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Janelia is a highly collaborative setting where biologists routinely work alongside computer scientists, engineers, physicists, and chemists. This enables undergraduate students to benefit from an unparalleled interdisciplinary experience.

Accommodations and Support

All Janelia-Meyerhoff Undergraduate Students live on campus. All living expenses including housing, food, and travel to and from Janelia are covered by the program. Students also receive a stipend of $5,000 for the 10-week period.

Research Program

Students can work on a range of projects in Janelia labs, including identifying the neurons that control feeding behavior in fruit flies, understanding the metabolism of cells, designing new biosensors for use with sophisticated microscopy, calcium imaging recording of the whole brain of larval zebra fish to study communication between neurons, glia, and developing computer programs for automated image analysis, and much more! The major research areas include:

Mechanistic Cognitive Neuroscience

The Mechanistic Cognitive Neuroscience area consists of fifteen independent labs focused on the ultimate question in neuroscience: how does the brain enable cognition? We investigate mental processes that enable animals to acquire knowledge and use it flexibly at a later time, thereby going beyond reflexive behavior. Examples of such processes include the generation of mental models of the environment (to navigate to goals) and of others (to navigate complex social situations), the development of expectations, and of decision-making with incomplete information. We work in close collaboration with tool-builders, theorists and computational experts in our pursuit of a detailed understanding of how cognitive processes and behavior are implemented at the level of circuits, cells, and molecules. This motivates our choice of model organisms with powerful genetic tools (flies, fish and rodents), and of experimental strategies that allow cellular-resolution monitoring and perturbation of neural activity during behavior. Undergraduates with an interest in animal behavior, neuroscience, biophysics, cognitive science, applied mathematics or related disciplines will enjoy a robust and collaborative research experience at Janelia.

Molecular Tools and Imaging

The Molecular Tools and Imaging area at Janelia consists of independent experts in a range of physical, chemical, and biological disciplines who invent novel reagents and technologies that push the boundaries of biological discovery. We develop microscopes that allow imaging of biological systems with unprecedented resolution and depth as well as new imaging agents that enable measurement of phenomena inside cells or animals. We also freely share our tools – a hallmark of the Janelia ethos – and the microscopes, dyes, and sensors developed at Janelia are being used in labs around the world. Undergraduates with an interest in biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, chemistry, physics, or related disciplines will enjoy a robust research experience with opportunities to collaborate with computational and biological scientists at Janelia.

Computation and Theory

C&T labs work on all aspects of computation that pervade modern biology, from experiment design to data analysis, modeling, and interpretation. We develop machine vision and learning algorithms for analyzing and interpreting the raw data collected at Janelia and elsewhere. We develop computational models and theories to transform these data into an understanding of how and why biological systems operate the way they do. Working with experimental biologists, we design new experiments to refine and test these theories, and fill in the biggest holes in our understanding of biological processes. 

4D Cellular Physiology

4D Cellular Physiology is a new research area that lies at the interface of three major fields: cell biology, physiology, and anatomy. Research in this area aims to understand the how cellular mechanisms and cell-cell communication give rise to complex organ functions and how these processes are disrupted in disease. 4D references Janelia’s unique strength in using microscopy as a key tool for investigating cell structure through high resolution 3D imaging and analyzing temporal changes in cell function using biochemical sensors and tools for measuring and manipulating cell behavior. We anticipate research projects for undergraduates in the coming summer in investigating metabolism, liver function, cell structure, and potentially plant physiology, using a wide variety of tools including advanced microscopy, protein engineering and biochemistry, and computational image analysis.

Summer internships are available in the following Janelia labs:

  • Misha Ahrens (mechanisms underlying behavioral flexibility, memory, and learning)
  • Abraham Beyene (using materials chemistry to develop nanoscale optical probes to study neurotransmission)
  • Joshua Dudman (studies how sensory information and motor planning come together in the basal ganglia to drive voluntary behavior)
  • James Fitzgerald (combining biology and physics to develop neuroscience theories that span multiple scales)
  • Jan Funke (developing computational methods to automatically analyze large microscopy datasets)
  • Rob Johnson (how rodents make predictions and plan future actions)
  • Alla Karpova (neural computations that allow animals to dynamically adjust behavior)
  • Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz (microscopy approaches to study subcellular structures and how they impact neuron organization and function)
  • James Liu (advanced imaging tools to study structure-function relationships of channels and receptors in single neurons)
  • Marius Pachitariu (neural representations in large scale population recordings from cortex and beyond)
  • Kayvon Pedram (develop tools that leverage the unique characteristics of glycans—sugars that decorate the surfaces of all cells—to deepen our understanding of cellular functioning and pathology)
  • Michael Reiser (studying vision in flies to understand where behavior comes from)
  • Sandro Romani (computational approaches to investigate how microcircuits in the hippocampus and cortex encode, maintain, and update information)
  • Stephan Saalfeld (developing software for automatic image annotation)
  • Eric Schreiter (developing molecular tools for reading, marking, and manipulating neuronal activity in model organisms)
  • Nelson Spruston (neurophysiological basis of memory guided behavior)
  • David Stern (evolution of genes and neural circuits that generate behavioral diversity)
  • Carsen Stringer (high dimensional cortical computations using large-scale neural data)
  • Alison Tebo (protein engineering to develop chemical biology tools at the transcellular level)
  • Gowan Tervo (understand the mechanistic basis of social cognition by developing tools to reveal the neural basis of rodent social interaction in ethological settings)
  • Srini Turaga (using machine learning to design new programmable microscopes and engineering protein sensors of neural activity)
  • Ron Vale (Secretory mechanisms of liver; cell biology and biochemistry)

International Students

International students are eligible and visas will be supported.

2022 Program

The 2022 program will run from approximately May 23rd to mid-August. Students will spend a full 10 weeks at Janelia, but we are flexible on the specific start and end dates to accommodate differing academic calendars at universities. Please note that Janelia may cancel the 2022 summer Janelia-Meyerhoff Undergraduate Summer Program if, in Janelia’s sole discretion, the state of the COVID-19 pandemic dictates that Janelia cannot safely and efficiently hold the program.