International Research Experience for Students 2020 - El Salvador

We are no longer accepting applications for this year's program. Check back later in the year for more information about applying to the 2021 IRES program. 

Learn more by watching the informational webinar here!


Michigan Technological University (MTU), the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUAHSI), and Lutheran World Relief (LWR) received support from the National Science Foundation - International Research Experience for Students program to explore agricultural community adaptations to extreme hydrometeorological events in El Salvador. 

When and Where

Accepted students will participate in an 8-week summer research experience in select communities of El Salvador from June 15 - August 7, 2020. 

Student Eligibility

We seek students with interdisciplinary research interests and social science backgrounds. Students must be full-time graduate students (incoming is acceptable) and US citizens. 


All travel expenses (subject to university and NSF Policies) will be provided and a $2,000 stipend to those who complete the experience. 


Please contact Dr. Luke Bowman at with questions and continue reading below for additional information and application instructions.

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  • About the International Research Experience

    Michigan Technological University (MTU), the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUAHSI), and Lutheran World Relief (LWR) received support from the National Science Foundation - International Research Experience for Students program to explore agricultural community adaptations to extreme hydrometeorological events in El Salvador. The project seeks MS and PhD students to conduct hydrological and sociocultural research in El Salvador for 8 weeks during the summer. 

    The main program activity of this project is an eight-week International Research Experience in agricultural communities of El Salvador. The Summer 2020 (Year 1) cohort of student participants will focus on understanding issues of water availability, gender and power relationships, root causes of vulnerability within communities, and the installation of hydrometeorological monitoring equipment. The activities will bring graduate students together with MTU and students’ own faculty advisors, CUAHSI mentors, LWR staff, Universidad de El Salvador - Facultad Multidisciplinaria Paracentral professors and students, and rural farmers to conduct group projects. The goal is to create opportunities where students from many universities can exchange ideas and advance concepts with project partners that help inform local partners’ development interventions and research for subsequent cohorts. Results from each cohort should highlight problems/challenges facing communities for which solutions can be explored collaboratively between all stakeholders. 

    2020 will be the first International Research Experience Cohort. Students apply to the program before January 31, 2020. Selected students will travel to El Salvador for the eight-week program in mid-June. Students are grouped into teams organized around projects defined by the theme leaders and pre-selected topics. While there may be some overlap with the students' individual MS/PhD research projects, the expectation is that the work and research done during the Summer Institute will be a separate, self-contained project.

  • International Research Experience Highlights
    • International research opportunity with potential for longer-term impacts 
    • Strong, local partnerships with in-country partnering institutions
    • Immersion in local communities situated in rural landscapes
    • Opportunity to experience Salvadoran culture in a Spanish-language immersion setting
    • Practice skills in community development and capacity building in an international context
    • Potential for development of or adapting a thesis or dissertation idea(s)
    • Opportunity to grow your professional network and create lasting friendships
  • Program Eligibility

    Applications will be accepted from current (or incoming) graduate students. Students graduating with their B.S. by May 2020 and accepted by and committed to a graduate program for Fall 2020 will be considered. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents affiliated with U.S. universities, per National Science Foundation requirements.

    Additionally, students must be able to reside on-site at project locations in El Salvador for the entire program.

    Students selected to participate in the program must have a valid U.S. passport with an expiration date no earlier than 6 months after the date of the return flight.

    Preference for the 2020 Cohort will be given to:

    • Students who have Spanish proficiency (fluency is optimal).
    • Interdisciplinary students with social science backgrounds.
    • Must be able to reside on-site at project locations in El Salvador for the full 8 weeks (mid-June through mid-August)
    • The project team is especially interested in broadening participation of diverse students in this endeavor
    • According to the project sponsor (NSF): "Each year a new set of graduate students should be supported, with special attention given to broadening participation of underrepresented minorities and those without prior international research experience

    Desirable Attibutes:

    • Willingness to comply with appropriate safety and security measures to conduct research in a challenging environment like El Salvador
    • Open-minded; flexible; adaptable 
    • Able to work in teams with diverse students and local communities and stakeholders
    • Capable of enduring rustic, shared accommodations that will change based on the different project activities -- participants will move to at least 3 different sites during the 8-week-long experience
    • An openness to considering new experiences and different perspectives
    • An understanding that student participants are “Ambassadors” of the project to the communities in which our work is carried out.
  • Information for Prospective Students

    Nature of the Experience and Challenges to Anticipate:

    • All participants will abide by the principles within Michigan Technological University’s Statement of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity throughout their involvement in the IRES program. See the MTU Statement.
    • Although instruction will be in English, it is not the primary language spoken in the conduct of the research work. There will be significant language barriers that must be navigated in the course of the field work.
    • When working in a foreign country, you should be sensitive to cultural differences and recognize foremost that we are guests.
    • Intermittent access to internet/wifi/cellular coverage
    • Hot, humid (potentially stormy) weather conditions
    • Moving between locations/cities (staying in two to three locations throughout the program)
    • Severe or specific dietary restrictions can be challenging to accommodate in restaurants and catered events. Grocery stores are accessible for students to choose to purchase and prepare their own food if the other offerings are not meeting their dietary needs or preferences.


    • Students will be housed in shared, rustic accommodations (two to three students per room)
    • Expect to use shared bathroom facilities and to not always have hot water for washing or showering. 
    • Lodging facilities will have electricity and running water for showers and flush toilets. 
    • Tap water should not be used for drinking. Some hotels will provide water bubblers. Otherwise bottled water can be purchased from stores.
  • Award

    Students selected to participate in the International Research Experience will receive reimbursement of travel expenses to and from El Salvador and a per diem for meals and other incidentals while participating in the program in El Salvador. The accommodations will be funded by the project. The logistics are such that rooms must be shared and no dependents can accompany the participants.

    Each participant who completes the experience will be paid a $2000 stipend.

  • Program Schedule

    The schedule below is meant to be an example for prosepective applicants. Dates are subject to change.

    Date Deadline
    November 2019  Student application period opens
    January 31, 2020 Student application period closes
    February 17, 2020 Nofitication of student application status
    March 1, 2020 Deadline for students to confirm participation
    March - May 2020 Oniline pre-departure meetings
    June 13-14, 2020 Arrival in San Salvador, El Salvador
    June 15, 2020 Orientation in San Vicente, El Salvador
    June 15-26, 2020 Onsite Field and Skills Training 
    June 27- August 1, 2020 Group work in communities 
    August 3-6, 2020 International Experience Wrap-Up
    August 7, 2020 Last day of IRES; students return home
  • Contact Us

    Please contact us with questions!

    Luke Bowman, Research Assistant Professor 
    Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences 
    Michigan Technological University 

Photo Credits: IRES Team, Oswaldo Martinez (Unsplash)