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Solar Graduate Student Research Internships

The Energy Department is piloting a new graduate student internship that provides qualified students an opportunity to conduct research at NREL. This experience will facilitate students' access to research expertise and state-of-the-art equipment available at NREL. This program is designed to increase ongoing collaborations between NREL and U.S. universities. This program will be piloted in 2017. Depending on the success of the pilot and funding, the program will be continued in future years. Other internship opportunities are available at NREL.

Research Scope

The proposed research must align with an ongoing SunShot National Laboratory Multiyear Partnership (SuNLaMP) research project at NREL. Proposed work may include studies of photovoltaic (PV) materials, modules, or systems, grid integration, concentrating solar power (CSP), and/or analytical work in NREL's Strategic Energy Analysis Center. A complete list of NREL's SuNLaMP projects is available. Specific examples in the PV materials topical area are also available.

The application deadlines for 2017 have passed. If funds are available, we anticipate the next deadline being February 2018.


Living stipend up to $3,000/month. The home institution should cover tuition and health insurance, as no fringe or overhead is included.

Travel costs up to ˜$2,000 total. If any NREL-internal expenses are proposed, these will be reviewed separately. The total budget will be reviewed as part of the evaluation process. The graduate program has a total of $125,000 funding that will be available for the two rounds of applications.


Projects may extend between 3 and 6 months. In general, it is assumed that work will be done at NREL.


Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens at the time of application and be at least 18 years of age at the time of applying. Note that foreign students are welcome to work at NREL using funding they have identified separately. See the SUN UP program.

Period of effort intended for calendar year 2017 and/or early 2018.

Background Details

  • Stipends and travel will be allocated by Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE).


The application form may be downloaded and includes the following:

  • One- to two-page description from the student describing the proposed plan and its contribution to the applicant’s thesis research, dates, amount requested, and benefit to student.
  • One-page resume from the student.
  • One-page letter from the student's faculty advisor regarding a) benefit of work plan, b) reasons why student is a good choice for this program, and c) how the proposed work supports ongoing (or builds new) collaboration between university and NREL, including any components of the proposed project that would take place at the home university.
  • One-page letter from the NREL Principal Investigator (Mentor) identifying 1) the source of funds that will be used for training the student and providing operating expenses, 2) explaining how the student's participation will enhance the impact of the funded project, 3) why this student is a good choice, including whether the length of engagement is appropriate, and 4) previous experience as a mentor and recognition for such.
  • Note: In order to ensure a fair review process, pages in excess of the above guidance will be removed from the package before review.

Review Criteria

  1. Scientific/Technical Merit
    • Is the proposed work well conceived and aligned with SunShot priorities?
    • Is the applicant (graduate student) sufficiently well prepared to conduct the proposed research given their current level of experience (e.g., years in graduate school)?
    • Are the NREL laboratory resources (access to hardware, materials and supervision) adequate?
    • Has the NREL scientist demonstrated the capability or the potential to be an excellent mentor?
  2. Relevance of the Proposed Research to Graduate Thesis Research and Training
    • Does the proposed research have the potential to make a significant contribution to the applicant's (graduate student's) thesis research project?
    • Will the proposed research enhance the applicant's graduate training and research skills?
    • Will the proposed work plan result in a joint publication including the student, student's thesis advisor and NREL scientist?
  3. Support of university-NREL collaborations
    • Is a new collaboration established? Is the proposed project expected to have a lasting benefit in terms of supporting an ongoing collaboration?
  4. Programmatic considerations
    • Diversity of universities, technology areas, and types of research projects
    • Is it anticipated that funding this student will strengthen solar R&D in the US in both the short and the long term?
  5. Requested budget
    • Does the expected impact (benefit to student, research, and ongoing collaboration) justify the proposed costs?


  • Feb. 15, 2017: First applications deadline
  • March 15, 2017: Reviews completed and first students notified.
  • April 30, 2017: Second applications deadline
  • May 31, 2017: Reviews completed and final set of students notified.