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Montgomery College students discuss their science-based internships at NIST, what projects they worked on, and how MC prepared them for this prominent internship.

The Professional Research Experience Program (PREP) is designed to provide valuable laboratory experience and financial assistance to undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, and faculty. The program is intended to assure continued growth and progress of a highly skilled science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) workforce in the United States.

At Montgomery College, the internship pays between $16 and $17/hour for up to 20 hours per week during the semester and up to 40 hours/week during the summer.

Research areas include (but may not be limited to) artificial intelligence, biochemistry, biological sciences, chemistry, computer science, engineering, electronics, information technology, materials science, mathematics, nanoscale science, neutron science, physical sciences, physics, social sciences, scientific/technical writing, science and technology policy, and statistics.

Student Perspective
Read MC Student Samuel Márquez González blog entry, "From Pokémon to Physics: My Journey of Perseverance Into Research"new window describing his experience with the PREP program at NIST. (February 14, 2024)

  1. You must be an MC student in a degree or certificate-seeking program and NOT be enrolled in a degree seeking program at another institution.

  2. You do NOT have to be a U.S. citizen; however, you do need to be able to provide, after acceptance to the program, a current visa. (Note: There are some projects at NIST that do require U.S. citizenship, however, the majority do not.)

  3. You have to have a social security number to share with MC after acceptance to the program. Stipend payments cannot be processed without this information.

  4. Some lab-based projects require that interns be 18 years or older at the time the internship begins. However, may other projects do not have an age restriction.

  5. The minimum GPA is 3.0. However, most applicants accepted to the program have GPAs higher than 3.0.

  6. Typical applicants have completed or are taking at least two STEM classes. In general, the more STEM classes you have completed, the more qualified you would be for placement in various projects.

  7. Priority is often given to students who are interested in STEM research or careers in coding and/or data science. This program is not typically a good fit for students pursuing areas such as nursing, for example.

  8. See the Application Materialsnew window and FAQsnew window link for additional guidance.

This document (PDF, Get Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader - Link opens in new window) provides an overview of the program components and requirements. The MC-NIST-PREP program is designed to provide interns the opportunity to conduct STEM research at NIST, while also receiving professional development from Montgomery College.

Primary Intern Duties

The majority of time for this internship is spent working under the guidance of a NIST mentor conducting STEM research during the hours agreed upon between the mentor and the intern. The specific daily activities will vary depending upon the project. These duties will be available in specific job postings and will be discussed with prospective interns during the interview process. All training related to intern projects is provided by the NIST mentor and/or the associated lab group. 

Professional Development Program Requirements

  • Create a technical performance plan related to the specific NIST project
  • Create an academic plan in line with the student’s career goals
  • Provide career guidance


Technical Performance Planning
Technical Performance Planning
Component Details
Orientation Interns attend a mandatory orientation session offering tips on how to achieve success in their research work.
Bb Documentation Interns provide short weekly summaries/status report in Blackboard (Bb) by Sunday 11:59 p.m. following the work week. Guidance and examples will be provided.
Mentoring (bi-weekly meetings) Interns will be paired with a faculty member for technical guidance throughout the assignment. This will be person will be the MC mentor (NIST also provides a mentor) and will meet with assigned interns at minimum of four times during the semester via Zoom, in person, or sometimes by email.
Check-in with NIST Mentor The MC mentor will ask for a brief update from NIST mentors after three weeks of work, at midterm and two weeks before the end of the assignment.
Lab Tours Virtual lab tours are required, where students present their work to other interns. Feedback will be provided by your MC mentor.
Midterm Reports Midterm Reports, including technical accomplishments and reflection, are required of all interns. First, the NIST mentor provides feedback and then the MC mentor provides additional feedback to each intern on this assignment.
Abstracts Abstracts are submitted with the midterm reports. First, the NIST mentor provides feedback and then the MC mentor provides additional feedback to each intern on this assignment.
Final Presentation At the close of the term, interns present in group Zoom sessions open to all NIST and MC staff. Prior to presenting, interns are asked to practice and obtain feedback from their NIST mentors. The MC mentor will provide a required second practice opportunity.


Academic Planning
Academic Planning
Component Details
Mentor Meetings Assigned MC mentors will part of their meetings with interns to discuss academic plans and transfer goals.
Advising Worksheets Mentors will verify that advising worksheets and SAPC forms have been completed and answer any student questions (or direct them to the right resource).
Transfer Planning Mentors will share MC resources and discuss transfer plans with interns.
Graduation Audits Mentors will direct students to degree audit tools when appropriate.


Career Planning
Career Planning
Component Details
Resume Preparation Students will be provided resume guidance/templates specific to the NIST internship program. In addition, interns may be guided to other resources at MC to assist with resume preparation both for the NIST application and for future job applications.
Interview Preparation All interns will be invited to do a practice interview prior to interviewing with NIST.
Mentor Meetings A portion of mentor meetings will be devoted to career guidance and planning.
Resources Mentors will provide links to resources within MC that are relevant to the specific intern’s needs.

