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Wright Scholar Research Assistant program

A student participating in the Wright Scholar Research Assistant program.

A student participating in the Wright Scholar Research Assistant program.

Minimum Age: 16 years by program start.
Qualification Standards: High school junior or senior at time of application, interest in STEM career, U.S. citizen, and GPA of 3.5 or greater, transportation to/from worksite
Tenure: 7 June – 6 Aug 2021

The Wright Scholar Research Assistant program is an Air Force Research Laboratory initiative designed to expose high school juniors and seniors to various disciplines of engineering and science in an effort to further their interest in future STEM career options.  Wright Scholars are competitively selected to work as full-time, paid interns for 9 weeks during the summer.  A panel of scientists, engineers, and educators use a “blind” review system to score and rank student applications and essays (names and personal data are removed from applications prior to review to prevent biases).  Selected students are then matched with a mentor to work on a research project for the duration of their internship.  At the end of the program, Wright Scholars are required to give a formal presentation of their project work to their peers and mentors, and a program certificate is awarded.

Wright Scholars also participate in weekly university classes, workshops, lectures, and tours to expand their knowledge of potential STEM career fields. The Air Force Institute of Technology provides a jet propulsion course specifically for Wright Scholars. Students also travel weekly to the University of Dayton to participate in a variety of classes and workshops through their Summer Science and engineering Enrichment program. Wright State University's College of Engineering & Computer Science offers informative engineering sessions, while the College of Science and Mathematics offers a talk on Pre-Health programs and a tour of the medical school. The Ohio State University provides students the opportunity to participate in an exciting electrical engineering workshop and lab tour. Other tours, such as the C-17, AF Museum, various AFRL locations, and industry tours are also popular. Additionally, students attend a weekly luncheon lecture series featuring prominent scientists and engineers who share their expertise.  PLEASE NOTE:  With the uncertainty of COVID-19 during 2021, changes may include a more virtual program versus the traditional hands-on, in-person program. 

Applicants are solicited from local high schools, but the program is open to any students outside the area or out-of-state who meet the criteria. No travel allowances are available, and the student is solely responsible for obtaining housing, meals, and transportation to/from work. 

According to feedback on the 2020 Wright Scholar program, the Wright Scholars positively reflected on their experiences as follows:

  • The lecture series speakers were very beneficial, and I learned about many different aspects of science and engineering fields.
  • This was the most fulfilling internship I have ever had as I felt I was doing meaningful work.
  • Amazing opportunity to do true research and contribute to scientific knowledge.
  • The program offers excellent insight into research and STEM fields in general.
  • This program allows exploration of several potential career paths while showing what it is like to be a part of an engineering/STEM workforce.
  • I really enjoyed getting hands-on experience by working on a project which I found very interesting.
  • I loved working with researchers and small teams; the skillset provided was incredible, and I learned so much.
  • I most enjoyed being able to work with my mentor and his lab group on meaningful research.
  • Liked being able to apply scientific knowledge and concepts outside the classroom.
  • I loved being able to collaborate with scientists and engineers on projects I am passionate about. Such experiences allowed me to foster lasting relationships and enhance my understanding of STEM topics. I gained exposure to cutting-edge technology and learned a lot about my future career field.

Since program onset in 2002, approximately 662 Wright Scholars have been hired from 105 school districts.  Many have graduated from college or are attending a university majoring in engineering, science, and medical career fields.  Upon college graduation, several have been hired as AFRL researchers and some are AirForce officers with engineering degrees, while others have received SMART scholarships, including paid college tuition with government service payback.  Of students tracked through the years, 86% pursued or are pursuing science or engineering careers and 10% pursued or are pursuing medical careers, while 4% pursued other fields like finance or business. 

So how do you become a Wright Scholar?

  • Applications will be accepted from 23 Nov 2020 through 11 Jan 2021 at 5pm. 
  • Student applicants must meet the following eligibility requirements:
  • Must have a demonstrated interest in STEM career fields.
  • Must be a high school junior or senior at time of application.
  • Must be a U.S. citizen. Program is not open to Permanent Residents or Green Card holders.
  • Must be 16 years old and have a valid driver’s license by program start.
  • Must have own transportation OR a means to get to/from work place each day with someone who already has base access. 
  • Passes for base access will ONLY be issued to student intern.
  • Must have overall GPA of 3.5 or higher.
  • Home-school students are highly considered if they score in the top 20% on a national standardized test such as the PSAT/NMSQT, SAT or ACT.
  • If you live out-of-state or a long distance from WPAFB, you must be responsible for securing your own temporary housing AND transportation.  Program administration will not be responsible for making suitable arrangements on a scholar’s behalf. If you do not have a host family or friends with whom to stay, be aware that nearby dorms/apartments are now requiring guests to be a minimum of 18 years of age.
  • Must be able to pass background check.
  • Must be available to start program on 7 June 2021 and attend mandatory first-day orientation.
  • Must commit to mandatory attendance policy during first week and also during student presentations at end of program. No absences (except emergency or illness) will be allowed during first week.
  • Must be able to participate 40 hrs/wk for 9 weeks -- this is a full-time commitment.
  • May not request more than 5 days of excused absence during the program (illness is excluded). Excessive or unexcused absences will be grounds for dismissal. 
  • Those students who cannot meet the minimum work requirement or adhere to the attendance policy are ineligible for the program.

Additional Information/Links:

Wright Scholar photos
Wright Scholar Criteria and Procedures
Wright Scholar Career Descriptions
Wright Scholar Application & Essay

For more information about the Wright Scholar Research Assistant program, contact the Wright Scholar Program Manager at (937) 938-4866.