Research Experience for Community College Students

A summer research internship program for Colorado community college students.

Research Experience for Community College Students

The Research Experience for Community College Students (RECCS) is a paid summer research internship program open to all Colorado community college students. The goal of RECCS is to give community college students an authentic research experience at CU Boulder, ranked #1 in the world for geosciences.  The program allows students to explore environmental or geosciences and gain the confidence to transition to a four-year program in the STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) disciplines.

Ten students receive a weekly stipend of $600 to conduct field- or lab-based independent research over a nine-week period in the summer (June 1 - July 31) while working with a team of scientists. Students learn basic research, writing and communication skills, and they present their research at a local student science symposium. 

Housing is provided for students living beyond the Denver Metro area- students from rural communities are encouraged to apply!

Due to the COVID-19 Epidemic, the 2020 cohort participated in a two-week virtual research experience, and will be returning summer 2021 for the full 9-week experience. Check back here in the fall for updates on how this may affect our recruitment of new interns for summer 2021.

For more information about RECCS and the application process, please view the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) tab below.

Click on a question below to see answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the RECCs Program.

Applicants must:

  • Be a US Citizen or a Permanent Resident
  • Attend a Colorado community college (can graduate in the spring semester and plan to attend a 4-year college)
  • Have completed a minimum of two science classes and college algebra
  • Have a minimum grade point average of 3.0
  • Not have a BA or BS even in a completely unrelated discipline
  • Be willing to make a full-time commitment for 9 weeks (40 hours per week) 
  • The application deadline has passed for 2020. Due to Covid-19, the 2021 deadline is unknown at this time. 
  • You will receive an email when we have received your complete application packet 
  • Applicants will be notified of acceptance by: 
  • All communications will be via email – check your emails regularly

You will be asked for your contact information, academic information, an unofficial transcript, and your answers to the following background questions:

  • Please list previous jobs, internships, community or school leadership activities, and/or research experience (200 words or less)
  • Tell us about an experience where you learned about something new and challenging. This particular experience could have occurred in an academic, work, or personal setting, and should be something significant. What challenges did you have to overcome to learn, and how did you overcome those challenges? How have you benefited from what you learned? (200 words or less)
  • Please tell us about yourself and how you became interested in science (200 words or less)
  • Please tell us about your career goals and how participating the RECCS program will help you meet these goals (200 words or less)

Once you begin the application you must answer all questions before closing the form in order for your answers to be saved.  We suggest you write your responses to the background questions in a separate Word document, and then copy and paste them into the application when you are ready to complete the whole application in one sitting. It is very important to be thoughtful in writing your responses to provide a window into yourself and your motivations for applying to this program.

  • Watch a video for application advice. 

An instructor or administrator at your community college who is familiar with your academic background.

This instructor or administrator must fill out this recommendation form by the application deadline. 

If you are selected as a semi-finalist, they will also need to send a letter of recommendation. RECCS program staff will request this letter from your recommender, and also ask that you notify them. 

  • View a video on how to get a strong letter of recommendation.

The letter must be sent to on official letterhead.

You may also provide an optional letter of recommendation from someone outside your college who can provide another perspective on why you are a great fit for the RECCS program. 

Please upload your unofficial transcript to the online application.

Please upload your unofficial transcript(s) from your community college to the online application. If you have issues with uploading, please email it to

All applicants who are accepted into the program will need to provide an official transcript from your current community college. 

  • You will receive a weekly stipend of $600 per week for a total of $5400
  • You will be paid bi-weekly
  • Commuters will receive a weekly stipend of $50 to cover fuel costs
  • Students who live more than 50 miles from campus will receive free on-campus housing.

We seek students that are passionate about science, have intellectual curiosity, are hard working and responsible, flexible, pro-active communicators, and can work as part of a team. We expect you to conduct an independent research project, supervised by a mentor scientist - you will not simply be an assistant for a research group.  You do not need previous research experience– we will teach you the necessary skills. Those students that choose a field project must be physically fit and be flexible in their schedules, as field conditions can dictate a change in plans.  We will expect you to work 40 hours per week with weekend work a possible option.  You will participate in program evaluations throughout the summer.  At the end of the program you will present your results at a poster session for student researchers in Boulder and give a short oral presentation at CIRES.

You will also be expected to perform some pre-program work, such as connecting with your mentor and reading papers about their research, completing software tutorials, and connecting with RECCS program staff to complete necessary paperwork, etc.

You will be planning and leading your own small research project while mentored by a scientist and the RECCS project team. You will collect your own data, analyze it and present your results both in an oral presentation and in a poster format. Throughout the internship you will receive support and guidance for all steps, but you are in charge of your own project.  You will also participate in weekly professional development seminars with other members of the cohort.  

In the application you will choose and rank your top three areas of interest and explain why you are interested in them.

We will identify which scientists can serve as your mentor based on your interests and send them your application. The scientists will decide which students most closely match their research interests. To find out more about past mentors you can view their bios and research interests.

Please note that while we will try our best to match students who are interested in field work with field projects, we cannot guarantee this, and even field projects include a substantial amount of non-field work.

Check out the short elevator speeches of past student researchers or their full presentations.

  • Watch this video to learn what mentors are looking for in their mentees.

Once a week, all student researchers will meet for a required group check-in with the program manager and each other.  Following the check-in, there will be a weekly Scientific Communication Seminar that will guide students through the process of constructing a poster and an oral presentation. It also includes professional development training on preparing a CV, networking, applying to a four-year college, applying to graduate school, careers in the environmental and geosciences, etc. 

