Opportunities > Student Programs > Student Observing Support (SOS) Program

Student Observing Support (SOS) Program

by Jim Braatz last modified Aug 14, 2020

NRAO SOS Program



The SOS program is a Fellowship intended to strengthen the role of the Observatory in training new generations of telescope users. The program is available to successful observing programs for the VLA, VLBA, and ALMA (through the North American executive). SOS application deadlines and reviews are currently held separately for ALMA and VLA/VLBA programs. Funding applications are due about one month after notification letters are delivered for the observing proposals. Deadlines are therefore approximately in August (ALMA), December (VLA/VLBA), and June (VLA/VLBA) each year. Follow this page for exact deadlines after the observing proposal dispositions are delivered.


  • Terms and Conditions
  • Principal Investigators for SOS proposals cannot be students or postdocs, but can be any other investigator working with the PI of the successful telescope proposal. The PI of the SOS request must be resident at the same institution as the student for whom support is being requested.
  • If the PI of the SOS application is not the PI of the observing proposal, and the student to be funded is not the PI of the observing proposal, then the PI of the observing proposal must provide a letter of support for the SOS application.   This letter can be emailed directly to Jim Braatz.
  • When possible, applications should include the student's name. However, we do accept applications for a "student to be named later". In this case, the PI must still fill in "TBD" on the application form for the entry fields for the student's name.
  • If the science conducted with the observing proposal will be part of the student's Ph.D. dissertation, the SOS proposal must include a "Plan of Dissertation Research" of no more than 1000 words. At a minimum the plan should contain a thesis timeline and an estimate of the NRAO telescope resources needed. Thesis plans must be in pdf format.  If the student is an undergraduate, or a graduate student who will not include the data in his or her thesis, then a description of the student's role in the planned research project must be submitted instead.
  • It is vitally important for the PI of the SOS proposal to include an up-to-date listing of their current and pending support with their SOS application.
  • Awards are subject to a funding cap of $35,000 per year per investigator.  Eligible expenses include:
    • Student stipends.  Fringe and up to 10 percent administrative overheads may be included.
    • Student travel to present results at a domestic scientific conference.  Note that travel support requested through an SOS proposal cannot be used for data acquisition or data reduction visits. Those receiving funding through the NRAO SOS program remain eligible for the standard NRAO user support programs, including travel to the NRAO for observing and data reduction.
    • Computer equipment.
  • The Budget Description section of the SOS proposal must include details on:
    • student stipend requests and any fringe and overheads attached to them.
    • travel support requests.
    • requested computer hardware.
  • SOS awards do not cover tuition costs. 
  • Administrative overheads must be no more than 10% of the stipend.
  • As a guideline, typical applications will limit the combined travel+computing in the budget to about $3k.
  • Funding will be awarded by the Student Observing Support Committee. Factors considered in making awards include, but are not limited to:
    • The scientific ranking and scheduling priorities of the associated observing proposal. [For supplemental calls, this factor may be downweighted.]
    • A work assignment that clearly outlines the student's contributions to the research.
    • The importance of the work to the student's professional development (e.g., whether the research will be included in the student's dissertation).
    • A responsible request for funds, given the number of hours allocated to the observing proposal and the availability of other funds to support the research.
  • Upon submission of the SOS proposal you will receive notification of its receipt.
  • Within six weeks of the application deadline, you will receive notification about the disposition of your application for student support from the NRAO Student Observing Support Coordinator. Contact Jim Braatz with questions.
  • In recent years, the SOS over-subscription rate has been ~3X for ALMA and ~2X for VLA/VLBA applications.  Generally, A-rated observing proposals have a better chance of being funded, but other factors come into consideration so some B-rated programs have been funded as well.
  • If your application is approved, you will be asked to read the General Provisions, and then fill in the Final Funding Proposal, Budget Form and the Final Funding Proposal, Budget Narrative Form. Funding is contingent upon the general terms and conditions outlined in the General Provisions. Awards will be added to a Cumulative Record of Awards.
  • Final Funding Proposals will be received and processed by the NRAO Student Observing Support Administrator.
  • After the proposal receives observing time, the award will be activated and the institution may then begin submitting institutional invoices for access to funds. Invoices must be emailed to the NRAO Student Observing Support Administrator.


A list of the program's documents and forms follows: