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Summer Internship: Research Experience for Neurodiversity

The application for Summer 2021 is now open for student volunteers at this link! The application for mentor interns closed at 11:59pm on March 1, 2021.

Every summer from early June to late July, the Frist Center for Autism and Innovation runs a summer internship program called “Research Experience for Neurodiversity” (REN). Autistic and otherwise neurodivergent individuals are encouraged to apply, either as research interns or student volunteers. The research topics participants will investigate are all STEM-related, with a focus on physics, astronomy, and coding.

Research interns are compensated for their work, and must be either current college students or recent graduates. Student volunteers are typically between high school and college, and participate weekly in projects and learning experiences organized by the research interns. Student volunteers are unpaid, and must be 18 years or older.

The internship program, which was designed to be similar to the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU), is now sponsored by Vanderbilt University. It was funded by an HHMI professor grant to Frist Center Director and Stevenson Professor of Physics and Astronomy Keivan Stassun. Frist Center Associate Director Dave Caudel, PhD’17, works year-round to make the internship program a reality. Caudel, who received his doctorate in physics from Vanderbilt, has dual interests in STEM and empowering young neurodivergent adults.

Mentor Noah Austin and intern Preston Batts, Summer 2019. (Photo by Susan Urmy)

Additionally, since both research interns and student volunteers are neurodivergent, there is a mutual understanding of how neurodiversity can alter communication and information processing. The research interns often end up serving in a mentorship role of the younger neurodivergent student volunteers on subjects relating to STEM and autism, ADHD, or other types of neurodiversity.

This program will take place in summer 2021. You may apply to be a research intern if you are currently completing or have just completed your bachelor’s degree. You may apply to be a student volunteer if you are a young adult (at least 18 yrs old) on the autism spectrum with an interest in science.

Anyone curious about participating next summer is encouraged to check back on the Frist Center for Autism and Innovation website in the spring of 2022, when more information should become available.