Orientation Week: 
The internship starts out with a week of introductions and getting to know each other, the staff and the mentors. Students will learn about the local physical setting and some of the research being conducted nearby through an overnight trip to University of Colorado’s Mountain Research Station. 

Weeks 2-8:
Individual Research: Each student will be paired for the duration of the summer research experience with a research team to work on an individual project. Students will be closely mentored by members of the host research group for their individual research projects.

Scientific Communication & Professional Development Seminars: Once a week the cohort will spend time together learning various research-related skills – communication, science writing, science presentations – as well as career skills like resume writing and interview techniques. Students will also have time to read, write, analyze their data, and work on their individual projects.

Final Week: 
Students will prepare for and present results from their research project in a poster session for summer student researchers from a number of local summer research internships. Students will also present their research results in a short oral presentation at CIRES.

Yes, housing in the CU off-campus apartments is available for free to those commuting more than 50 miles one-way.  You will have your own room and share a bathroom and kitchen with one other student. 

We accept 10-12 student researchers each summer for this competitive program. 

The application deadline has passed for 2020. Application information for 2021 will be updated in the fall of 2020.

The RECCS Summer Research Program is open to all Colorado community college students. The program runs from June 1 - July 31, 2020. We encourage applications from students who are members of a traditionally underrepresented group in the geosciences.

Before starting the application read through the Frequently Asked Questions tab for important information about the program and advice on completing this application.

To be eligible to apply you must:
  • Be a US Citizen or a Permanent Resident
  • Attend a Colorado community college (can graduate in the spring semester and plan to attend a 4-year college)
  • Have completed a minimum of two science classes and college algebra
  • Have a minimum grade point average of 3.0
  • Not have a BA or BS even in a completely unrelated discipline
  • Be willing to make a full-time commitment for 9 weeks (40 hours per week) 
A complete application includes the following:
  1. Completed online application form
  2. An unofficial transcript (uploaded during the online application process).
    • Accepted students will be asked to provide an official transcript.
  3. Mandatory online Recommendation form completed by an instructor or administrator at your community college.
    • A letter of recommendation (printed on institution letterhead with a handwritten or an electronic signature) will be required of all applicants that pass the initial application process.
    • Optional: Letter of recommendation from someone outside your college who can provide another perspective why you are a great fit for the RECCS program. 

Thank you for supporting your students in applying for RECCS! 

Recommendation Form from a community college educator or administrator is required for each applicant to the Research Experience for Community College Students (RECCS) Program at the University of Colorado.  

Please fill out a recommendation form, accessible here.


If the student you have recommended is a semi-finalist in the selection process, we will notify you and request a Letter of Recommendation (on institution letterhead with a handwritten or an electronic signature, not a typed signature). Please whitelist emails from to ensure you receive a request if your candidate advances to the shortlist stage.

The Letter of Recommendation provides a summary of the candidate’s potential to succeed in the RECCS research program. We are particularly interested in the topics listed below. RECCS is a competitive program, and we appreciate your effort in supplying this information about your student.

  • How long have you known the applicant and in what capacity?
  • The quality of the candidate’s academic or creative achievements, including areas not reflected on the official transcripts.
  • The applicant’s potential strengths in a collaborative research environment.
  • Those aspects of the applicant’s personality or character that would help them to succeed in this program.
  • The ability of the applicant to make use of this opportunity in preparation to attend a four-year institution.
  • The applicant’s level of interest in geoscience.
  • Anything else we should know?

The Letter of Recommendation must be emailed as a pdf to or mailed to CIRES Education and Outreach, UCB 449, Boulder, CO 80309-0449. 

This section is under development.

Summer 2018

  • Drones, beaver dams help community college students get involved in research. read more
  • CU Boulder provides research opportunities to community college students. read more

Summer 2017

  • Thomas Nelson Community College Blog: Student Bound for Summer Internship in Colorado. A student in a Virginia community college, Rebecca was accepted to RECCS because she plans to pursue a degree in Geological Science at UCB.  read more
  • Three Front Range Community College students were RECCS interns this summer.  read more

Summer 2016

  • Front Range Community College Blog: RECCS program offers firsthand research experience for one of their students  read more​​
  • CU Boulder reports about interns' experiences read more

Summer 2015

  • Daily Camera Article: CU-Boulder offers taste of research science to community college students read more

RECCS Newsletters




Students and Mentors

Check out our previous student interns, their projects, and their mentors to see what types of research you can engage in as an intern in the RECCS Program!

What participants say about the RECCS program:

RECCS program not only improved my research experience, but it also gave me an opportunity to learn how to communicate with my peers and mentors. I gained communication skills, independent research skills, creating scatter plots, which were very difficult for me in the beginning of my project, and making a professional poster as well. 

RECCS has impacted my life in various ways including social interactions, academic work, research, presenting, and so much more. I was able to develop personal relationships with professionals in the CU community, as well as NOAA. I now have a network of great friends and mentors I can depend on and reach out to if need be. Research and graduate school are now tangible and do not seem unobtainable since completing the RECCS program.

It was so lovely to meet my fellow RECCS students, who have similar interests and approaches to climate and environmental issues. I feel like this is the type of community I don't have access to at my community college.

[My mentor] is immensely helpful, structured in his thought-process, but also friendly and easy-going. I often get very nervous around new people, but I felt comfortable working with him, and I also felt like he had my best interests at heart

Student Researcher

Keep up to date on opportunities and news from CIRES Education & Outreach