AFRRI Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute


Bethesda, Maryland


David Burmeister -

Operating Status Summer 2024:

On-site (The internship will be performed entirely at the lab)

Student Requirements:

Students must be solely U.S. citizens and have the ability to obtain a security clearance. (Permanent residents and dual citizens are not eligible.) Students 15 years old and up are eligible.


AFRRI mission is to preserve and protect the health and performance of U.S. military personnel through research and training that advance understanding of the effects of ionizing radiation. This mission includes education and training to maintain a pool of qualified radiation biologists; and basic and applied research to identify and perform early development of measures to prevent, assess and treat radiation injury. AFRRI research thrusts include medical countermeasures, diagnosis of injury (biodosimetry), low dose/low dose rate/late effects, internalized radionuclides, and combined injury.

About the Lab

The Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute (AFRRI), an institute of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, was established in 1960 as a joint agency of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. AFRRIā€™s leads in the effort to preserve the health and performance of U.S. military personnel and to protect humankind through research that advances understanding of the biological effects of ionizing radiation. To these ends, the institute collaborates with other government facilities, academic institutions, and civilian laboratories in the United States and other countries. In addition, it provides medical training and emergency response to manage incidents related to radiation exposure. AFRRI is located on the grounds of the Naval Support Activity Bethesda, which is also home to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

What is unique about this lab?

AFRRI is the only DoD radiobiology research institute. AFFRI is also unique with having multiple types of ionizing radiation sources under one roof to include gamma rays, alpha particles, and mixed field sources. The unique resources of AFRRI enable its advancements in the protection of soldiers and citizens.

About the Internship

At AFRRI, there are 4 major research areas that encompasses the prevention, assessment, and treatment of injuries resulting from the effects of ionizing radiation. In order to meet these objects our research focuses on Biological Dosimetry, Radiation Combined Injury, Internal Contamination/Toxic Metals, and Radiation Countermeasures. There is no set of prerequisite skills that are required to intern with us. We will meet you where your skills are and build off of them during your internship. However, it is helpful to know how to conduct serial dilutions, perform research using aseptic technique, operate a centrifuge, culture cells, and perform Western Blots, ELISA, and Luminex assays. If you do not know how to do those, then that is your starting point and we will work from there. The level of responsibility the intern would have depends on prior experience working in a lab. If the student shows competence in conducting assays and interpreting data, they may be given a segment of a project to complete. If a student requires more supervision, they will assist other laboratory staff in conducting experiments.

What will I do any given day as an intern at this lab?

Interns participate in lab functions in a number of ways including (but not limited to) assisting mentors with guided research projects; job and project shadowing with professional researchers; attending seminars and conferences; networking with STEM professionals and other interns; group mentoring sessions; touring labs; team building and leadership development; and other professional development activities.


The primary fields of interest are:

  • Behavioral Science
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Mathematics
  • Medicine/Health
  • Physical Science
  • Physics
  • Physiology
  • Statistics and Probability

What will I learn as an intern at this lab?

The benefits of the AFRRI internship is to provide hands-on-learning of STEM-focused skills. The research exposure provides direct experience with state of the art STEM questions and can sharpen the focus of the intern in a STEM career. Also, as part of the experience, the student will learn critical thinking, responsibilities, time management and assertiveness by providing valuable mentoring, support, and feedback to develop the future scientist.

What kinds of projects do interns at this lab participate in?

The following are examples of projects to which interns may be assigned:

Biological Dosimetry: The goal of the Biological Dosimetry program is to develop rapid, high-precision analytical methods that assess radiation exposure doses from clinical samples and thus aid in the triage and medical management of radiological casualties for military personnel and civilian responders.

Radiation Injury Research: The Radiation Injury program is tasked with developing a comprehensive understanding of the biology of radiation injury combined with traumatic wounds, burns, hemorrhage, or infections and investigate treatment strategies including biological response modifiers, new antimicrobial agents, probiotics, and stem cells, used individually or in combination.

Internal Contamination and Toxic Metals Research: Research on the chemical and radiological toxicity of embedded fragments is applicable to a variety of battlefield scenarios as well as terrorism events.