TRAC – FAQs for Applying

Eligibility, Skills and Preferences

Will I be accepted if I don’t teach Physics? Do I have the necessary skills to make this opportunity “right” for me?

You do not have to teach physics to be accepted into the program. The program is open to 7th through 12th grade teachers who teach science (e.g. general science, physics, chemistry, biology, geophysics, etc.), math, computer science, technology, or engineering. We have had teachers from this whole spectrum and they all found the program equally worthwhile and exciting. We typically have various types of projects and can use people with various skill levels. We try our best in matching projects with teachers.

In the section “Other Work Experiences and Skills for Placement” I am interested in many of the topics, but I am not skilled at them, how can I say I’m interested in a topic but not skilled?

Accurately giving your skill level and interest will help us select a project best matched to you. So please select the skill/experience level for each topic in the section that is most appropriate for your skill level. Then in the “Areas of Preference” section you can list the topics that interest you.

I don’t know what to put down in the “Areas of Preference” section, as I don’t know what type of projects I could work on.

We have a very broad range of possible projects with opportunities for a diverse set of skills. You can look at our public web pages to see what science we do to get an idea of what interests you. A list of areas of interest could include the following: Accelerator component testing; Accelerator theory and design; Astrophysics data analysis; Astrophysics detector development; Astrophysics theory; Computer networking; Computing for analysis; Data analysis of experiments; Detector design and testing; Electronics design and testing; Mechanical design and development; Particle physics phenomenology; Particle physics theory. You do not have to list a preference; we would try to find a project that matches your skills, experiences, and interests. You can also look at what previous TRAC teachers worked on by looking at their TRAC web pages. Go to the Former Interns Site, select a past year, mouse over “TRAC” on the left bar and click on a TRAC teacher.

I don’t have medical insurance. What do I do?

You must have medical insurance in order to participate in any of the internship programs at Fermilab. The Fermilab Users Office has more information on obtaining short-term medical insurance

Who can I contact regarding questions on the online application, or for other general questions on TRAC?

You can email your questions on TRAC to and we will try to respond as quickly as we can or forward your email to the relevant people. Please read through the FAQ in case your question is already answered.

Project Work and Experience

It is hard to tell what to expect from the TRAC flyer and website. Can you give more detailed examples of what interns do as part of the program?

The experiences and work for a TRAC teacher at Fermilab vary for each teacher and for each summer. Each teacher is assigned a project and mentor that best match their skills, experiences, and interests, and also depends on what projects are available that summer. Typically, each teacher will work with a mentor for eight weeks. The work could involve helping the mentor or a team of people assemble a piece of equipment, or build some part of a detector, or it might involve working independently on some software task for the mentor. The 8 weeks is usually too short to do a self-contained project, instead the teacher will typically contribute to some ongoing task and experience first-hand part of all the different types of work involved in doing research at Fermilab. What is similar for all teachers in the program is that they will learn a lot about the science we do at Fermilab and get a better appreciation of the different skills and areas of expertise needed to do research. The teachers will be encouraged to attend a weekly summer intern lecture series held during the summer and go on the weekly tours of the various experiments and facilities at Fermilab. The teachers will also meet once a week and give a presentation of their work at the end of their stay.

Which kinds of positions/mentors are available and what would be expected of interns?

The list of projects and mentors varies for each summer and depend on the timeline of the individual projects that are active at Fermilab as well as who volunteers to supervise a TRAC teacher. The work can involve hands-on technical work like helping to build parts of a neutrino detector, or working on a test stand to collect data, or could involve software like making web pages, data analysis, or making CAD drawings for an engineer. You can look at what previous TRAC teachers worked on by looking at their TRAC web pages. Go to the Summer Interns, select a past year, mouse over “TRAC” on the left bar and click on a TRAC teacher. Due to the dynamic nature of research, the exact work for some projects may only be finalized very close to the summer.

What can the intern expect to get out of the TRAC program?

The goal of the program is to provide teachers with the opportunity to experience first-hand some of the scientific, engineering, and technical tasks that comprise the research activities we do at Fermilab. Past teachers have learnt a lot and become excited about the science we do at Fermilab. They better appreciate what is actually involved in research, usually by being directly involved in some part of it. So besides bringing the excitement of the science we do at Fermilab back to your students, you will have concrete examples to better relate the skills your students will learn to the work in a real scientific, engineering, or technical setting. Our program is loosely-structured in the sense that it allows self-motivated teachers the freedom to create their own goals for the summer and meet them by using the resources and experiences available to them at Fermilab. You will be able to find out about programs your students can get involved in at Fermilab as well as network with other teachers, people in our Education and Outreach Offices, our field trip coordinator, and of course the scientific, engineering, and technical staff at Fermilab.

Program Timeline

When do you ask for the letters of recommendation from the two people I put down as my references?

We do not ask for recommendation letters from your two references until you actually submit your application. Once you have done that, the two people you list as your references will be sent emails within 48 hours. In the past these emails would unfortunately sometimes go to their junk email folder, so we suggest that you notify the two people that will write a letter of reference for you to look out for the emails that should come from

Can you provide a date when you will inform applicants of acceptance to the program?

We try to inform all applicants of their application status by at the latest 3 weeks after the application deadline. It can take this long because we have to review all applications, and find matching projects and mentors. Some teachers may be notified they are on a waiting list. We realize some teachers want to finalize their summer plans early or are looking at other opportunities so we try to notify teachers as soon as possible.

How flexible are the program dates for the 8 weeks that I should be at Fermilab? What do I need to fulfill regarding hours and involvement in the program?

The starting date for each teacher is reasonably flexible to account for the fact that different schools have somewhat different schedules. Typically teachers start their 8-week period at the end of May or in the beginning or middle of June. Depending on the teacher’s project and supervisor it may be possible to skip a week and make it up later. Each work day (Monday to Friday) is usually 8 work hours. If you have further questions you can send your questions to

Non-local Teachers

Do you accept teachers from outside of Illinois?

The program is open to teachers from Illinois and outside of Illinois. See the TRAC Program page for the eligibility requirements. You should be aware that we do not provide any separate funding for housing or travel. We have had a number of teachers in the program from outside Illinois, and also from within Illinois but further away from Fermilab. Besides the time commitment, if you need a flight, housing, and rental car, you should factor these into your planning before you decide to apply.

Do you have suggestions and pricing for lodging options as I would be too far from home to commute to Fermilab?

You can check some of the online Fermilab resource pages for more information, like the local resources page, and the visiting Fermilab page, including the local accommodation page. Some of the previous teachers were able to get a room in our on-site housing which consists of dormitory style rooms, apartments, and houses ( Fermilab Housing ). On-site accommodations usually fill-up quickly as the summer approaches.