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Regular COVID testing is no longer required by Harvard University. The University encourages community members to obtain antigen test kits and have them accessible in the event that you might need to test.

Rapid Antigen Tests are readily available at local pharmacies and through your health insurance. Additional safety measures (including masking) will be determined based on public health conditions.

For information about Harvard's current COVID safety protocols (which are subject to change), visit:  Should a positive case of COVID occur, we will follow the procedures that Harvard has in place at the time. Here is the link to the current quarantine and isolation procedure:

Yes, participants attending school outside of the US are eligible so long as they are a US citizen.

Choose reference writers who know you well and can speak to your strengths, regardless of their affiliation. Referees needn’t be faculty but should be able to comment on your skills relevant to the program, such as academic/research experience, analytical and communication abilities, creativity, and ability to work on a team. Don’t choose referees who are family members or close family friends.

Harvard University is an equal opportunity employer and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, gender identity, sexual orientation, pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions, or any other characteristic protected by law. Harvard is committed to enriching its educational experience and its culture through the diversity of its faculty, administration and staff. Harvard Forest is striving to be a welcoming and inclusive community and we encourage all qualified applicants to apply.  Please see the Harvard Forest Diversity and Inclusion Statement.

Because we receive nearly 500 applications every year for the Harvard Forest Summer Research Program, we are unable to provide detailed feedback to anyone that we are unable to hire. The most common reasons that an applicant was not hired are listed below.


1. The applicant’s aspirations and goals do not match up well with projects. There is intense competition for each position. Applicants whose personal aspirations, educational pathways, or career goals as discussed in their essay do not fit well with a particular project are unlikely to be hired. For example, if a student writes that s/he is pursuing a goal in wetland management or pollution control but has identified a project on small mammal dynamics in hemlock forests as her/his first choice, there is a clear mismatch.

 2. The applicant’s letters of recommendation are non-specific or weak. It is very important that the faculty advisor, teacher, or employer writing a letter of recommendation writes a strong letter that is focused on the match between the summer research program/project and the applicant’s aspirations and goals. Students not only should ask a potential reference if s/he can write a letter of recommendation but also should ask if s/he can write a strong letter of recommendation. Follow up with a discussion of the summer research program and how it meshes with the student’s short- and long-term goals.

 3. The applicant lacks particular skills. Although most of our projects do not require particular skills, some do. For example, projects involving computer programming may require that students already have facility with a specific programming language such as Java, R, or C. For other projects, demonstration of work-skills, commitment to a job, or leadership will be more important.

 4. The applicant has too much previous REU experience. Summer research programs like that at Harvard Forest are Research Experiences for Undergraduates. In general, we hire students who have not had a previous paid summer or academic-year research internship so that we can provide them with a first research experience.

 5. The applicant is not academically well prepared. Demonstration that the applicant has had lab- or field-based coursework that emphasizes the scientific method is important. We do not use a particular grade-point average (GPA) as a reason to decline an applicant. However, reasons for unusually poor grades in science courses should be discussed in essays and/or letters of recommendations.

 6. The applicant is indifferent or unenthusiastic during the application process or interviews. One of the most important characteristics of successful applicants is enthusiasm. It is important to respond promptly to e-mails and be available for scheduled interviews. We seek students who not only really want to do research in the summer but also really want to do that research at the Harvard Forest. This is not simply another internship.

 7. The applicant is disrespectful during interviews. The Harvard Forest Summer Research Program is an intensive 11-week residential experience. Students ranging in age from 17 to > 40, coming from different parts of the world and with different backgrounds, live together, work together, and play together all summer. It is important that the participants demonstrate an ability to respect their peers and mentors.

 8. The applicant cannot be here for the full length of the program. Students are expected to be at the Harvard Forest from the day before the program starts until the last day of the program. In most years, the program starts the 3rd week of May and ends the first week of August. Trimesters that run into mid-June, extended summer vacations, or other conflicts rarely can be accommodated.

 9. The applicant currently is not enrolled in a 2- or 4-year college or university. The vast majority of the available funding for our summer research program can be used only to support undergraduate students (including students who are planning to enroll as freshman in the coming fall). Only on rare occasions can we can support one or two students who have already graduated from college or who are already enrolled in a M.Sc. program.

 10. The applicant is not a U.S. citizen or green-card holder. The vast majority of the available funding for our summer research program can be used only to support students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Only on rare occasions can we can support one or two students who are neither U.S. citizens nor permanent residents.

 11. There are simply too many good applicants. Even after we have winnowed the applicant pool based on the preceding ten criteria, there are still far more highly qualified applicants than we can possibly hire in any given summer. If the applicant is willing, we can share their application with other REU programs with which we interact.

The application is hosted on the NSF Education and Training Application (ETAP) platform. For questions about an application, please refer to the ETAP FAQ (, and then if you cannot find an answer to your question, reach out to

The core of our funding is for undergraduate students who are enrolled in a 2 or 4 year colleges during and after the summer program.   Students on leave from their undergraduate program and students who have completed their associates degree (2 year program) and are going on to get a bachelor's degree (4 year program) are also encouraged to apply and will be considered as part of the general applicant pool. Students who have already obtained a bachelors degree, will obtain one by the time the summer program begins, or who are currently enrolled in a graduate program are welcome to apply but should be aware that we may not have funding for any such positions.

