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Summer Undergraduate Research Internship

Funded Summer Undergraduate Research Internship in Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery

Molecular Pharmaceutics (PHCEU) funded summer research internships provide undergraduate students majoring in science and engineering at US
institutions an opportunity to gain first-hand experience in scientific research under the mentorship of world-class scientists. Participation in this
program gives students experience in pharmaceutics and drug delivery research and helps prepare them for pursuing graduate studies. Research areas include drug delivery, gene therapy, cell-based delivery, immunotherapeutics and vaccines, precision medicine and theranostics.

student looking at her computer

What is Pharmaceutics?

Pharmaceutical sciences focus on the physiology and chemistry controlling drug therapeutic action in modern medicine. Often confused with pharmacy practice, pharmaceutics is distinct in its research and development emphasis, contributing important technologies and scientific bases for drug delivery to patients. Over half of newly discovered drug candidates cannot be commercialized without further drug delivery and formulation assistance. Researchers trained in pharmaceutics integrate a broad working knowledge of diverse scientific disciplines: from fundamental studies of drug physiochemical properties and bioactive molecules to mechanisms of various physiological processes that impact drug delivery to specific biological sites of action and, therefore, their therapeutic effectiveness. Increasing awareness of the complexity of the drug delivery process in living systems means that researchers in pharmaceutics today must maintain breadth and depth in physical chemistry, cellular and molecular biology, organic chemistry, mathematics, bioengineering, and nanotechnology in order to solve research problems that require integration of basic science concepts from multiple disciplines with medical applications. 

Research at the PHCEU:

Research in our department covers a broad spectrum of areas including drug delivery, gene therapy, cell-based delivery, immunotherapeutics and vaccines, precision medicine, and theranostics. Innovative drug delivery is a major focus of research in our department. We develop advanced carriers with a variety of unique features for delivery of small molecule drugs, vaccines, peptides, proteins and imaging agents for therapeutic and diagnostic purposes. Our interdisciplinary research enterprise is at the interface of materials science and chemistry, cellular and molecular biology and clinical translation. The areas of research emphasis in our department includes, but are not limited to, design and development of polymer-based therapeutics, drug delivery approaches to overcome antimicrobial resistance, delivery of macromolecular therapeutics for treatment of brain tumors, cell therapy and cell sheet tissue engineering, design of immunotherapeutics for cancer treatment, nanomedicine, vaccine development and diagnostics.  Faculty and students in our department work in close collaboration with the Departments of Biomedical Engineering, Pharmacology and Toxicology, Medicinal Chemistry, School of Medicine, and The Huntsman Cancer Institute among other local, national and international organizations. 

Research Facilities:

The Department of Molecular Pharmaceutics occupies space in The Skaggs Pharmacy Institute at the College of Pharmacy, The Biomedical Polymers Research Building, and The Sorenson Molecular Biotechnology Building.  These buildings are all proximal to the Health Sciences Center and Health Sciences Library.  All department space is well equipped for graduate research containing facilities for chemical synthesis, molecular biology, protein chemistry, cell culture, and small animal surgery.  The Department also possesses multiple cold rooms, darkrooms, modern computing facilities, several shared instrument rooms, offices, and conference rooms. There are three research centers affiliated with the Department of Molecular Pharmaceutics: Center for Controlled Chemical Delivery, Utah Center for Nanomedicine and the Cell Sheet Tissue Engineering Center. These research centers led by faculty from the department provide a strong globally recognized training environment.

