The William M. Lapenta NOAA Student Internship Program is pleased to announce the selection of an excellent class of 54 interns across Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) , the National Weather Service (NWS), and the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) for summer 2021. OAR will welcome 31 of the interns. The program addresses NOAA's goal of a diverse and highly trained workforce as well as OAR's specific skill needs. CPO coordinates the Lapenta Internship for OAR and manages the process by which OAR students are provided with stipends, travel and housing when applicable through its cooperative agreement with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR).
The program will run from June 7 to August 13. Almost 300 strong applications were received, making the decision process challenging. The Lapenta program initially screens applicants for overall qualifications, skills, and alignment with NOAA and Line Office missions, but the selections are made by the hosts themselves.
The group is one of the most diverse cohorts to date for the program, which began in 2017 as the NCEP Student Internship. Of those who provided demographic information on their application (only 3 declined to answer), four identified as Black and eight as Hispanic/Latinx, groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM generally and in the NOAA mission fields in particular. Five identified as Asian and approximately ⅔ of the class are women. Achieving these results was a team effort, which involved strategizing with diversity and inclusion staff as well as targeted outreach to a wide array of diverse professional organizations, universities, and student groups. The program hopes to improve upon this benchmark in 2022.
In OAR, the call for mentors led to the submission of more than 45 projects, submitted by staff from ESRL, Pacific Marine Environmental Lab (PMEL), Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Lab (AOML), Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab (GLERL), Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab (GFDL), Air Resources Lab (ARL), Weather Program Office (WPO), Ocean Exploration and Research (OER), Global Ocean Monitoring and Observing (GOMO), and Ocean Acidification Program (OAP). The program anticipated supporting 20 interns in OAR. However, in light of the ongoing pandemic, the program was forced to offer the internship remotely this summer, allowing the acceptance of 31 interns across the labs and programs with the additional students supported by unused housing funds.
Lapenta intern projects are strongly oriented toward physical sciences, including weather and climate prediction and atmospheric and oceanic processes. But they also include social science, decision support, and education and outreach. Past interns have described the experience as life-changing and several have been hired at NOAA following completion of their degree. The program looks forward to introducing this year’s interns to NOAA staff in June.