Summer Internships

Duke University Superfund Research Center logDuke University Superfund Research Center Internships: Summer 2020

The Superfund Research Program (SRP) is a network of grants funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) designed to seek solutions to complex health and environmental issues associated with toxic chemicals found at the nation’s hazardous waste sites. The Duke University NIEHS-funded Superfund Research Center (SRC) focuses on early, low-dose exposures to toxins and their developmental impacts that are usually only evident during later life stages.


Internship Areas:

Project 1: Cholinergic & Monoaminergic Mechanisms of Persistent Neurobehavioral Toxicity. This project focuses on neurobehavioral function after early developmental exposures of rats and zebrafish to flame retardants, pesticides and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. A variety neurobehavioral functions including motor behavior, emotional function and cognitive are investigated.

Project 2: Altering the Balance of Adipogenic & Osteogenic Regulatory Pathways from Early Life Exposure to HPCs and AOPEs. Project 2 is NOT accepting applicants for Summer 2020.

Project 3: Persistent Mitochondrial & Epigenetic Effects of Early Life Toxicant Exposure. Growing evidence suggests that chemicals of interest to Superfund stakeholders can have persistent, toxic effects on the mitochondria, and that some individuals may be more sensitive to the effects due to genetic differences. This project aims to test which important Superfund chemicals and chemicals of emerging concern are mitochondrial toxicants; whether effects from exposure are persistent throughout life and into subsequent generations; and whether the effects are stronger for individuals from some genetic backgrounds.

Project 4: Mechanisms & Consequences of Evolved Adaptation to Environmental Pollution. This project continues the Duke SRC’s long-standing research in the Elizabeth River in Virginia. For years, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were discharged into the river from several wood treatment facilities that employed creosote. Duke SRC researchers study a fish species native to the area, the killifish (Fundulus heteroclitus) and its response to living in contaminated environments. Their research has found that killifish at contaminated sites exhibit pollution-driven adaptation to high levels of PAHs at these sites. Current research is examining fitness costs associated with this evolved resistance, and with the killifish and zebrafish models, mechanisms of PAH developmental toxicity and later life consequences of embryonic exposures to low levels of PAHs.

Project 5: Engineering the Physico-Chemical Environment to Enhance the Bioremediation of Developmental Toxicants in Sediment Fungal-Bacterial Biofilms. Bioremediation is the use of specific microorganisms to remediate contaminated sites. This project investigates bioremediation as an alternative to common remediation techniques that can have negative effects on ecosystems. Such approaches, including excavation or dredging, allow the contaminants to remain in the sediment, which must then be moved to a storage or impoundment location. This project aims to remediate the contaminants on site to limit the long-term impacts of toxic waste.

Research Translation Core (RTC) and Community Engagement Core (CEC)*: Effective community engagement and research translation are key elements for promoting the application of environmental health research. The Environmental Health Communications & Engagement intern will support research translation projects and engagement activities to communicate research findings to scientists, policy-makers, and interested/affected community stakeholders. They will work on a variety of projects, but typically one project will be central to their internship time at Duke. The RTC uses innovative science communication techniques to share the Center’s research results with critical members of the scientific, governmental, and lay community. The RTC also works closely with the CEC to support their mission: engaging with communities affected by environmental contamination, and facilitating two-way lines of communication with researchers. Community engagement topics may include effective communication of fish consumption advisories and/or communicating information about soil contamination to community gardeners. Excellent writing and communications skills are desired, and experience with social media, Adobe products, WordPress, and/or GIS experience is useful, but not required.

*Note that there is one (1) internship position that spans across both the RTC and CEC.

Analytical Chemistry Core (ACC): This core fosters the evaluation of contaminant exposure to humans and wildlife and the determination of contaminant distribution in the environment. The core provides routine quantitative and qualitative analysis of organic and metal contaminants on a routine basis to investigators in support of Duke SRC research projects. The ACC also develops novel methods for emerging contaminants of concern in environmental and biological samples on an as-needed basis. Finally, the ACC serves as a consulting and training resource for cutting-edge analytical chemistry needs within the Duke SRC.


Eligibility & Details:

Positions are open to any student currently enrolled as an undergraduate or master’s student. For undergraduates, preference is given to upper-level students (junior year and above) and/or those with relevant experience. All summer interns will be paid a competitive hourly wage and are expected to work full-time for a maximum of 35 hours/week (start/end dates are flexible between May–August). Summer internships typically last for 10 weeks, but this may vary depending on the student’s availability and the PI’s needs. In addition to working with their project or core, interns will be expected to participate in weekly research discussions and lab meetings and to present their research.

Find out more about the Duke University Superfund Research Center at:


How to Apply:

The application window opens on January 2, 2020 and the application deadline is January 31, 2020Priority review will be given to applications received by January 10. Applications received after January 10 will only be considered if internship openings in the desired project/core are still available.

Submitting an application is a two-part process:

  1. Submit cover letter and resume through the official Duke Careers website at (the official posting on this website can be found under the title “NONDUKE STUDENT/INTERN – The Superfund Research Program (SRP)” or by searching for Job Number “15683”) AND
  2. Email cover letter and resume to

The cover letter should describe your educational background, explain your interest in research, and specify the project/core of interest.

Applicants who fail to complete this two-part process may be overlooked during the review process.  It is strongly recommended that applicants complete both steps on the same day.

Questions should be sent to Do NOT directly contact the individual PIs.