Application Materials

There is currently no specific application due date.
Please submit your application NOW for consideration when relevant projects are posted.   
You will not have to reapply when new opportunities become available.  When NIST shares projects with us, we will share applications on file for any applicants who meet the project requirements.

Please read all instructions to ensure that your application is successfully prepared and submitted.

Note: It is important to complete the Application Form after you have prepared your resume, personal statement and unofficial transcript, as you will need to upload these documents with specific file names. You will not be able to save your answers partway through the application, so it is important to have the files ready to upload before you begin the application process.

  1. Confirm that you meet ALL of the qualifications for the program.  See the Program Requirements link on the MC-NIST-PREP website.
  2. Prepare your resume, following the very specific resume guidance (see Resume Guidance (PDF, Get Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader - Link opens in new window) Link under Application Materials).  Do not upload a generic resume with an improperly named file, as this will prevent your application from being properly considered.
  3. Prepare your personal statement, following the guidelines provided (see Personal Statement Guidance Link under application materials. Again, specific content and file name is required.
  4. Download and save an unofficial copy of your transcript from MC and any other college or university you attended that shows relevant STEM coursework. Save this file using the following format: Last Name-First Name-Transcript   Example: Smith-John-Transcript  (If providing a second transcript, add a 2 at the end of the word transcript in the name of the file.)  Note: You MUST name your file in this format in order for us to pair it with the rest of your application.
  5. Request a letter of recommendation from a STEM professor. See Recommendation Letter Guidance for instructions to share with your professor.
  6. Open the Application Formnew window and complete all required fields. Upload the requested files (personal statement, resume, transcript), making sure that they are saved with the correct file names.
  7. Send an email to to let us know that you have successfully submitted your application. Include your name and MC ID# in your email.

Important Note: You MUST name your file in this format in order for us to pair it with the rest of your application: Last Name-First Name-Resume
Example: Smith-John-Resume

The link below contains the components required in your resume. You may, however, choose to use a different style, provided it contains the items shown.  

If you do not have any item to report in a given category, you may omit or delete that section.

You may include additional information, if desired.

Note that NIST may request to see ONLY your resume.  Therefore, the resume needs to be quite detailed. Some of this information may be required again in the application form, which will primarily be used internally at MC.

For required content, please see Resume Guidance template (PDF, Get Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader - Link opens in new window) .

Important Note: You MUST name your file in this format in order for us to pair it with the rest of your application:  Last Name-First Name-Personal-Statement     
Example:  Smith-John-Personal-Statement
At the top of your document provide the following: Name, M#, Email Address, Date

The rest of your personal statement should include the following elements:

  1. Describe your interests in various fields of science and your potential career interests.
  2. Describe your relevant experience and skills and how they may relate to work done at NIST (go to www.nist.govnew window for more information on research areas). If you are applying for one specific job posting on the MC-NIST-PREP website, feel free to address how your interests and skills relate to that particular project.

  3. In addition, here are some sample questions that you may want to address in your personal statement to help provide a clearer picture of you and your goals.  You do not have to answer all questions.
    1. Looking at the NIST website, do you have areas that are of particular interest to you? How do these areas relate to your career goals.   (Please do not narrow your comments to one specific project, as this type of matching is nearly impossible. We are interested in general areas of interest based on the various programs on the NIST website.)
    2. What skills do you have that might be relevant to any type of project at NIST? (Make sure that these are also listed on your resume.)
    3. Are there areas of science that you would definitely NOT be interested in pursuing at NIST?
    4. Why did you choose your particular major and/or career path?
    5. What do you enjoy most in your classes?  Why?  Specific examples are helpful.
    6. What projects have you completed that demonstrate your strengths?
    7. If there are gaps in your schooling, what did you do during that time?
    8. If you had a poor grade(s) at MC at any point, why did this occur?
    9. What challenges have you had to overcome?
    10. Where do you see yourself in ten years?
    11. What else would you like us to know about you?

  4. Finally, at the end of your statement, comment on your commitment to participate for the full 15 hours / week that must be completed at NIST during Monday – Friday business hours. (Confirm that you have the time and motivation necessary to complete 15 hours/week of research and indicate the blocks of time you think you will have available. We realize this may change once you finalize your class schedule; however, an estimate at this point is helpful.  Note that most projects are best completed with longer blocks of time on fewer days per week rather than three hours per day.  Don’t forget to consider the time necessary to commute to the NIST Gaithersburg location, which is difficult via bus.)

One letter of recommendation is required to complete your application.  Please share this information with a STEM instructor who knows you well and can provide a meaningful recommendation letter.

Requesting a letter:

Identify a STEM instructor who knows you well from your coursework and email the instructor to ask if they are able to provide a letter for you within three weeks of your application submission.  (If you see them regularly, you may want to ask in person first and then send an email request.)  

