University Career Services
University Career Services offers resources for internship search strategies for undergraduate students. Unlike REUs, internship listings may not be centrally organized and identifying a good fit requires a lot of work from the applicant. You may also find listings for individual internships on the Career Services portal, Handshake.
If you would like to have your name & contact information listed below (under Student Resources) to invite others to contact you about your internship experience with a specific company, please report this information directly to Jhon Cimmino, Academic Affairs Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Non-Academic & Industry Careers
The American Institute of Physics (AIP) regularly reports that students with new Physics Bachelors degrees employed in the private sector share the same skill sets used by their peers with Computer Science & Information Technology Bachelors degrees.
In the Spring 2020 semester, the Visibility in Physics organization hosted the inaugural Physical Sciences Industry Networking Event, and in the Fall 2020 semester, the Society of Physics Students & the Visibility in Physics organization hosted a virtual Diverse Careers in Physics Panel, connecting local companies with highly skilled majors to highlight careers & internships that were specifically recruiting applicants with a physical science background. Through these events, they aimed to promote careers outside academia & establish relevant industry connections for the undergraduate community. These and other events like this will be offered for undergraduate students in upcoming semesters, to be advertised on the department website & our Twitter page.
In recent years, our students have reported going on to work in non-academic careers following graduation at sites such as:
- Capital One
- Miso Robotics
- Red Ventures
- Redbud Labs
- UNC School of Medicine
- US Army
- Venture for America
A handful of our faculty members additionally have had non-academic career experience & are open to discussing this path with undergraduate students.
- Dr Brand Fortner – co-founded Spyglass, Inc, publisher of first web browser Mosaic, most successful IPO of 1995 for 5 years; founded Fortner Software LLC, developer of scientific visualization software for personal computers for 5 years; Chief Scientist of Intelligence Exploitation Group at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab for 5 years; Lead developer for HDF-EOS file system, EOS project, & NASA Goddard for 4 years
- Dr Sheila Kannappan – 9th grade public school teacher with Teach for America for 2 years
- Dr Rene Lopez – electronics manufacturing with Panasonic for 1 year; 3D printing with Carbon for 1 year
- Dr Sean Washburn – basic research with IBM for 9 years
Many students focused on applying to graduate school should consider applying for the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program funded by the National Science Foundation. These are 10-week summer research programs offered by many universities. They usually provide a stipend of around $5000 & housing, with others providing additional travel stipend & funding to present work at conferences. There are useful resources online for preparing to apply for REUs as well as a regularly maintained list of summer research opportunities:
- “So You Want to Apply for an REU… Here’s How”
- Juan’s List of Summer Research Opportunities for Undergraduates a.k.a. Juan’s REU list
The American Astronomical Society (AAS) also maintains a list of other summer opportunities that you might consider, but be advised that undergraduates are not eligible for every program on the list.
If none of these interest you, you may still be able to organize research on your own. Students are encouraged to contact professors directly to learn about their research areas & to ask about opportunities to become involved. Finally, the Office of Undergraduate Research offers resources online about finding research opportunities at UNC for undergraduates.
The American Association of Physics Teachers offers resources for planning for graduate studies. You can also begin researching specific graduate schools with the AIP Grad School Shopper website. Using this tool, you can browse programs, sort by acceptance rate, financial aid packages, research budgets, department size, and more. You may also order a free copy of the book here.
Some important considerations are:
- admissions requirements
- specialties in particular research areas
- available interdepartmental programs
- specific program requirements & suggested timeline
- access to facilities & technologies
- location & university type
Students are encouraged to further review program websites, email departments directly, and ask current professors for advice & feedback. Professor Sheila Kannappan has also created all of the following useful resources on preparing for REUs & graduate school:
- Applying to Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Programs (and other similar programs) (2019; slide presentation, goes with “Writing the Personal Statement” below)
- Applying to Graduate School and REU Programs. (2015; older slide presentation, goes with “Writing the Personal Statement” below; treats REUs very briefly, workshop above better for REUs)
- Writing the Personal Statement for Graduate School and REU Program Applications. (2015, handout to accompany above slide presentations)
- Test-Taking Strategies for students at all levels, including a special section on the GRE. (2015)
Resources from Students for Students
The Visibility in Physics organization has put together valuable resources for its membership on finding success in this major. Below is an archive of their original materials:
- Choose your own PHYS path presentation
- Choose your own PHYS path flowchart
- Getting involved in research
- Summer research
- Summer presentations
- LinkedIn Workshop
Presentations created by Madyson Barber, Ella Castelloe, Izzy Ford, Shannon Goad, Madeline Hunt, Schuyler Moss, and Samantha Pagan and used with permission.
The Society of Physics Students has also put together a list of suggestions for summer considerations for their peers to review:
staying at UNC by Charlie
If you are able to, taking classes is a good way to keep with your class requirements, especially if you are doing more than one major. The physics department typically offers several classes over the summer (like intro physics & 281L). There are also plenty of math classes offered that are required for physics, like differential equations & calculus. If none of these are useful to you, you can also get some gen eds out of the way, which will make your semesters a bit easier.
You can also look into research opportunities at UNC. While REU’s & internships are a competition between students from all over the country, finding work with professors at UNC is much less competitive. If you are already working in a research group, you can talk to your PI about continuing work in the summer. If they have funds available, they may even be willing to hire you as a paid research assistant. If you aren’t working in a group already, this is a great opportunity to look into UNC research and reach out to professors you might want to work with.
community college classes by Nathaniel
By North Carolina state law, any NC community college class must be accepted as some form of credit at any public university in NC. That being said, it is important to make sure any specific community college class will be accepted for the credit you need. The best way to do this is to take as much information as you can about that course to an academic advisor. Finding a syllabus for the community college course is the best way for your advisor to determine what UNC course it can replace. Unfortunately, it can be more difficult for out-of-state students to find equivalent courses. Some trial & error for finding equivalent courses may be necessary.
internships by Izzy
I worked at Vanguard last summer as a Site Reliability and Security Intern, and I learned lots about the corporate tech world, front-end development, and website reliability for large groups of users. Internships are an awesome choice because you will be earning a nice salary, and you can usually also find internships that cover housing (or you can negotiate it into your contract). Working in the corporate/business/industry world will give you lots of experience that you cannot gain within UNC, and these skills are super marketable. Handshake, career fairs, LinkedIn, and friends are all great ways to find roles that interest you. Applications are usually resumes & sometimes an essay or two. If it is a CS internship like mine was, you’ll probably have some behavioral & technical interviews and/or coding challenges. You typically will hear back within 1-3 weeks of your last interview, but UNC’s on-campus recruiting policy gives you up to 4 weeks after that to decide if you want to accept or not (let your recruiter know this if they are trying to press you for an early response!). I would highly recommend doing an internship at some point as you can use it to get industry jobs/into grad schools.
jobs by Jordan
For example, local planetariums, science museums, and other STEM-related institutions will specifically look for students to hire for the summer. However, don’t feel like you have to do something that’s related to physics. Often times any job will be something you can market on your resume as a skill-builder, so you are more than able to find something that works for your situation. This is also a good way to make money for the school year, be it for rent, personal spending, or other expenses. Reach out to local businesses and see what’s available.
volunteering by Corey
Volunteering is a great way to gain experience & pick up new skills during the summer. The summer after my first year in college, I volunteered at a local goat farm. Very hard work, but I got to bottle feed baby goats in between hauling hay, so… worth it. More recently I’ve volunteered at a few gardens & the animal shelter. All it takes is sending some emails to the organizations you’re interested in and filling out any forms they give you! It also pairs well with taking summer classes because hours are usually very flexible.