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 - fourteen students receive a weekly stipend of $600 to conduct field- or lab-based independent research over a nine-week period in the summer (May 30th - July 29th) 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. 

To express your intent to apply for next summer's program, fill out this survey. You will be contacted and given access to the full application in November.

  • Students from rural community colleges and from groups historically underrepresented in science are encouraged to apply.
  • Note that the majority of accepted applicants have no prior research experience; ALL Colorado community college applicants will be given full consideration.
  • Currently, we are planning for an in-person program summer of 2022. 

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 or provide reasonable explanation for a lower GPA
  • 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) 
  • To express your interest in applying for the summer 2022 program please fill out our RECCS 2022 Intent to Apply survey
  • Full applications will be due January 17th, 2022.
  • You will receive an email when we have received your complete application packet 
  • Applicants will be notified of acceptance or dismissal in early March. 
  • 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 briefly describe any previous experience with research, jobs, extracurricular activities, or community service that you feel have prepared you for the RECCS program? What skills did you gain from this experience? (200 words or less)
  • Research is often a non-linear process that may not work the way we expect it to. Tell us about an experience where you overcame a challenge. How did you overcome this challenge and what did you learn from the experience? (200 words or less)
  • Please tell us about yourself and how you became interested in science (200 words or less)
  • This year has given us all a new experience of working online. Tell us how you stay engaged and motivated in a virtual space. (200 words or less)
  • RECCS is dedicated to enhancing the diversity of future scientific communities and sharing our science with a broader audience.  Please describe how you, based on your personal background and life experiences (including social, cultural, familial, educational, or other opportunities or challenges) will contribute to this mission during and after participation in RECCS. (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 may receive free on-campus housing, depending on COVID-19 campus policies. 

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 orientation, introductions and team-building. Students will get an introduction to research at CU, take an Introduction to Programming training, and meet with their mentors.  

Weeks 2-8:
Individual Research: For the duration of the summer research experience, each student will be paired with a research mentor or 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 may be 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. Housing will be dependent on campus guidelines related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We accept 10-14 student researchers each summer for this competitive program.  

Applications are closed for the summer 2021 program. To express your interest in applying for the summer 2022 program, please complete this short survey, and you will be contacted in late fall with information about when and how to apply to the RECCS program. 

 The RECCS Summer Research Program is open to all Colorado community college students. The program runs generally from June 1st  - July 31st each year. 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. Also check out our webinar and resources about REU programs, and application tips for RECCS and other REU programs here

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. 

Interested in mentoring?

Mentors are the heart and soul of the RECCS program. They volunteer their time to support the next generation of scientists, teaching research skills, connecting their mentees with the field, inspiring them in their careers, and building confidence. In the process, they gain mentoring skills and (hopefully) inspiration from their interactions with a student from a community college, often from a non-traditional background

Typically we recruit mentors in December & January for the following summer. If you are interested in mentoring, please send a brief description of your proposed project to by February 15th. 

Who can mentor?

RECCS mentors come from all parts of CIRES, CU, NOAA and USGS. Many are research scientists or faculty, but others are postdocs or graduate students.  We encourage and support mentoring teams, where several mentors work together to support a single student, sharing the workload and ensuring the student is supported across vacations, work travel and other responsibilities.  We do ask that someone on the mentoring team is available for most of the summer, especially during the critical first and final two-week blocks. Learning to be a research scientist is a steep learning curve, and extra support is often needed to ramp up and to wrap up.  No previous mentoring experience is necessary.

Graphic that shows the many different supports mentors can provide students, such as confidence building, networking, ethics, collaboration, career guidance, a sense of belonging, and insight into life as a scientist.

What is required?

Prior to the summer, mentors will define a research project for their mentee (see below). Mentors will be matched with mentees by the RECCS team based on the mentee’s interests and skills, and will have the opportunity to adapt their project knowing who they will work with. All mentors will be provided with training and resources to support them in their role as a mentor, and will participate in mentor meetings with the RECCS team. 

