Undergraduate Research Internship Program

CESTA's Undergraduate Research Internship program empowers students to apply technologies across the Humanities and Social Sciences in ways that enhance our understanding of the world.

Applications for the 2023 program are now closed. Applications for 2024 will open in October 2023. 

As Stanford's digital humanities center, CESTA cultivates research at the intersection of computing, design, and the humanities. The Center utilizes digital and computational methods to investigate cultural records, objects, and historical phenomena through space and time. CESTA projects explore the history of technologies, preserve and explain the written and artistic records of peoples across the world, and bring new life to the stories of individuals who helped build America.

The Undergraduate Research Internship provides opportunities for undergraduates to work on these projects throughout the academic year. Through structured research training, experimentation with cutting-edge technologies, and faculty mentorship, students develop valuable academic and professional skill sets. Work on lab projects allows students to apply their developing expertise in data science, GIS, and web development in tandem with humanities skills in critical thinking, creative problem-solving, and ethical decision-making.

You can read about the experiences of recent interns in CESTA's 2022 Research Anthology.

Fundamentals of the Program

In the 2023-24 academic year, students have the option of two program terms: Winter and Spring (a two-quarter part-time internship) or Summer (a one-quarter full-time internship). All CESTA internships are in-person. Applicants may apply to one or both of these programs.

Winter and Spring 2024

  • January 22, 2024 (following Martin Luther King, Jr., Day) through June 7, 2024
  • Part-time commitment, 10 hours per week
  • Regular in-person program sessions at CESTA (meetings with the full cohort of interns)
  • Part-time interns will work in-person in the CESTA space, and there will be a program of social events and activities

Summer 2024

  • June 26 through September 1, 2024 (10 weeks)
  • Full-time commitment (40 hours per week)
  • Regular in-person program sessions at CESTA (meetings with the full cohort of interns)
  • Full-time interns will work in-person in the CESTA space, and there will be a program of social events and activities

All research interns are compensated for their participation in the program. Compensation can take several forms, including hourly pay, stipends, and academic credit (at the application stage, students are asked whether they are open to working for academic credit). Interns will receive information about their specific arrangement in their offer letters. Generally speaking, interns working part-time will be offered stipends or hourly positions or receive academic credit via their project's faculty lead. Interns working full-time will be offered hourly positions or stipends. Students who qualify for Federal Work-Study awards in 2023-24 should let us know about their eligibility at the time that they apply.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do research interns do?

Research interns are matched with ongoing research projects led by faculty and graduate students, where they use their existing skills and/or learn new skills in order to contribute to current research in the digital humanities. Our interns join a vibrant cohort of Stanford undergrads from many majors and backgrounds in a supportive program that includes discussions and workshops on topics related to the digital humanities, as well as participation in a capstone publication—the CESTA Research Anthology.

In their project work, research interns engage in various phases of the research process, including traditional and archival research, finding data, creating databases, using computational methods of modeling and analysis, data visualization, and contributing to various forms of publication. For example, depending on the project a student is working on, they may:

  • Use GIS to quantify and map urban development over time
  • Visit library or digital collections to find relevant materials about the lived experiences of Chinese railroad workers
  • Build databases of European travelers to Italy in the 18th century
  • Transcribe medieval documents containing information such as spells, early medicinal remedies, and evidence of pagan elements that have persisted throughout the centuries
  • Develop interactive web platforms that allow users to visualize data sets

Though faculty develop the initial research questions and projects, students are active participants in research design and may contribute by challenging assumptions, suggesting alternative approaches, and posing new hypotheses.

To learn more about the kind of work research interns do, please explore our 2021 Research Anthology and view our brief Intern Spotlight videos on CESTA's YouTube channel: 

What kind of projects can I work on?

Our projects range from large multi-year, multi-faculty projects, with multiple interns, to more narrowly focused projects with a single faculty or graduate researcher and intern. All projects work with the CESTA team. Project openings vary as student availability and project status change. To learn more about ongoing projects, publications, events, and academic programs, explore our website at cesta.stanford.edu/projects-labs.

Projects committed to recruiting interns for the 2024 program will be listed above, however this list may grow as other projects determine their support needs. Notably, the Digital Humanities Graduate Fellowship program will recruit a number of interns to work on graduate research projects in the Winter-Spring program.

What does the application process entail?

The application consists of a downloadable application form, a short statement of interest, and a resume, all of which are uploaded via our application portal. The downloadable application form will take less than an hour to complete and is intended to help us learn about your interests, availability, skills, and previous experience.

If you have previously interned at CESTA and would like to intern with us again, you are required to fill out a new application.

Information sessions held shortly after the application deadline will allow you to meet the CESTA team, see the CESTA workspace, and ask any questions about the program. They are also an opportunity for us to get to know you, so attendance is strongly encouraged.

What should my statement of interest include?

The statement of interest is an opportunity for you to tell us why you're interested in the program, what you hope to gain from it,  and what unique skills, interests or perspectives you will bring to our community. It should be 250-350 words long (approximately one typed page).

For students applying for the first time, we ask that you include:

  • Why you’re interested in this internship program and what you hope to gain
  • What you can offer to the program
  • A previous challenge you faced and how you responded
  • A summary of previous experience in research and/or collaborative tasks

For students who have interned with us before, we ask that you include:

  • Why you’re interested in participating in this program again and what you hope to gain
  • How this program helped you grow, develop, or learn
  • A challenge you faced during your previous participation in the program and how you responded at the time, and (optionally) how you would respond now

What makes a strong statement of interest?

A thoughtful and well-written statement of interest is an important component of your application. Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t summarize your resume. There is no harm in mentioning a particular accomplishment, but the majority of your statement should focus on explaining why you'd like to be part of this program and how you can contribute to our community.
  • Show, don’t tell. Make use of examples to show who you are as a student, researcher, and community member. Instead of telling us that you’re an effective collaborator, for example, tell us about a time you collaborated on a project and what you learned from the experience.
  • Follow instructions. We asked for a one-page response that covers specific points. Make sure that you submit a statement that meets those requirements, which might take a few drafts to get right! We recommend asking a peer, faculty member, or mentor to read through your statement before you submit it.

How does working for CESTA provide me with academic, research, and job experience?

While working on CESTA projects students gain valuable experience. Students have access to faculty, staff, and graduate student mentorship in addition to a great working space. CESTA provides a community and program that exposes students to relevant on campus tools, people, and resources. Students can gain experience working within their field or topic of interest, or gain experience outside of the realm of their major through project-based learning. Students also acquire new technical and conceptual skills. While working on these projects students are also practicing critical soft skills such as problem solving, communication, and time management.

What if I apply and am not hired?

Student demand for projects is high and there are limited positions available. However, students who are not immediately interviewed or placed on a project in the quarter in which they apply can be considered for additional projects as they become available.

With new projects being added every year, we also encourage students to re-apply in future, especially as particular interests and skills develop! 

For More Information

If you have any questions about the program or the application process, contact Will Fenton, CESTA's Associate Director, at wdfenton [at] stanford.edu.