UMass Graduate Students Awarded NSF Funding for Cutting Edge Internships

Two UMass graduate students were recently awarded funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support six-month internships. Part of NSF’s INTERN program, the awards are designed to provide non-academic research experience and training. In total, six UMass graduate students have been awarded over $230,000 through NSF’s INTERN program.  

NEWS Karin Lehnigk and Trisha Dehrone
Left to right: Karin Lehnigk and Trisha Dehrone

The two most recent INTERN awardees are Karin Lehnigk, a Ph.D. student in geosciences, and Trisha Dehrone, a Ph.D. student in the psychology of peace and violence program in the department of psychological and brain sciences. Both students had previously received NSF Graduate Research Fellowships, which made them eligible to apply for INTERN funding.

Lehnigk will use her INTERN award to work at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., running computer simulations of ancient floods on Mars to figure out how big they were and where the water might have come from.

In addition to this research, Lehnigk will use the internship to build her skills in outreach and science communication, while exploring career options outside the university framework. “Working at the Smithsonian seemed to be a perfect way to combine those interests; applying the geology skills I've learned in grad school to a new and challenging environment with limited data, and at the same time exploring the role of museums in making science accessible to the public,” Lehnigk says.

“I grew up near D.C. and visiting the Smithsonian museums on class trips and family outings is what sparked my interest in science. I'm most excited to be able to share the research that excites me with the museum's visitors, especially kids, and hopefully inspire people the way I was.”

Dehrone will hold an internship with the American Immigration Council, a non-profit, non-partisan organization based out of Washington, D.C. She will design, implement, and evaluate interventions to build positive relationships between racially and ethnically diverse neighbors. 

Looking ahead, Dehrone says she envisions a career as a faculty member who works alongside non-profit and government partners to develop and implement interventions that enhance equity and cooperation across racial-ethnic groups, for which she says this internship will provide valuable “on the ground” training in working with the public. “This opportunity also provides me with the opportunity to collaborate with practitioners and advocates who come from varied academic disciplines and learn about relevant work outside of my area, strengthening my ability to communicate science to broader audiences, while also broadening the scope of my knowledge,” Dehrone says.

“As a graduate student at UMass, I am provided with training on theory, designing experimental studies, and writing up peer-reviewed journal articles – and while I value these skills, they alone are not the reason I became a scientist. I became a scientist to put theory to work! I want to understand what strategies are effective at reducing prejudice and improving relations between groups, and what better place to do that than out in the field?”

Current graduate students who hold an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, or whose PI has an active NSF grant, may be eligible to apply for INTERN funding. Contact Heidi Bauer-Clapp ( for more information.