Field Museum Women in Science Internships

A lab technician, wearing a striped shirt, blue vest, headset, glasses, and orange protective gloves, holds a tool that looks like a long baster and smiles while looking through an observation window with sticky notes on it

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.

Internships

We are thrilled to be hosting Women in Science interns during the summer. We're accepting applications for the 2022 Women in Science (WIS) Internships.

The internship applicants should be prepared to be in person, not online. Interns are expected to work full-time, Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm (unless otherwise arranged with the supervisor). To be considered, applicants need to:

  • Be a high school or undergraduate student at the time of application
  • Be a talented and motivated individual interested in science
  • Have an Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, or Michigan address

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

How to apply

Applications for the Women in Science Internships are now open. Applications are due Wednesday, May 25. Applicants must apply to individual projects but are welcome to apply to more than one.

Expand the listings below for more details on each project. Opportunities for both high school and undergraduate students are within each section.

2022 Projects

Early land plants, or bryophytes, are used as environmental indicators of climate change and are pivotal in our understanding of early land plant evolution. The intern will join a research and collection team investigating the genus Frullania Raddi, representing an exceptionally hyper-diverse and taxonomically complex genus with a worldwide distribution. Specifically, the project will explore a morphologically variable and poorly understood species complex from the South Pacific. Hypotheses of species differences will be investigated based on support from multiple lines of evidence, including morphology and nucleotide sequence. The research may have significant conservation impact as Conservation International recognized the biodiversity hotspot as the epicenter of the current global extinction crisis.

The internship will offer a novel experience being a part of a community science project involving a wide variety of participants including K–12, undergraduate students, and the general public. Opportunities might also extend to machine learning depending on interns' interests and skillset. 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.

Responsibilities:

  • Imaging specimens
  • Databasing
  • Rresearching independently
  • Assisting the team in research projects and community science projects
  • Mentoring and leadership opportunities

Qualifications:

  • Must be a high school or undergraduate student at the time of application
  • Talented and motivated individuals interested in the sciences
  • Applicant must have an Illinois, Indiana, or Wisconsin address to be considered

High School Application

Undergraduate Application

Help with a donation of a large fossil collection from Jim and Sylvia Konecny. Most of the fossils are from Illinois and the Midwest and include trilobites, brachiopods, crinoids, and corals. The fossils are beautifully preserved and many could be on display. These specimens need to be digitized and curated into the Field Museum collection.

This process includes:

  • Re-numbering specimens with Field Museum specimen numbers
  • Digitizing specimens,  generating catalog records in our EMu database, and inputting information from physical labels.
  • Photographing specimens and labels
  • Housing the fossils into Field Museum specimen trays and drawers

Qualifications:

  • Must be a high school or undergraduate student at the time of application
  • Talented and motivated individuals interested in the sciences
  • Applicant must have an Illinois, Indiana, or Wisconsin address to be considered

High School Application

Undergraduate Application

The global biodiversity crisis and impacts from climate change demand an urgent and efficient way to monitor Earth's biodiversity. DNA barcoding is a powerful tool to identify and monitor species that exist in various ecosystems. This tool allows scientists to create a library of life on Earth. Neotropical fishes are the most diverse on the planet with more than 6,000 species and at least 1000 species not yet formally described. On this project, students will learn molecular techniques to DNA barcode Neotropical fishes from the Amazon basin and rivers in Central America. This project will expand our understanding of species diversity in these locations, with the potential to discover new species. Students will work with mentors to analyze barcode data to better understand the relationship of fish species to each other and biogeographically throughout the region.

Responsibilities:

  • Learning techniques for DNA extraction and sequencing in the Pritzker Molecular Lab 
  • Handling specimens in the fish collection
  • Synthesizing information about the ecology of fish species from literature review

Qualifications

  • Must have had general biology classes, including genetics
  • Must be a high school or undergraduate student at the time of application
  • Talented and motivated individuals interested in the sciences
  • Applicant must have an Illinois, Indiana, or Wisconsin address to be considered

High School Application            

Undergraduate Application

Human activity and urban environments generate selective forces not typically present in more natural settings and can modify the population genetic structure of resident lineages. The legacy of these historic population expansions and contractions can be gleaned from their genetic blueprint, providing insight into their current and historic responses to anthropogenic activities. Lichens—mutualistic associations between fungi and algae—are well known as bioindicators of air quality and exhibit variable responses to human-mediated activities.

