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National Renewable Energy Laboratory Student Training in Applied Research (STAR) Program Undergraduate Summer Intern: Microbial evolution in low-Earth orbit to enable plastics upcycling in Golden, Colorado

Posting Title

Student Training in Applied Research (STAR) Program Undergraduate Summer Intern: Microbial evolution in low-Earth orbit to enable plastics upcycling



CO - Golden


Position Type

Intern (Fixed Term)


Hours Per Week



COVID-19 Safety Protocols

Employment at NREL is contingent upon your compliance with all NREL and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) safety protocols and mitigation efforts directed at the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working at NREL

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), located at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Golden, Colorado is the nation's primary laboratory for research and development of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

From day one at NREL, you’ll connect with coworkers driven by the same mission to save the planet. By joining an organization that values a supportive, inclusive, and flexible work environment, you’ll have the opportunity to engage through our eight employee resource groups, numerous employee-driven clubs, and learning and professional development classes.

NREL supports inclusive, diverse, and unbiased hiring practices that promote creativity and innovation. By collaborating with organizations that focus on diverse talent pools, reaching out to underrepresented demographics, and providing an inclusive application and interview process, our Talent Acquisition team aims to hear all voices equally. We strive to attract a highly diverse workforce and create a culture where every employee feels welcomed and respected and they can be their authentic selves.

Our planet needs us! Learn about NREL’s critical objectives, and see how NREL is focused on saving the planet.

Note: Research suggests that potential job seekers may self-select out of opportunities if they don't meet 100% of the job requirements. We encourage anyone who is interested in this opportunity to apply. We seek dedicated people who believe they have the skills and ambition to succeed at NREL to apply for this role.

Job Description

NREL’s STAR internship program aims to bridge gaps in education, research, and public service to create career pathways for undergraduate students and build long-term partnerships with minority-serving institutions (MSI) to deliver collaborative research opportunities. This is a yearlong program that provides undergraduate students from MSIs a unique introduction to hands-on research in the clean energy industry. For more information on the STAR program please visit our website (http://www.nrel.gov/careers/star-internships.html) .

This specific STAR internship will focus on the following research and tasks:

  • Culture bacteria engineered for plastics upcycling using sterile technique

  • Perform adaptive laboratory evolution experiments

  • Contribute to the design and genetic engineering of bacteria for improved plastics upcycling

  • Contribute to analyzing next-generation DNA sequencing data

Please note, the applicant and a faculty advisor will need to submit the following:

  1. Cover Letter (Student)

The student cover letter should outline:

  • Any relevant work or research experience.

  • Any coursework related to the specific research project.

  • The student's interest and reasoning for applying to this internship.

  • A brief paragraph explaining (i) how they intend to apply this research experience to the follow-on work during the academic year alongside their faculty mentor and (ii) the relationship they intend to build with the faculty and NREL mentors with respect to the research interests related to this internship. Please consult your committed faculty mentor on this piece.

  • For students who have a GPA under a 3.0 at the time of application, we offer then the space to provide context around their academic journey (for example, highlighting extraneous personal circumstances or insight into additional makers of academic success/growth).

  1. Letter of Recommendation (Faculty)

The faculty recommendation letter should outline:

  • Any strengths or potential they identify in the student.

  • Their approach to mentorship and the role they intend to fill as a faculty mentor in the STAR program.

  • A paragraph outlining how their research interests align with specific internship their student is applying to.

  • A brief paragraph explaining (i) how they intend to apply this research experience to the student’s follow-on work during the academic year and (ii) the relationship they intend to build with the student and NREL mentor with respect to the research interests related to this internship. Please consult your committed student mentee on this piece.


Basic Qualifications

  1. Must be enrolled as a full-time undergraduate student

  2. Must have completed one year of course work towards a bachelor’s degree by the beginning of this internship

  3. Must attend one of the STAR program affiliated minority-serving institutions:

• North Carolina A&T State University

• Southern University and A&M College

• University of New Mexico

• University of Texas El Paso

• University of Alaska Fairbanks

• Howard University

• Northern Arizona University

• Florida International University

• Spelman College

  1. Must have identified a committed faculty mentor at university who will offer support and guidance for the entirety of this year-long program

  2. Must submit with this application a cover letter and faculty letter of recommendations following the guidelines included in this job description

  3. Must commit to the year-long STAR program (10 week summer internship at NREL and 8 months of follow-on work during the academic year).


