How to Apply

The research experiences for undergraduates (REU) program in Plant Biology and Conservation (PBC), hosted by the Chicago Botanic Garden, provides summer research internships for undergraduate students. Learn more about the application process by reading through the timeline, eligibility, and application requirements. Applications open in early December.  

To submit your application you will need to create an account (beginning early December) and submit your application online. When you create an account be sure to select that you are a "Student submitting an application."

Internship Benefits

Through a National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site grant, 10 internships are offered every year. Two additional internships are also offered for alumni of the Chicago Botanic Garden’s College First program. These 10-week internships include

  • $5,750 Stipend
  • Paid Travel to and from Chicago 
  • Room and Board at University Center in Chicago 
  • Commuting Cost from the Center to the Garden

NOTE: Every year we also welcome a number of interns that participate in our program with outside funding, or on a volunteer basis.

Program mentors include faculty and graduate students from the Chicago Botanic Garden (CBG) and Northwestern University Graduate Program in Plant Biology and Conservation(PBC), and occasionally mentors from other partner internships. Projects typically involve fieldwork and laboratory work in the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center, which provides participants access to innovative resources for their research.


  • Mid/Late November mentors will submit their potential summer internships
  • Early December applications open
  • Early February applications close
  • Early March mentors will interview potential applicants
  • Late March offers are sent out. Those not selected will be notified in early April


NSF-supported Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) interns must be:

  1. Citizens or permanent residents of the United States or its possessions
  2. Currently-enrolled undergraduate students
    • Must NOT graduate before winter 2019
    • Graduating seniors or recent graduates are not eligible to apply
    • Students who are transferring from one college or university to another and are enrolled at neither institution during the intervening summer are eligible to participate

The REU program is particularly interested in helping students who lack research opportunities at their home institutions, who have not participated in a REU or similar experience in the past, and/or are from groups traditionally underrepresented in the biological sciences. The Chicago Botanic Garden values diversity and is committed to equal opportunity in all its programs.  

If you are graduating this academic year, please consider the Conservation and Land Management Internship Program, which hires college graduates for 5-month internships each year (

In accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, Chicago Botanic Garden does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its programs or activities, including in employment or admissions. Please call 847-835-8264 to contact our Title IX Coordinator should you have questions or concerns

Application Requirements

The following documents are necessary for an application to be considered complete:

  • Completed application form (online)
    • You will select up to three subject areas of interest
  • Statement of interest (to be filled out online) 
  • One reference (with name, email address, and institutional affiliation and position)
    • One letter of recommendation must be sent directly to CBG by the individual you list as your reference. We will email your reference an online link for letter submission when you submit your application, and you will be notified by email when we have received the letter. When selecting your reference, please be sure that they can speak to your potential for conducting research.
  • Unofficial college/university transcripts (uploaded online)
    • You may submit an unofficial transcript for your application; however, if selected we may request an official transcript. Unofficial transcripts must be uploaded as a PDF to your application. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the application deadline?

We will accept applications through early February. Only completed applications will be considered. Please provide your recommendor with enough time (minimum two weeks is usually appropriate) to complete a letter of recommendation and remind them when the deadline approaches to submit your letter of recommendation. All other materials must be submitted through the online application by the deadline.

How can my improve my application?

Ensure that all elements of the application are complete and carefully proofread. Answer all questions thoroughly. Whether you have past research experience or not, highlight assets that you feel demonstrate your potential and clearly articulate how an REU experience at CBG would fit into your larger academic and professional goals.

What do you look for in an intern?

Applicants are matched to projects based upon interests, personal background, and enthusiasm. Other factors will also be considered such as relevant coursework and experiences. A subset of applicants will be interviewed by phone or email. Final decisions on offers will be made by prospective mentors and the program co-directors.

Is there a stipend?

Yes, students with NSF-funded REU internships will receive a stipend of $5,750.

Can I apply to multiple REU programs at different institutions?

Our program is highly selective (3-5% of those that apply are offered an internship), and we encourage people to apply to as many programs as they are interested in. 

What are the start and end dates of the program?

The exact dates change from year to year but our program runs mid-June to mid-August.

How binding is acceptance to the program?

If you are offered an internship, you will have a set amount of time to respond either way. We expect you to join the program if you formally accept an offer.

My classes end after the program starts. Can I still apply?

This situation will be handled on a case-by-case basis, and depends on a number of factors. We encourage you to apply if you forsee a potential scheduling conflict that is out of your hands (e.g., your finals week coincides with the beginning of our program), as it should not prevent you from being offered an internship. If you are offered an internship, we will discuss potential ways to accommodate the situation.

How will I get there?

The program will cover costs for participant travel to and from their home to Chicago.

If I live in the Chicagoland area or have a friend who lives there. Can I stay at home or with a friend during the program, instead of at the University Center?

ALL students funded by NSF-REU or the College First alumni program are required to stay at the University Center in downtown Chicago. This is because we have found that students who stay elsewhere do not get as much out of the program as those who do. Students stay in shared suites, and room and board costs are covered by the program. The program provides accommodation and one meal a day at the University Center, but does not pay for alternative arrangements.