Summer Research/Internship Experiences
There are many great summer research opportunities right here at Wake Forest through the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities center (URECA). However, for some, pursuing research at another institution over the summer can provide an important opportunity to broaden perspective or a pathway into a graduate program of choice.
Many colleges and universities offer summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates, funded through the National Science Foundation; you can browse through current opportunities on the NSF REU program webpage. Alternatively, some universities, departments, or academic research groups may use their own internal funding to support summer research internships; in these cases, the opportunities are usually advertised through the university, and you’ll have to do your own browsing through the webpages of schools of interest to you.
Many of the federally funded labs, including the Department of Defense labs and Department of Energy labs, also offer summer research internships for engineering undergraduate students. Even the Departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, and Agriculture offer internships ranging from science/technical to public policy opportunities. Or if you’ve been thinking about pursuing a legal career after college, an internship at the Patent and Trademark Office might be the perfect opportunity to learn about patent law at a high level.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Student Intern Program (SIP)
U.S. Department of Defense Science, Mathematics & Research for Transformation program (SMART)
U.S. Department of Energy Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships (SULI)
U.S. Department of Homeland Security student programs
U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration student opportunities
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office student programs
(Or search www.usajobs.gov for other internship opportunities.)
However, maybe you’re more interested in a position in industry or government after you complete your degree. A summer internship at a private company (or several, at different companies), non-profit, or public agency can help you learn which sector best fits your interests, or even what work atmosphere or team size is ideal for you. Such positions can also lead into job offers right out of college, and many employers will help co-fund advanced education. Major corporations have specific webpages just for student opportunities, whereas smaller companies might accept summer interns but not advertise on their website (you can always contact human resources directly with an inquiry).
Be advised that larger companies often offer both internships and co-ops to undergraduates, where an internship can usually take place during the summer, but a co-op would require you to work for a summer and a semester. Co-ops, therefore, despite their many benefits can create scheduling challenges in a curriculum where courses might be offered only in the spring or fall terms, and will by default delay your graduation date. Be up-front with potential employers when applying and interviewing regarding your availability.
Of course, the opportunities and information provided here are just a start, to help you begin thinking about your early career pathway. Questions to ask yourself are, Am I more interested in research, design, or consulting (or do I even know at this point)? Would I prefer to work in an industry research environment, knowing that projects may be driven by profit margins, or a more academic environment, such as a federal lab, where I can pursue more basic science? Would I rather begin a doctoral program immediately after my undergraduate degree, or should I work for a few years to gain experience? Are you considering a study abroad experience? Perhaps an internship or research experience abroad would be a good fit.
No one expects you to have all of the answers – in fact, if you have more questions than answers, that’s probably a good thing! After all, you have a team of Wake Forest Department of Engineering faculty (and the campus Office of Professional and Career Development) to help you begin answering these questions. So reach out, and make an appointment with one of us today.
Undergraduate Scholarships (Academic and Research)
In addition to helping you support your college education, undergraduate scholarships can provide you with funding to execute your own original research project, both of which can serve as important contributions to your early-career résumé. Undergraduate engineering students have many academic scholarship options, some of which may be one-time awards, while others may offer recurring funding on an annual basis. In some cases, the most prestigious scholarships can even include summer and post-college employment opportunities. If you plan to apply for scholarships, make sure you establish a calendar of deadlines (some scholarships even have different deadlines for different components of the application!), and reach out to potential reference providers well in advance to ensure that they are both available and willing to provide you with a reference/recommendation letter.
Opportunities internal to Wake Forest include merit-based scholarships awarded at the time of admission (read more), some of which consider demonstrated financial need; Army ROTC scholarships; and a variety of summer grant programs. Wake Forest also supports funding opportunities in undergraduate entrepreneurship, international study, research activities on campus, and travel to conferences and professional society meetings for students whose work has been selected for presentation.
Many professional societies (see “Professional Society Membership” below for a list of select major engineering societies) offer undergraduate scholarships, some of which may be for academics, while others may be designated for students traveling to present their research at that society’s annual meeting. In addition to the national parent society, many regional/local societies offer their own scholarships solely for students residing in their region. These opportunities may take more website browsing on your end, but they can also provide for important networking experiences as you become involved in regional/local chapters.
Federal government agencies support a variety of undergraduate scholarships in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. The SMART Program, funded by the Department of Defense and administered by the American Society for Engineering Education, also offers potential summer internship placement and full-time placement after graduation. For those more interested in oceanic and atmospheric sciences, NOAA offers the Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship, which includes academic support and a summer internship at a NOAA research lab. NASA provides support to the North Carolina Space Grant, which in turn funds competitive applications for student research projects (among other opportunities, such as internships at associated labs throughout the state). The Department of Homeland Security offers scholarships (and other opportunities) in a variety of STEM related fields. As with most federally funded opportunities, programs may vary depending on the current administration and funding.
Graduate Education and Research Fellowships
Many Wake Engineering students will choose to pursue advanced degrees in STEM fields. As you begin to consider your graduate school options, remember to explore external funding options as well. While most STEM Ph.D., and some master’s, programs cover graduate student academic expenses and offer students living stipends and health care coverage, receiving your own research funding or external fellowship can provide opportunities that might not otherwise be available to you. In addition to the fellowship opportunities listed below, please ensure that you inquire about university- and department-specific opportunities at the schools to which you are applying.
Department of Energy Office of Science, Science Graduate Fellowship (DOE SCGF)
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP)
National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship (NDSEG)
National Institute of Justice Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NIJ GRFP)
National Institutes of Health, Predoctoral Training/Clinical Doctorate opportunities (NIH)
Department of Transportation, Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship Program (DDETFP)
STEMGradStudents.science.gov, a searchable collection of federally-funded opportunities
For some, pursuit of an alternative career path in business, law, or health might feel more in line with your personal values and career aspirations. A great way to explore any of these opportunities is to use your professional network (note that this might mean asking an engineering faculty member to help you make these connections!) to find individuals at various stages of their careers and ask for an informational interview.
In general, graduate programs today still require prospective students to take standardized exams, such as the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, or MCAT. Some STEM graduate programs may also require GRE subject tests. In most cases, you will need to take a required exam in advance of your application to a graduate program, which is something to consider as you schedule your final year at Wake Forest. However, because admissions requirements vary greatly across programs, please make sure you check with specific programs (at both the department level and university graduate program level) to determine what standardized exam scores you must submit (or whether they are required at all).
The content on this page is intended for informational use only, and in no way constitutes an endorsement or promotion. While we strive to keep this content timely and relevant to our BS Engineering students and recent graduates, please recognize that there are many additional resources available to you online or from the WFU Office of Career and Professional Development.
FE / PE Licensure
The path to Professional Engineering (PE) licensure begins with the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. All Wake Engineering students are expected to take the FE exam by their final year of undergraduate study. For more information on the FE exam and the registration process, visit here. In addition, you may eventually be interested in obtaining your PE licensure, at which point you would qualify to join the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE).
Certain career tracks are more likely to require PE licensure than others; therefore, as you begin thinking about your professional development plan or career aspirations, also keep track of the degrees and licensures of the individuals working in those fields.
Professional Society Membership
Membership and participation in professional engineering societies can offer valuable networking and professional development opportunities. Many professional societies also offer discounted membership rates to students and recent graduates. Both undergraduate engineering students and more established engineers in the U.S. commonly seek membership in the following societies (many of which are discipline specific):
American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE)
American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE)
American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES)
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
Materials Research Society (MRS)
National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE)
Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE)
Society of Women Engineers (SWE)
For a complete list of engineering professional societies in North America and globally, look here.
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