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Students doing fossil prep in the VP lab

How to Apply to UNLAB

Below you will find a summary of everything you will encounter as you submit your UNLAB Application. Please read this over before applying. For questions about the program or application, email unlab@nhm.org.

Applications must be submitted through the National Science Foundation's Education & Training Application portal (ETAP). All applicants will need to create an ETAP account in order to apply. The link below directs you to the ETAP application landing page where you can click the blue “apply now” button!


Application Window
February 1, 2024–February 29, 2024 (midnight, pacific time)

The UNLAB Program (Understanding Nature and Los Angeles Biodiversity) is hosted by the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC). It is intended for those who completed a bachelor's (B.S. or B.A) degree but lacked research experience. NHMLAC encourages applications from those who have been historically excluded from and are underrepresented in the biological and paleobiological sciences. Such groups include, but are not limited to, those who identify as Black, Hispanic, Latina/o/x, Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, Southeast Asian, LGBTQIA+, living with a disability, veterans of the U.S. Armed Services, women, or the first in their family to graduate from college.  

NHMLAC curators use museum collections, lab, and field-based methods to better understand our natural world. Curators will be primary mentors for UNLAB participants, with co-mentors from other local institutions. Accepted participants will be matched with a research project that explores fossil or living species and the history of human impact on Los Angeles and Californian biodiversity. UNLAB will offer professional development and exposure to other museum careers. Visit www.nhm.org/unlab for more about UNLAB’s projects and mentors.

Participants will be full-time temporary, hourly employees with benefits, for a one year term (e.g. July 2024–June 2025). Most activities will be at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in Exposition Park in Los Angeles, though at least one research project every year will be based at and focus on the Rancho La Brea collection at the La Brea Tar Pits Museum in Hancock Park, and another will be based part time at the Invertebrate Paleontology facility in nearby Carson. Pay Rate: $21/hour

UNLAB aims to train participants in biodiversity science and enable them to:


  • Collections- and field-based research methods
  • Science communication
  • Skills to broaden future career options and work preparedness


  • Mentorship and networking opportunities 
  • Training in scientific research at a world-class museum
  • Working with biodiversity scientists


  • Career skills and personal growth
  • Compensation for valuable, professional contributions
  • A research project communicated through a presentation and/or written manuscript

For questions about the program or application, please email unlab@nhm.org.

Eligibility Requirements
As an eligible applicant, you MUST meet all of the following requirements:

  • Your college graduation date falls between July 2020 and June 2024. Exceptions will be allowed for family-related circumstances, medical leave, or military service.
  • You did NOT have substantial research experience during or following your undergraduate experience.
  • Examples of substantial research can include: Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program or research that resulted in a product such as an authored or co-authored presentation (outside of a class) or publication. 
  • You completed at least an introductory course in biology, ecology, and/or evolution.
  • You are a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, lawful refugee, or permanent resident of the United States.

If you self-identify as belonging to a group that is underrepresented (or have experienced barriers) in biological science and or/museum careers, please mention this in your application.

Eligibility Certification
(Upon clicking the “apply now” button, applicants will be asked to confirm that the following information is true and accurate)
U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, lawful refugees, or permanent residents of the United States 
Have not been accepted into a graduate program 
Hold a bachelor's (B.S. or B.A) degree by June 30, 2024

Additional Application Requirements
We ARE asking applicants to submit:

  • Undergraduate Transcript(s)
  • Additional Questions or Materials

We are NOT asking applicants to submit:

  • CV/Resume
  • References

Application Questions
The goal of Question 1 is to get to know you.
Question 1: Tell us about yourself, where you are in your undergraduate, job, or career journey, and what interests you about biology, ecology, and/or evolution. (150–300 words)

The goal of Question 2 is to understand why NHMLAC and UNLAB interest you.
Question 2: Describe your motivation for applying to this RaMP program, hosted at the Natural History Museums of LA County. What is it about this natural history museum-based program that interests you? (200–300 words)

The goal of Question 3 is to understand why you want to do research.
Question 3: Tell us about your interests in dedicating a year to conducting biological research. How would participating in this program inform your aspirations and goals beyond the program year? (200–300 words)

The goal of Question 4 is to understand what interests you about the professional development aspects of this program.
Question 4: A component of this program is guidance and coaching in research from an expert (called “mentoring”). Share with us why this is of interest to you. (200–300 words)

The goal of Question 5 is for you to list and explain any research experience you may have had.
Question 5: Describe any research experience(s) you have had as an undergraduate and/or following graduation. (In 1–3 sentences per experience, describe the project, your role, and how long you participated; if none, please tell us.)

Examples of research experiences might include: worked in a research laboratory; participated in data collection; conducted an independent research project; and/or participated in a course-based research project. Reminder: research experience is not required to apply to UNLAB.

The goal of Question 6 is to understand more about your story, including how your unique experience offers assets to this program or may have contributed to any research experience gaps. 
Question 6: This program is intended to address inequities experienced as a result of systemic or societal barriers to gaining research experience and continuing in careers in the biological and natural sciences. NHMLAC is working to create a community where all staff can express their whole selves and embrace their identity(ies) at work. Your lived experience may have presented barriers for participation in research, and/or may give you unique strengths that you bring to the program. How would your experiences and identity(ies) make you a good fit for this program? (200–300 words)

The goal of Question 7 is to offer a final opportunity to share something with us.
Question 7: What more would you like to tell us about yourself or your experiences?

Thanks for your interest in the UNLAB Program! For questions about the program or application, email unlab@nhm.org.