Additional Required Qualifications

  • Experience working safely and independently in a laboratory setting, with a strong safety record

  • Communicate effectively with others, both in written and oral formats

  • Completed coursework in cell and molecular biology, chemical engineering, biological engineering, or similar discipline

  • High attention-to-detail and ability to troubleshoot

  • One university faculty member per student applicant is invited to support the year-long program through mentorship (specifically during the follow-on work period). Through this program, faculty mentors gain unique connections to NREL that can act as a pathway to sustained research engagement and their universities will be part of a distinguished cohort of schools who are building bridges to NREL for their students and faculty.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Pursuing degree in Chemical and Biological Engineering, Cell and Molecular Biology, Biomedical Engineering, or similar field

  • Ability to problem solve to overcome challenges

  • Experience performing biological research in a wet laboratory setting

  • Experience with sterile technique

  • Ability to collaborate with others effectively


Annual Salary Range (based on full-time 40 hours per week)

Job Profile: Undergraduate / Annual Salary Range: $33,200 - $53,100

NREL takes into consideration a candidate’s education, training, and experience, as well as the position's work location, expected quality and quantity of work, required travel (if any), external market and internal value, including seniority and merit systems, and internal pay alignment when determining the salary level for potential new employees. In compliance with the Colorado Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, a potential new employee’s salary history will not be used in compensation decisions.

Benefits Summary

Benefits include medical, dental, and vision insurance; 403(b) Employee Savings Plan with employer match*; and sick leave (where required by law). NREL employees may be eligible for, but are not guaranteed, performance-, merit-, and achievement- based awards that include a monetary component. Some positions may be eligible for relocation expense reimbursement. Internships projected to be less than 20 hours per week are not eligible for medical, dental, or vision benefits.

* Based on eligibility rules

Submission Guidelines

Please note that in order to be considered an applicant for any position at NREL you must submit an application form for each position for which you believe you are qualified. Applications are not kept on file for future positions. Please include a cover letter and resume with each position application.


EEO Policy

NREL is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard basis of age (40 and over), color, disability, gender identity, genetic information, marital status, military or veteran status, national origin/ancestry, race, religion, creed, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding), sexual orientation, and any other applicable status protected by federal, state, or local laws.

EEO is the Law (http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/regs/compliance/posters/ofccpost.htm) | Pay Transparency Nondiscrimination (https://www.dol.gov/ofccp/pdf/pay-transp_English_unformattedESQA508c.pdf) | Reasonable Accommodations (http://www.nrel.gov/careers/employment-policies.html)

E -Verify www.dhs.gov/E-Verify |For information about right to work, click here (http://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/crt/legacy/2013/08/13/FinalOSCPosterEN08_01_2013.pdf) for English or here (http://www.justice.gov/crt/file/813271/download) for Spanish.

E-Verify is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This business uses E-Verify in its hiring practices to achieve a lawful workforce.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is a leader in the U.S. Department of Energy’s effort to secure an environmentally and economically sustainable energy future. With locations in Golden and Boulder, Colorado, and a satellite office in Washington, D.C., NREL is the primary laboratory for research, development, and deployment of renewable energy technologies in the United States.

NREL is subject to Department of Energy (DOE) access restrictions. All candidates must be authorized to access the facility per DOE rules and guidance within a reasonable time frame for the specified position in order to be considered for an interview. DOE rules for site access during the interview process are the same regardless of whether the candidate is interviewed on-site, off-site, or via telephone or videoconference. Additionally, DOE contractor employees are prohibited from participating in certain Foreign Government Talent Recruitment Programs (FGTRPs). If a candidate is currently participating in an FGTRP, they will be required to disclose their participation after receiving an offer of employment and may be required to disengage from participation in the FGTRP prior to commencing employment. Any offer of employment is conditional on the ability to obtain work authorization and to be granted access to NREL by the Department of Energy (DOE). We understand that COVID-19 may have caused delays or closures at offices, consulates, and embassies. However, NREL cannot make exceptions to work authorization and access requirements, and exceptions to these requirements are not being made for COVID-19 related delays.

Please review the information on our Hiring Process (https://www.nrel.gov/careers/hiring-process.html) website before you create an account and apply for a job. We also hope you will learn more about NREL (https://www.nrel.gov/about/) , visit our Careers site (https://www.nrel.gov/careers/) , and continue to search for job opportunities (https://nrel.wd5.myworkdayjobs.com/NREL) at the lab.