When the students arrive, mentors will work with their mentee on the day to day work of completing a research assignment. The RECCS program provides structure and training that guides the students toward their final deliverables of posters, talks, and conference abstracts, as well as professional development and cohort building activities, while the mentor (or mentor team) supports the research component.  Mentors typically work with their mentee for 3-5 hours a week, often making themselves available for questions on most days.  RECCS students are paid for their participation in the program, and are expected to work for 40 hours a week, with RECCS activities occupying most of the first week, and Wednesdays throughout the summer.  RECCS team members will stay in touch with you as mentors throughout the summer to support you with any challenges that arise.

Beyond the summer, while there is no expectation of ongoing support, many mentors write recommendation letters for their students when they apply for graduate school and fellowship opportunities. With our students being Colorado based, some mentors have also chosen to continue to support their mentees in doing research throughout the school year.

What makes a good project?

Mentors identify a wide range of projects for RECCS interns. Some involve fieldwork and data collection, others focus on existing data sets. Some projects are a small part of mentor’s own research, while others tackle interesting questions mentors may not have had time for.  Whichever you choose, a great REU project is one that a) feels meaningful, b) is appropriately scoped for the program timeframe (experience suggests this is something that could be done by an experienced researcher in about 1-2 weeks, c) provides early success (e.g. being able to make measurements or an interesting plot early in the summer) and d) offers some alternate end- or extension- options.  Projects should be authentic (i.e you don’t need to know the outcome – and projects that don’t work out are a normal part of science), and offer the student a chance to feel ownership.  In most cases, RECCS students are able to present their research in the student section of a scientific conference – i.e. these are real projects, and not just an opportunity for assistance in the lab. You can see some past year’s research here.

Mentors should be aware that RECCS students are very early in their scientific career – by definition, community college students are in the first or second year (or equivalent) of their studies, and may not have done many science classes. Few of the RECCS students come with programming experience. That said, many of our students have extensive experience outside the classroom, and are nearly always talented, motivated and excited to make the most of the opportunity.


What else should I know?

Inclusion matters to us

RECCS aims to create a supportive and inclusive environment where students are encouraged to bring their full selves to their research. We believe strongly that the best research occurs when people are able to bring their experiences and identities to their work, are supported in their environment, and are part of caring teams. We actively work to propagate these ideals, and are proud that our mentors work with us to ensure that RECCS interns have a great introduction to the earth and environmental sciences. 

We might be a good broadening participation addition to your next grant

The RECCS program is funded by the National Science Foundation, and your student will receive a good stipend and living/transportation costs at no cost to you. That said, we are always happy to work with scientists who would like to write support for a RECCS intern into your grants.  If funded, we will work with you to identify a great student to work on your project during the summer, and they will be well supported by the RECCS program, freeing you from the work of recruitment, logistics and professional development that taking on undergraduates often entails. Our focus on increasing the diversity of the geosciences, as well as a 10+ year track record, makes funding a RECCS intern and excellent addition to your broadening participation efforts.

Covid might disrupt us, but it won’t stop us

In the summer of 2020, RECCS ran a 2-week virtual RECCS-LITE program. Summer 2021 remains an uncertain prospect, and we are waiting to make a final decision on format until early 2021. Regardless of whether we proceed with a virtual 2-week program, a hybrid program, or a full in-person program, mentors remain a vital part of the RECCS experience, and we would love to have you be part of the program.  If you are interested in just one modality, please just let us know.

I’m in – what should I do next?

Thank you for being willing to inspire and mentor a RECCS student! Please drop us an email at and we will be in touch.


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 researchers, 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

Phone: 303-492-5670
Fax: 303-735-3644


CIRES Education and Outreach
University of Colorado Boulder
488 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309-0449

Office Hours

8:00 am to 5:00 pm -- fall and spring semesters 

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