Summer Research Internship (deadline passed)

Closing date: 19 May 2019

DEADLINE: 19 May 2019

The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) invites applications for Research Internships.

There are four paid positions available for two months in Summer 2019. Each Research Intern will work with one of our postdoctoral researchers on a specific, concrete research project. They will work on some of the most important topics in the world today, will contribute to ground-breaking and fascinating research, be part of a supportive and collaborative team, and develop useful skills and knowledge preparing them for graduate school and industry opportunities.

Centre for the Study of Existential Risk

CSER is an interdisciplinary research centre within the University of Cambridge dedicated to the study and mitigation of risks that could lead to human extinction or civilisational collapse.

The Centre was founded by Lord Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal; Jaan Tallinn, the co-founder of Skype; and Huw Price, the Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy, to “steer a small fraction of Cambridge's great intellectual resources to the task of ensuring that our own species has a long-term future.” As Lord Rees says, “our century is special, because for the first time in 45 million centuries, one species holds the future of the planet in its hands – us.”

Our research focuses on how to manage extreme risks, including biological risks, environmental risks, and risks from artificial intelligence. We have a strong focus on delivering social impact and policy change. Our expertise has been sought by European, Asian and American governments, leading technology companies and the United Nations. Through our publications, expert workshops, and international conferences we have fostered a global community of academics, policy-makers and industry-leaders working to reduce existential risk.

The Role

This is a dedicated programme pursuing a specific, concrete research project. In the application process, applicants will make a research proposal related to one of the areas below. During the Summer, the Research Interns will then each work with a specific CSER researcher to explore these topics and produce a research output – typically expected to be an academic paper.

Our researchers can supervise a research project in any of our four research focus areas – some specific possible topics are listed below:

  • Approaches to understanding extreme risk
    • Foresight methodology
    • Political economy of existential risk
    • Law and extreme technological risks
  • How to manage extreme risks
    • International governance
    • Governance of nuclear safety and security
    • Bibliography of risk regulation
  • Environmental risks, systemic risks and collapse
    • Ecosystem collapse
    • Civilizational collapse
    • Systemic risk and complexity of global systems
  • Biological risks
    • Biosecurity
    • One Health / Planetary Health Approaches
    • Biosurveillance
    • Development of approaches for addressing ‘Disease X’
    • Intersection of bio and AI/cybersecurity
  • Risks from artificial intelligence
    • AI strategy and policy

Our internship programme is primarily aimed at undergraduates, masters students or PhD students. We are open to applications from any disciplinary or professional background.

This is a paid internship, with a stipend of £502.26 a week, intended to cover living and travel expenses – kindly funded by the Berkeley Existential Risk Initiative. Candidates from underrepresented demographic groups are especially encouraged to apply. Interns will be based in Cambridge. Internships are expected to be 8 - 12 weeks long in June-September 2019.

We aim to build a passionate, engaging and supportive culture. Our approach encourages interdisciplinary collaboration, leading to creativity, new research insights, and real social change.

Main Responsibilities:

  • Collaborate with CSER researchers, contributing to our work in one of our focus areas.
  • Conduct high-quality research, contributing to a publication that could potentially be submitted to a leading academic journal.
  • Present information on research progress.
  • Plan day-to-day research activities with support of supervisor.

About you

Candidates will have:

  • A strong academic background. Existing research experience in a related field to existential risk is desirable but not required.
  • Good written and oral communication skills.
  • Evidence of a serious research interest in the focus areas of the Centre.
  • The inclination and the intellectual versatility to engage with a range of 'big-picture' questions.

Screening Check Requirements

You should have the right to work in the UK before starting your internship. If you need further information, you may find the Right to Work page within the ‘Applying for a job’ section of the University’s Job Opportunities pages helpful (please see

Application process

The application process involves submitting by Sunday 19 May 2019:

  • A Curriculum Vitae.
  • A short, half-a-page statement of motivation.
  • A one-page research proposal.
  • The name and contact details of a referee (preferably academic) who is familiar with your work and can attest to your research ability.
  • Academic transcript (if available).

Shortlisted candidates will then be invited for a Skype interview with CSER researchers. We regret that we will be unable to give feedback to candidates who are not short-listed.

Research proposal advice for internship applications

The hardest part of research is often asking the right questions. For this reason, we request a research proposal as part of the selection process. We will use this to assess applicants’ motivation and interest in the field, and it is a great opportunity for you to practice this essential research skill. This is your opportunity to demonstrate knowledge of related work in the field and the ability to formulate novel research questions.

We are aware that for many applicants this will be the first research proposal they have written, so we suggest you can get some ideas by looking at the specific possible areas above, and reading some of our relevant publications. Here are some guides to writing research proposals that might also be useful.

When an idea from one of these sources catches your interest, spend some time reading up on prior work in the area, and brainstorm a few ideas for how to extend it. Try and be original: we’d rather read a half-baked idea that is novel, than an eloquently explained idea that is derivative. Be realistic: you only have one to two months. Finally, relax: we’re not expecting completely perfect proposals, especially from applicants who are new to research.

How to apply

If you are interested in applying, please fill in this Google Form. Our hiring panel can only consider applications made through this form.

If you would like to discuss the role, please email Haydn Belfield at with ‘Summer Research Internship’ in the subject line. 

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