Once the professor has agreed to write a letter, provide the instructor with as much relevant background information as possible.  For example, your resume and career goals, as well as a link to the MC-NIST-PREP website.  

Be sure to share the information below as well. 

Suggestions for recommendation letter content:

Please ask your instructor to consider including information about the following (on MC letterhead):

  •  your intellectual ability (with specific examples, if possible)
  •  your skills
  •  your ability to solve problems
  •  your dedication to your educational and career goals
  •  your responsibility/work ethic (assignments complete and turn in on time, attendance)
  •  your ability to work in groups 
  •  your ability to work independently
  •  your interest or enthusiasm for STEM research

Submission Details:

Please share this link with your professor for uploading the recommendation letter: Link for the Recommendation Letternew window

If your professor has any questions or issues using the link, please ask them to send an email to for guidance.

Open Job Opportunities

Please submit an application now to be considered for future job openings. See the Application Materials link for details.

Explore open job opportunities



1. What is the required time commitment each week?  
Answer: During the semester, the minimum time commitment for starting interns is 15 hours/week, while the maximum time permitted is 20 hours/week.  During summers, the maximum number of hours is up to 40 hours/week. Note that for lab-based projects, these hours must be completed during regular business hours Monday – Friday. In addition, larger blocks of time are needed to accomplish most tasks, so working three hours each day does not work for most NIST projects.  Instead, interns need to plan for schedules to allow larger blocks of time for NIST work, for example, five-hour blocks for three days/week).   Note that some projects, particularly computer coding projects, can be completed remotely.  In this case, weekend hours may be acceptable to NIST.

2. What is the pay rate?
Answer: The internship pays between $16 and $17 per hour.

3. Do I have to travel to NIST-Gaithersburg? 
Answer: All lab-based projects require travel to the NIST campus in Gaithersburg.  A few coding-based projects may allow remote work, however, even for these projects, travel to the NIST campus may be required.

4. Can I use my work for college credit?  
Answer: Most projects at NIST can be used for college credit for either SCIR 297 Scientific Research (2 credits) or CMSC 269 Computer Science Internship (1 to 4 credits).  Check with an academic advisor to see if this option would be beneficial to your academic plan.

5. What is the GPA requirement?
Answer: The minimum GPA for participation is 3.2.  However, most successful applicants have GPAs significantly higher, particularly in the STEM areas.

6. Do I have to have completed a specific number of credits?
Answer: There is no specified minimum number of credits, however, most successful applicants have completed at least two STEM classes and are currently enrolled in two additional STEM courses.

7. Is there a minimum number of credits I have to be currently taking to apply?
Answer: Applicants are required to be enrolled in a degree or certificate-seeking program at MC and be making progress toward completion.   They also must NOT be enrolled in a degree-seeking program at another institution.  Beyond that, there is no strictly enforced minimum, however, applications will be reviewed to ensure that applicants are meeting the intention of offering training to degree-seeking MC students.

8. Can I work for more than one semester?
Answer: Yes, working more than one semester allows interns and NIST to make greater progress on projects.  This is particularly true for students continuing on from spring into summer, where greater number of hours/week is permitted.

9. What is the pay rate?
Answer: The current pay rate is $16/hour.

10. Do I have to be a US citizen?
Answer: Most projects at NIST do NOT require US citizenship. However, please check the specific requirements for any open positions.  You do, however, need a valid VISA and social security number.

11. Can I participate if I am under 18-years of age?
Answer: Lab-based projects at NIST typically require that interns be 18-years or older to work without immediate and constant supervision. Non-lab projects, such as coding, do not typically have an age requirement.

12. Which majors are typically accepted to the program?
Answer: A wide variety of STEM majors have been accepted to NIST, provided the intern has the relevant skills needed by the project.  The most common areas of research interest placed at NIST include computer science, engineering, physics, biology and chemistry. (Note that General Studies-STEM does not indicate an intern's area of research interest. Many General Studies-STEM students have been accepted based on their specified areas of interest.)

13. Whom can I contact if I have other questions?
Answer: Send an email to for additional assistance.

14. Will there be training?
Answer: Yes, an orientation session is provided by MC. NIST will provide training specific to your project. Additionally, throughout the semester, you will be given guidance by an assigned MC mentor.

15. What are the benefits of this program?
Answer: A NIST-PREP internship will help you to:

  • Develop your professional skills in a real-world setting, providing you with hands-on experience and exposure to cutting-edge research and technology.
  • Meet and work with experienced professionals in your field. This networking can lead to job opportunities, recommendations, and other career-related benefits.
  • Build your resume: NIST internships are prestigious and competitive, so having one on your resume can make you stand out to potential employers. It shows that you have valuable experience and are committed to your field.
  • Gain Research Experience: NIST is a leading research organization, and interns have the opportunity to work on innovative projects that can contribute to their academic and professional growth.
  • Explore Careers: NIST internships can help you explore different career paths and gain a better understanding of your interests and skills. This can help you make more informed decisions about your future career goals;

Photo Gallery

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