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Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory Internships - 6 Reasons Why You Should Apply

For those interested in STEM, participating in STEM-related internships is a great way of learning new skills, building connections, and exploring your interests, while also setting you apart from other students. 


One such set of internships for students interested in STEM is the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory Internships


What is the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL)?

PPPL is a renowned research institution dedicated to plasma physics and fusion energy research, located on Princeton University’s campus and co-hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy. It offers a limited number of research-focused internships to outstanding high school seniors. Students are given the opportunity to work on cutting-edge projects, working closely with experienced researchers and contributing to ongoing experiments or simulations. 


Who is eligible for the PPPL internships?

  1. The PPPL internships are offered to high school seniors for the summer after their graduation. 

  2. Students must therefore be at least 16 years old AND a graduating senior in high school.

  3. They must also be a United States citizen or permanent resident alien at the time of application. 

  4. Students are also asked to obtain their own transportation to and from the Laboratory. Remote projects may also be available and you should indicate your preference for this in the application.

  5. It is recommended that students have some experience and a strong interest in plasma physics, fusion energy, as well as some experience with Python or Java, and/or computer-aided design (CAD), such as SolidWorks or AutoCAD.


How can one apply to the PPPL internships?

On November 20th, the summer internship application opens. The application is due on March 1st. You can find the application here, which asks for basic information, essay responses, your most current transcript, and one recommendation letter. 


What is the cost to attend PPPL?

There is no cost, other than the cost of transportation to and from the Laboratory, which is not reimbursed. 


What is the structure of the PPPL internships?

  1. The summer internship will last about 8 to 10 weeks during the summer, with students working Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every week. 

  2. Students will work on an ongoing project with a member of the PPPL’s research or engineering staff. 

  3. Topics covered might include developing practical solutions for harnessing fusion energy, working with magnetic confinement devices, and more. 

  4. Engineering projects can involve working on the design, construction, or maintenance of experimental equipment. 

  5. There may be opportunities for interns with a background in computer science to work on developing simulations, analyzing experimental data, and more. 


10 reasons to apply to the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory internship program


1. The Laboratory offers cutting-edge research opportunities

The PPPL is known for conducting cutting-edge research in plasma physics and fusion energy. Its primary mission is to develop practical solutions for harnessing fusion energy as a clean and sustainable source of power. Their research could very well be responsible for a future fueled by clean and sustainable energy sources. By working on these projects, you can contribute to work that may shape the future of energy production. Equipped with advanced experimental facilities and state-of-the-art laboratories, scientists at the Princeton Laboratories are able to conduct research that very few others are able to. It is an incredible opportunity to help do something that could change the world someday. 


2. The internship allows for expert mentorship 

Interning at PPPL means working directly alongside the Princeton scientists and researchers who act as leaders in the field of plasma physics. If you are interested in this field as a future career path, there are no better people to learn from. You will see firsthand how the best in the field might respond to questions, conduct experiments, write papers, operate in a lab, and more. This mentorship can provide incredible guidance and support for your development as a young researcher. The mentors you find at PPPL will certainly stay with you long after your internship is over. These are connections to be maintained whenever you are looking for a strong recommendation letter, or have a new idea or a new question about the field. 


3. The internship offers great networking opportunities

Working at PPPL will connect you with a number of professionals, researchers, and other interns. You will undoubtedly learn a great deal from them; these are people that will teach you how to operate in a professional setting, how to drive a research proposal, how to develop the skill sets and tools needed for this job. You can also lean on these people outside of your internship; as important names in the field, these are people that you can ask for career advice from, people that can look over your resume, people that might write you a reference letter in the future. Building connections during your internship and maintaining these strong connections afterwards can certainly open doors for future collaborations and career opportunities. 


4. You can explore different career paths

An internship at PPPL will allow you to explore different career paths within the field of plasma physics. Plasma physics and fusion research requires collaboration across various people, institutions, and disciplines, including physics, engineering, and computer science. You’ll be exposed to everyone’s role, from researcher to engineer, and learn from each new person you meet. You can decide what parts you like about the job and what parts you don’t, or what parts you are interested in learning more about and what parts you already feel familiar with. This exploration will allow you to make informed, smart decisions about any future career decisions. 


5. This is a prestigious internship

Affiliated with the US Department of Energy and operated by Princeton University, the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and any internship opportunities it offers is highly prestigious. There are a very limited number of positions open—to gain a spot at the Laboratory as a high school intern would be an important boost to your resume. This can allow you to stand out in any future academic or professional applications, marking you as someone who has already worked and succeeded in an advanced scientific laboratory. 


6. You can prepare yourself for university

You’ll be doing highly advanced work and research at the PPPL internships. You’ll meet and work with renowned scientists and researchers, all as a graduating high school senior. This means you have a huge head start when compared to other incoming college freshmen. You’ll have already explored a potential career path and experienced a professional work environment, all before you step foot on campus. In addition, the challenging work you’ll be doing at the PPPL will likely prepare you well for the academic rigor and expectations of university, where you’ll also be working with professors and professionals. 



If you are passionate about research in physics, then you could consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, an online high school program for students that I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.


Also check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students.


Amelia is a current senior at Harvard College studying art history with a minor in economics. She’s enthusiastic about music, movies, and writing, and is excited to help Veritas AIs students as much as she can!


Image Source: PPPL logo

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