The program runs for 11 weeks beginning Monday, May 20, 2024 and ending at 5 pm on Friday, August 2, 2024.

The annual Summer Student Symposium will be held on Thursday, August 1, 2024. Family and friends are welcome to attend.

Projects require that students start with the program and stay for the full 11 weeks.  If you cannot participate fully in the program, you are still welcome to apply, just note the dates you will be available clearly at the top of your personal essay. 

Participation in the program is open only to those are legally authorized to be employed by Harvard University in the United States. Most of our funding is only open to U.S. citizens or green card holders (exception: non-U.S. citizens who attend Harvard University are eligible for internal funds). If you are not a citizen or green card holder, you are still welcome to apply, but note your chances of participating in the program are very low.

International students currently attending a US school may be eligible to participate in the program if you are able to secure funding from your home institution. Harvard University will not be able to pay for any stipends, room & board, and travel costs.

International students NOT attending school currently in the US are not eligible for this program.  Harvard University is unable to assist in obtaining such employment authorization for this program and the Harvard International Office cannot answer inquiries about any individual's eligibility.

The application is hosted on the NSF Education and Training Application (ETAP) platform. For questions about an application, please refer to the ETAP FAQ (, and then if you cannot find an answer to your question, reach out to

The core of our funding is for undergraduate students who are enrolled in a 2 or 4 year colleges. Students who have completed their associates degree (2 year program) and are going on to get a bachelor's degree (4 year program) are also encouraged to apply and will be considered as part of the general applicant pool. Other individuals (non-student or graduate student status) are welcome to apply but should be aware that we may not have funding for any such positions.

If your school has funding for student summer research projects, please do apply for the funding. We only admit the exact number of students we have funding for but often have additional projects for which we do not have sufficient funds to support a student. Students who are able to obtain support  from other sources to defray travel costs, stipends, research supplies, etc.  should indicate this on their application. This supplemental funding often allows us to support additional students.

Note: Securing external funding does not gurantee a position in the summer program.

Applications will be reviewed in late February. Soon thereafter, mentors will contact top candidates for an interview. All applicants will be officially notified of their status (acceptance/rejection) by email by the end of March.

Student compensation includes the following:

  • Stipend of $7700 for the 11-week session
  • Free furnished housing at Fisher or Raup House
  • Free full meal plan
  • Travel to/from Harvard Forest at the beginning and end of the summer

We encourage students to work with faculty at their home institution to receive academic credit for their summer work. Please inquire at your school about the process.

Students work typically 40 hours per week, however actual hours vary depending on project needs. Some projects require early morning, late night or weekend work; details will be included in the project description, and will be discussed by the researcher/mentor during the interview process. Work includes all aspects of the research process, including field and laboratory data collection, data management and analysis, and developing methods, proposals, and presentations. In addition, there are one-hour educational workshops and seminars held one to two evenings per week after dinner. All participants are required to attend these educational programs. 

Similar to most REU programs, the Harvard Forest Summer Program receives many more applications than available funded positions. Overall, the pool of students hired will come with a wide variety of experience and educational backgrounds. A small but significant portion of students hired are rising sophmores who show an interest in ecology but of course do not have significant course work or experience. The majority of students hired are rising juniors and seniors who have a background in relevant science courses. We actively recruit students from small colleges, minority serving colleges and universities, tribal colleges, community colleges, and schools with limited opportunities to get "hands on" research experience. The most competitive applicants have demonstrated an ability to take initiative and responsibility, whether by work or volunteer experience. We do NOT have any minimum GPA requirement or specific courses that are prerequisites, and many students hired do not have previous field experience.. 

Most mentors look at applicants who picked their projects as a first or second choice, and sometimes at applicants who picked projects in related areas. What is most important to a mentor varies greatly. Some emphasize previous coursework, good grades, extracurricular activities, or relevant work experience, where as other mentors look for a student with excellent potential but in need of a first research experience. The one area all mentors agree is invaluable is the personal essay as a discussion of the applicant's background and his/her interest in the projects offered in this year's program. Avoid submitting a generic essay with the theme that this would be a good internship experience for you or that it will help you get into graduate or professional school. Instead, pick your projects carefully, then spend time using your personal essay to explain your selections. The best applicants spend time perusing the Harvard Forest web site and craft a thoughtful essay about their individual interests, why they have picked the projects listed, why the Harvard Forest in particular interests them, and how this internship program will help them further develop their career goals. This of course takes more time, but investing an hour or two in research and writing your essay often makes an application stand out from the rest, and significantly increases your chances of being interviewed. 

There are health risks associated with lab and field research. Students working in the lab may be exposed to caustic chemicals and other toxic substances. Students working in the field often travel over uneven ground, and through areas with biting insects, falling trees, and thorny plants.