Purpose of the Program and the Activities Offered:

The Department’s Undergraduate Summer Research Internship is a ten-week program during which time students conduct independent research under the supervision of faculty members applying chemical, biological and mathematical principles to contemporary problems involving drugs and related molecules. Participants receive basic instruction in laboratory and research techniques, learn first-hand the use of specialized laboratory instrumentation, and learn how to effectively search and study the scientific literature. The program is designed to provide maximum independence but sufficient guidance to ensure that students will obtain a complete research experience. The research labs at PHCEU have close interaction and multiple collaborations with other units at the University of Utah including the Colleges of Science and Engineering, the School of Medicine as well as The Huntsman Cancer Institute. This provides a unique opportunity for undergraduate students to experience a multidisciplinary and translational research environment. In addition to the laboratory projects, the program director will organize weekly journal clubs for students and is available to provide scientific and social support during their stay.

As part of this program, we will also organize social activities including hiking and summer BBQ that facilitate the integration of undergraduate students with the broader community. The University of Utah is located in Salt Lake City at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains. Opportunities for a variety of summer recreational activities are abundant, including hiking, mountain climbing, boating, and fishing. Ten national parks are within a day's drive from the University.

At their option, participants may enroll as University of Utah students for the summer and receive academic credit for their research work. In such case tuition will not be covered by the program. Participants will obtain valuable exposure to scientific research which will enable them to more clearly evaluate career and educational choices.

Participant tasks

Time commitment: This is a full-time program. Admitted students are expected to spend 40 hours per week on research and program-related activities for the entire duration of the program. Detailed tasks and requirements with regards to each project will be agreed between the student and faculty mentor 

Weekly meetings with program director: Student participants are expected to attend regular weekly meetings with program director in which they will present their progress. 

Host lab events: Students are expected to attend all the meetings and presentations and events scheduled for the host labs.

Final presentation and report: Student participants are required to present their work (oral presentation) at the final Undergraduate Summer Research Internship Symposium and deliver a written report to the faculty mentor and program director.

Financial Coverage and Housing:

Admitted students will receive a stipend of $5,000 (less applicable taxes) and coverage for housing expenses over the course of the program (40 hours per week for 10 weeks). Accommodation and travel expenses are not covered.  Participants will be hired as short-term, temporary employees. This will allow them to receive University of Utah ID cards, providing for the ability to check out books from University Libraries, use computers on campus, receive discounts, etc.

Housing is provided by the program at the campus through the "Summer conferences" housing program.

Eligibility and Application Process

Undergraduate students pursuing a bachelor's degree in chemistry, engineering, biology, physics, mathematics, or related disciplines in a US-based institution are eligible to apply. By the time the program starts students should have completed two years of their undergraduate studies. Applicants who will have graduated by the time of the program are not eligible but are welcome to apply for the graduate program in Molecular Pharmaceutics.

Applicants are required to submit the following documents to program director before the deadline:

  1. PHCEU summer internship online application form
  2. Academic transcript (minimum GPA of 3.0 is required)
  3. A brief letter of interest explaining their background, research experience and future career plans
  4. Current Curriculum Vitae
  5. Completed evaluation form (download template) and two letters of recommendation
  6. A list of 3 PHCEU research laboratories ranked in order of preference

The application files will be reviewed by a selection committee and up to four of the most promising students will be selected through a competitive process. The selected students will receive a stipend and take part in research activities proposed by a research lab at the PHCEU. Students should have good written and spoken English skills, must be present for the entire period of the program and deliver an oral presentation and a written report at the end of their internship.

"The University of Utah is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity employer and does not discriminate based upon race, national origin, color, religion, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, status as a person with a disability, genetic information, or Protected Veteran status. Individuals from historically underrepresented groups, such as minorities, women, qualified persons with disabilities and protected veterans are encouraged to apply."

Program Dates:

The program runs over 10 weeks from May 28, 2024 to August 3, 2024.

Deadline for Application:

All application documents should be received no later than March 15, 2024. Applicants will be notified for final decision by April 15, 2024. Please contact the program director for questions regarding the application process.

Program Director for Further Information:

Dr. Abby Pulsipher (

How to apply:

You must submit an Online application form and Support Material through the link below. Only the complete application files received before the deadline through the Online application system will be considered for reviewing.

Download Recommendation Form Here

Online Application