We will characterize the genetic diversity of lichens in the Greater Chicago Region (and Midwest more broadly) in an effort to better understand the current spatial distribution of genetic variation and historic demography of these species.  We will concentrate on several native species of lichen fungi (Physcia stellaris [Starry Rosette], Punctelia rudecta [Rough Speckled Shield], Flavoparmelia caperata [Green Shield], Lepraria finkii [Dust Lichen]), and one non-native species (Xanthoria parietina [Yellow Scale Lichen]), appearing on planted trees. These fungal species (or close relatives) have publicly available genome sequences that will enable us to probe the genetic diversity at a genomic scale.  Samples will be collected across the Chicago region, and DNA will be extracted at the Field Museum.  RAD-Seq—a DNA fingerprinting technique—will then be used to investigate spatial variation in the genetic diversity of multiple fungal species with contrasting reproductive modes (sexual vs. asexual) and abundance across the region. We will test whether there is geographic structure across the broader region or if populations appear panmictic.  In addition, models will be fit to evaluate population expansion/contraction scenarios, which will shed insight into the role urbanization and anthropogenic activities have played in shaping the population structure of local biota.  In addition, we will attempt to generate sequences from historic collections housed at the Field Museum, which will further provide a window into the temporal variation in the diversity of these species. DNA extracts will be archived at the Field Museum and can be re-used as sequencing methodologies advance.  Furthermore, our modern samples will serve as a baseline for future efforts (15–20 years from now) to resample the genetic diversity of these species as they increase or decrease in abundance. Moreover, our analyses will provide insight into the geographic origins of the non-native Xanthoria parietina, which is a coastal taxon that has been spreading through the Great Lakes Region.  Finally, a barcode marker (ITS) will be sequenced from algal symbionts to further assess variability and diversity in these symbiotic associations. 

Successful candidates will gain a better understanding of the ecology and evolution of an iconic symbiosis. They will acquire field experience (collecting lichen samples), wet lab experience (DNA isolation, pipetting, PCR, NGS, and Sanger sequencing), and computational expertise (organizing samples, scripting, R, shell, Python). They will engage in outreach, communicating their work with the broader public (Grainger Science Hub, Pritzker Lab, or Stanley Field Hall at Field Museum). In addition, students will work alongside undergraduate and graduate students and Ph.D.’s working on a diverse range of organismal groups and questions—providing opportunities to learn more about the ecology and evolution of diverse taxa.

Qualifications:

  • Must be a  high school or  undergraduate student at the time of application
  • Talented and motivated individuals interested in the sciences
  • Applicant must have an Illinois, Indiana, or Wisconsin address to be considered
  • Wet lab and computational experience are preferable but not required

High School Application

Undergraduate Application

The Field Museum's insect collection is currently one of 22 institutions contributing to the Terrestrial Parasite Tracker project, an NSF-funded effort to digitize and publish data related to arthropod parasites—including Acari, also known as mites. With implications for the study of disease vectors that affect human and animal health, the historic ranges and distributions of these arthropods can provide insight into efforts ranging from disease prevention to ecosystem analysis. This is the first large-scale digitization effort to link host and parasite data, allowing data to be shared across institutions in a new way. In this internship, participants will use TPT data to create distribution maps of North American mite genera from the Loomis mite collection. They will learn how to georeference specimens based on label data and use the data points they create to build their maps in ArcGIS or R Studio. 

Responsibilities:

  • Using spreadsheets and the geolocate application to georeference specimens
  • Making  updates to important locality information
  • Learning to use ArcMap/R Studio to create a map of specimen distribution

Qualifications:

  • Basic understanding of geographic principles and familiarity with spreadsheets
  • Must be a high school or undergraduate student at the time of application
  • Talented and motivated individuals interested in the sciences
  • Applicant must have an Illinois, Indiana, or Wisconsin address to be considered

High School Application

Undergraduate Application