Why Intern at VAI?

Summer interns gain a wealth of hands-on research experience during their time in the Institute’s labs. They play key roles in the day-to-day operations of the lab and have the opportunity to work closely with and learn from technicians, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, lab managers and their principal investigator.


Interns design and conduct experiments as part of the projects underway in their assigned lab. The experimental approaches and specific techniques vary widely, depending on the lab’s expertise and the demands of their current projects. Approaches range from molecular biology (DNA, RNA and proteins) to cell biology (culturing and characterizing mammalian cells) to structural biology (X-ray analysis of protein crystals) to bioinformatics (making sense of huge volumes of genomic information). Interns are expected to maintain accurate and complete records of their work in lab notebooks, and to comply with appropriate lab safety guidelines.

Weekly meetings

Most labs have weekly meetings at which lab members (including interns) describe and discuss their results. Interns are also encouraged to attend weekly journal clubs during which recent papers from the scientific literature are presented. Van Andel Research Institute often hosts seminar speakers from other institutions, and each Friday a VARI scientist presents recent work in a Research in Progress talk.


Several workshops and lunch events are designed specifically for summer interns. These include:

  • Workshops on effective oral communication, on preparing scientific posters and on career pathways
  • A lunch with postdoctoral fellows to discuss steps in scientific training and the range of career options
  • A workshop on the process of applying to and selecting graduate schools
  • A symposium with students presenting their research projects, via a talk or a poster, to Institute scientists.
Social events

Other events encourage team building and social interaction, such as an ice cream social and a field trip to a West Michigan Whitecaps baseball game.