Short intervals of heavy (50-60 lb) team-lifting may be asked of you but will not be required.

Specific Qualifications

  • Talented and motivated individuals interested in the sciences; Minority and indigenous students, first-generation scholars, students with non-traditional educational backgrounds, and those who identify as female are highly encouraged to apply
  • Focused, responsible, pragmatic, and goal-oriented
  • Work well in dynamic teams, and communicate clearly (verbally and through writing)
  • Thrive in a self-regulated environment, but do not hesitate to ask for clarification of process, goals, or theory
  • Organized, detail-oriented, and skilled at time management
  • Must be willing to commit to ensuring that our space/teams are places of support and safety for LGBT2SQIA and neurodiverse persons

The interns will work on cataloging about 5,000 Invertebrates fossils from the recently acquired James and Sylvia Konecny collection. This will include working directly with the fossils and our EMu database.

Intern Responsibilities

  • Enter label data into our EMu database, number specimens, and create labels for the specimens
  • Photograph selected specimens and research these fossils for potential sharing on the Field’s blog and/or social media
  • The high school and undergraduate interns will have the same duties and should be able to help each other, especially with the data entry, photography, and writing

Specific Qualifications

  • Experience with fossil invertebrates, databases, Excel, or photography is helpful but not required

During the course of this internship, students will be asked to help create tables that organize and digitize our information, webpages, infographics, or photo galleries that help us tell the story of how people in the Andes Amazon live and how they make decisions regarding their natural resources. In the Andes Amazon, there is an intimate link between healthy forests and the well-being of people who live in and around them. Therefore, in order for conservation efforts to be successful, they must take into account and have active participation from the indigenous and rural communities in the region. 

For more than a decade the Field Museum’s Keller Science Action Center has been working to make conservation a truly participatory process by empowering local communities, government agencies, and allies. We use research and participatory methods to create ways for local people to discuss their resource management priorities collectively, reflect on trade-offs between different ways to use land and resources, and make their decisions based on their own cultural values and aspirations. This project will help organize and analyze social science data such as participatory maps, existing museum collections, social network mapping, interviews, and photographs from the Andes Amazon region, in particular from the Putumayo region.

Intern Responsibilities

  • Work as a team to analyze and organize social science data from rapid inventories and quality-of-life-planning work in the Andes Amazon
  • Create an infographic for Rapid Inventory 31 showcasing our results
  • Create infographics and other content for digital and print communication materials

Specific Qualifications

  • Ability to speak Spanish partly or fluently is required for this internship as the bulk of our data is in Spanish
  • Familiarity with social science methods such as community mapping and interviews would be ideal
  • Knowledge of graphic design and video/photo editing software such as Photoshop or Illustrator and website development such as Wix or WordPress is a plus

Interns will update and recurate our horse fly collection (Diptera: Tabanidae). This collection contains many historically important specimens. However, it has not been updated in a long time to reflect our current knowledge of the group, and a significant part of the specimens in this collection are not identified to genus or species yet. The interns will separate undetermined species to morphotypes, and identify them to genus and species when possible. Interns will also enter specimen data into a database and organize and rehouse the collection, making it neat and accessible to visiting researchers. The inventory that they build will also allow researchers around the world to access our horse fly collection digitally.

Intern Responsibilities

  • Inventory the species, research the historical names of species, learn about taxonomy and the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) 
  • Learn how to use a dichotomous key to identify specimens to genus and species, update names, and enter them into the database
  • Recurate the collection by organizing specimens and adding new labels to drawers and trays, making the collection accessible and organized to visiting scientists

Specific Qualifications

  • Good organizational skills and attention to detail
  • Knowledge of MS Excel and Word
  • Fine manual dexterity
  • Experience updating databases, some knowledge of insect taxonomy, ability to read cryptic handwriting, and good knowledge of geography are preferred

Interns will work with an expert on South American tree diversity and conservation to add dozens of deserving tree species to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This project will help the Global Tree Assessment meet its goal of assessing the conservation threat status of all tree species on Earth by the end of 2020.

Roughly 60,000 different species of trees grow on Earth, where they provide countless benefits for wildlife and human well-being. As forests continue to shrink across much of the world, a large proportion of tree species face the threat of extinction. Unfortunately, conservationists do not yet have clear information regarding which tree species are threatened and to what degree—which severely hampers efforts to prevent extinction. 

To solve this problem, the IUCN Species Survival Commission Global Tree Specialist Group launched the Global Tree Assessment in 2015 with the goal of assessing the conservation threat status of all tree species on Earth by the end of 2020. Field Museum scientists in the Action, Research, and Collections Centers have helped assess several hundred species to date. However, as the deadline approaches, thousands more remain to be assessed.

Interns will be housed in the Museum's Keller Science Action Center, where they will assess the conservation status of South American tree species based on research they personally carry out in the Field Museum's vascular plant specimen collection and global biodiversity datasets. The position requires specific technical skills that will be taught at the beginning of the training via hands-on instruction and online training modules. All required training for herbarium work will be provided during the internship.

Intern Responsibilities

  • Select an unassessed tree species, identify all known occurrences of that species, map those occurrences, generate estimates of range size, research threats and uses and conservation measures
  • Use this information to assign an IUCN threat category (Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, Least Concern, Data Deficient, etc.) following IUCN criteria
  • Train in IUCN Red List assessments and the use of the IUCN Species Information System
  • Communicate your work with the public via the Science Hub in Stanley Field Hall, and articles in Field Museum publications like Natural News and In the Field

Specific Qualifications

  • Comfortable with writing and carrying out research online