As a child, I was fascinated by places like the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) but found it difficult to imagine as a real place where people could participate in and contribute to its activities and operations. And then there are those doors - the ones that lead beyond the public exhibitions. What’s behind them?
I got the chance to find out when I became a summer intern, which was also when I discovered my passion for facilitating this kind of experience for others. As the Head of the Office of Academic Services and a former NMNH intern, I can assure you the place is real, the staff are amazing, and through our academic opportunities, people like you can contributing their time and talents toward our endeavors.
Still a bit curious about what internships and fellowships are like at NMNH and wondering how you can apply? Through our series "Behind Those Doors," you'll take peeks behind-the-scenes with stories about our academic opportunities, the people participating in them, and links to more information about how to apply.
Winter and Spring Break Internships
So what did you do over winter break? Hang out with family? Eat too many holiday cookies? Did you know we have a special internship program specially designed to place interested and motivated undergraduate and graduate students, in short-term internships during their winter and spring breaks? During these short internships, you can gain practical experience by working in a museum setting, develop new skills learned from our staff, provide a service to the organization by contributing your time and talents, create professional partnerships, and pursue your fields of interest.
This year we had 36 students participate in our 2012 Winter Break Internship Program. They came from 16 different states, joined 18 different projects, and engaged with us for a combined total of nearly 5,000 hours.
Why offer such short internships? In the words of intern Jeremy Azurin, from Virginia Tech, “It's a fantastic time to explore different areas of science and possible career options, meet other interns and professional staff, and most importantly, gain valuable experience within the Museum.”
About her Winter Break Internship ShuMing Huang, a freshman from Smith College, commented “As the introduction says, '…because at Smithsonian, the possibility is endless!' My experience at Smithsonian really proved this statement. I have not only explored the endless possibilities, but also inspired by the people I met, the exhibitions I visited, and the projects I worked on. Every day is a new adventure.”
Can you really make a contribution during such a short internships? You bet! Arthi Aravind, from the College of William and Mary, working in our Division of Birds, puts it in perspective for us all. “Someday, a hundred years in the future, a researcher might pick up one of the birds I worked on and count it as a data point, and it will have done its part to help further the mission of the Smithsonian Institution, which is to 'increase and diffuse knowledge.' In its lifetime, it’s difficult to predict just how many projects this one specimen will be involved in, but when you consider how many specimens the Smithsonian Institution has as a whole—that’s 137 million—it’s mind-boggling to imagine the importance of the collections to the cause of advancing human scientific knowledge. What’s important is that museum visitors are aware of this, so they can truly understand the mission of museums and all that they do."
Spring is just around the corner. What are you doing over spring break? We’re now placing students in our week-long Spring Break Internship Program.
Mary Sangrey, Head, Office of Academic Services