The most common health problems result from reactions to biting insects, including mosquitoes, wasps and bees, and ticks. The most common cause for medical treatment is when students exhibit symptoms of Lyme disease following a tick bite. We monitor such situations very closely to ensure that anyone showing symptoms of Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics as soon as possible. For more information about Lyme disease, please see Centers for Disease Control: and National Science Foundation (NSF) Discoveries - Lyme Disease: Ten things you always wanted to know about ticks:

Please know that we work hard to ensure the health and safety off all our staff and students. We spend a substantial portion of the program orientation in safety training. Finally, students are not allowed to do work with hazardous chemicals in the labs during off hours and solo field work is discouraged. 

The summer program is a core part of the research and education mission of Harvard Forest. While every student, mentor, and project is different, we place high expectations on all the students and their mentors to ensure everyone has an excellent, albeit demanding, research experience. These expectations are stated explicitly for mentors and students and program staff seek to ensure all participants understand them and act within this spirit.

Students are expected to comply with the Code of Conduct, which they sign as part of their acceptance materials. This code clearly states that all illegal drug use is prohibited and only students who are of legal age to drink may to do so. The Code is taken quite seriously at the Harvard Forest and violation of it may lead to discipline or dismissal from the program. 

All temporary employees of Harvard Forest are covered by Harvard University's Worker's Compensation policy for injuries sustained while working. Harvard Forest does not provide general health insurance for summer employees. All enrolled undergraduates should be covered by their own health insurance policy. Students injured during non-work time are responsible for the costs of any health care required.

The program includes a complete meal plan, provided by a professional chef with 20+ years experience. Our cook has extensive expertise in addressing food allergies and cooking vegetarian and vegan meals. However, students with very strict dietary needs should work with the chef to develop a reasonable meal plan or may need to do their own cooking. We ask students to answer a food preference survey prior to arrival to assist the chef in planning. Monday through Thursday, students have a self-serve breakfast buffet, and hot lunch and dinner. Friday, the cook makes a special hot breakfast and has a cook-out style lunch for students. Weekends, students are given large quantities of left-overs from the week. The residences have fully stocked kitchens for their use on weekends. Students sign up for 2-3 shifts per week to set-up for, and clean up after, meals in the communal dining hall/kitchen. 

Students live at Fisher House (23 beds) or Raup House (16 beds). Most students will have 1 to 3 roommates. While both houses are co-ed, rooms are single-sex.

Please note that linens, blankets, and towels are provided and there are coin-operated laundry facilities located on site. 

Raup House 978-756-6192
Fisher House 978-756-6191

The house phones are utilized by all the student interns, so if no one picks up, leave a detailed message with your name, who you're calling for, and the number they can reach you at, or what time you will be calling back.

Fire or Medical emergencies, Call 911

24-hour Emergency number for heat, plumbing, power or lockout: 1-866-844-4923 reaches on call facilities staff

Mailing Address:
Student Name, Harvard Forest, 324 North Main Street, Petersham, MA 01366 

Harvard Forest has a fleet of vehicles for use for research and education purposes.

Some summer students choose to bring their own vehicles for the duration of the program. For those folks who do not have a vehicle, we provide limited access to Harvard Forest vehicles during non-working hours for group educational/recreational trips. In addition, the proctors organize trips to the local stores (Wal-Mart, Target, CVS, etc). Students can become authorized drivers of Harvard Forest vehicles by having a valid driver's license and a clean driving record for at least 2 years, and completing on-site vehicle training. Student drivers are covered by Harvard Forest's commercially insurance policy but if a student is negligent and causes damage to a vehicle, they may be required to pay a deductible. Collaborators are allowed to drive or ride in Forest Vehicles, family and friends are not.

Harvard Forest provides:

  • Limited access to Forest vehicles for group educational/recreational activities
  • Computer and internet access
  • Board games, puzzles
  • 6 hybrid bikes for on- and off-road riding
  • 2 canoes and gear for flat water canoeing
  • Volleyball/badminton/basketball equipment
  • Outdoor fire pit and wood
  • Things to do around Harvard Forest and the Region. 

There is NO public transportation to Harvard Forest.

We work with all students to get them to and from Harvard Forest safely and expeditiously.

More information with driving directions is available.

Visit the summer program blog to learn more about what interns have done during and after their internships. 

We provide a telephone, answering machine, and a voicemail service at the dorms for shared student use. All calls (except very local) require a calling card so please bring one with you. Cell phones work intermittently as we do NOT have good reception here. We have excellent wifi in the dorm/houses and work spaces.

You are welcome to use your own computer for the research and program activities. If you do not have a computer with sufficient processing speed to fully participate in the research, education, or community activities, the Harvard Forest can loan you a laptop for the duration of the program.

Students should bring what will make for a comfortable and enjoyable summer. The top two items which are almost universally desired are insect repellant and a fan. Here is a suggested Summer Equipment List to consider.

Each summer we hire 1-2 live-in proctor(s), who is a combination resident advisor and assistant program coordinator. As program assistants, he/she organizes seminars and workshops, takes photos of student research, help students with research-related issues, and generally assists in the smooth running of the summer program.  As resident advisors, he/she can help organize group activities, counsel students on any problems, ensure students follow the Code of Conduct, and maintain communal house living.