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Behind the Scenes at Natural History Internship

LOCATION: National Museum of Natural History
(10th Street & Constitution Ave. NW,  Washington, DC)

DEPARTMENT: Office of the Associate Director for Science
Office of Academic Services, Academic Resource Center

DESCRIPTION: This internship is perfect for the person who loves natural history science and collections, enjoys helping other students, and has always dreamed of having the chance to explore the behind-the-scenes research and collection areas of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH).  This is a great opportunity for someone seeking a career in administration, museum studies, or someone who is looking for experience in programming and communications. Through planning and implementing activities and events for our resident interns, sharing stories about our interns through internal media outlets and photography, and learning office administration skills, the Behind the Scenes intern team leaders will participate in the foundational functions that support the programs and participants of our intern and fellows cohort at the NMNH.

Students selected for this project will help coordinate and implement the NMNH Summer Internship Program.  We anticipate selecting three leaders who best connect with and understand the natural history intern cohort perspective.  This is a guided, mentoring-based internship, designed to develop productive work place skills through active engagement in challenging and changing projects under the guidance of a mentor.

QUALIFICATIONS: Undergraduate, graduate student, or graduate who has completed coursework or is currently enrolled in a STEM discipline with a focus on administration, museum studies, science communication, or natural history science (anthropology, botany, entomology, invertebrate zoology, mineral science, paleobiology, vertebrate zoology).

To maximize the project learning outcomes, applicants should already have the following starting credentials:

  • Ability to cooperate with supervisors and accept coaching as well as work as part of a collective group to reach team goals.
  • Self-starter with the ability to plan, organize, and establish priorities to meet goals and achieve results according to a timeline with milestones and set deadlines.
  • Proficient in using Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.
  • Ability to communicate information accurately and effectively to supervisors, other team members, and peers.
  • Desire to learn and participate in the administrative aspects of managing programs and student cohorts.
  • Must clear a Smithsonian-conducted background investigation.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES: Although awardees will be involved in all three aspects of the project, applicants must select one of the three leader positions listed below as their main focus.  While one awardee will be selected to serve as the leader for a particular area, all team members will work together and participate in all aspects of the overall project.

  • Administration Leader. This leadership placement is for students who are interested in learning more about the complex administrative aspects of managing internship programs, seeking to improve their data management skills, cooperatively work side-by-side supervisors on policy and process decisions, and serving as the liaison for the intern cohort. This leader will learn how to advance critical decisions, present information to groups, prepare program budgets, manage databases, produce reports, communicate operation status, and coordinate processes for on-boarding and exiting appointees. Target learning outcomes include improved communication skills and experience in science programming administration and management.
  • Activities and Events Leader. This leadership placement is for students who want to improve their planning, organizational and communications skills, and are interested in a wide range of natural history topics. This leader will focus their time on the in-service experience including interfacing with staff to implement a diverse suite of natural history-focused professional and social events for the summer interns. These include an active curriculum of behind-the-scenes tours, hands-on workshops, seminars, informal gatherings, and formal receptions. Target learning outcomes include improved organizational and time management skills as well as efficiently managing multiple projects by meeting mid-milestones and on-time delivery.
  • Communications & Media Leader. This leadership placement is for students who have a passion for sharing stories and want to learn how to best communicate aspects of our exciting programs to the Museum community, as well as to other audiences. This leader will focus on spotlighting NMNH interns, maintaining and increasing our social media presence, writing articles for Smithsonian information outlets, taking pictures and managing our image archives, as well as  drafting reports for donors and administrators. Through this internship, the student will put into practice their writing and photography skills, explore science communications, and learn to use a variety of media platforms to share stories about and for our interns and fellows.

AWARD PACKAGE:  $4,000 (housing not provided) for complete tenure.


This Project is ON HOLD due to limited facilities access related to COVID-19

Our summer internship programs and placements remain on hold, pending status of the pandemic and access to facilities.  Currently NMNH access is at Phase 1 until further notice.  While we’re leaving open the possibility of summer internships we suspect these will only be virtual and therefore this project will probably NOT be offered during the summer of 2021.

TIMETABLE: Summer only.  Tenure beginning on or before May 10th.  Ending on or after August 13th. Full time only (40 hours per week).  Apply before March 10th. Applicants will be notified before April 16th.

HOW TO APPLY:  Apply through SOLAA or send complete resume/CV, transcript of courses and grades, name and contact information for three professional references, plus dates of availability.  You must select the leadership position you are applying for and provide a separate document stating your learning objectives for the internship as it relates to the overall project as well as the specific leadership position you are most interested in.  Learning objectives must include your educational goals and explain how placement in this particular project fits into your course of study and overall career goals.



Mary Sangrey