Research and Design Experience for Undergraduates with SCI

May 18, 2020 – July 23, 2020

A time for change

The Veterans Research Foundation of Pittsburgh (VRFP), along with the Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL), is pleased to announce the “Research and Design Experience for Undergraduates with SCI” summer internship program.

Many undergraduate engineering students seek opportunities where they can make a meaningful, positive difference and serve others in a way that truly affects lives. For individuals with SCI who share this desire, full participation in STEM fields is often limited. Our program will provide opportunities and mentors in Rehabilitation Engineering (RE) that will serve as a catalyst for future growth and success in STEM programs of study and careers.

Individuals with SCI have been an historically underrepresented population in STEM fields of study and careers. Our program will increase the likelihood of individuals with SCI continuing to graduate school and – ultimately – becoming SCI researchers, mentors, clinicians, or professors. Rather than being relegated to notetaking/observer roles in STEM labs without being given the opportunity to fully participate, our program will introduce – and fully immerse – students with SCI to the opportunities available to them and allow for interaction with faculty and graduate mentors who themselves are individuals with SCI.

The primary objective of the program is to provide students with SCI an exemplary mentoring and resourceful environment that highlights opportunities in STEM. Participants will transition from dependent to independent thinkers, develop a sense of excitement for the opportunities for them in STEM studies and careers through full immersion in on-going research, and establish a foundation for becoming mentors to other students with SCI. Students will be working on research projects that identify and address problems critical to achieving and maintaining the highest possible level of function in areas related to mobility, communications, sensory (e.g., hearing, tactile, vision), and cognition, as well as activities associated with employment, independent living, and education.

Who’s eligible?

The program is open to individuals with SCI, with special consideration given to students who are currently/formerly supported by CHNF. In addition, interested individuals must:

  • submit a complete application
  • are enrolled in good standing in an undergraduate program in engineering, computer science, or related field
  • be available to complete the entire 10-week summer internship

In 2020, we will enroll six students with SCI into the program.

Key program features

  • Hands-on research in state-of-the-art facilities
  • Seminars and workshops to augment the research experience
  • Social activities
  • Faculty/graduate mentors who, themselves, are individuals with SCI
  • $5,000 stipend
  • Housing provided at no-cost
  • Up to $700 to cover travel-related expenses

How do I get started?

Interested students can access the application at

*Please note: Limited funds are available to cover the cost of personal assistance for individuals with tetraplegia in need of such assistance in order to participate in program. Students selected for the program will receive instructions on how to request these funds.