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Information for Summer Students Coming to Charlottesville

by Jim Braatz last modified Oct 08, 2019


Information for Summer Students Coming to Charlottesville

Congratulations on your summer appointment at NRAO in Charlottesville!  We look forward to having you join our astronomical community, and we trust your summer here will be a rewarding one. This document contains information to help you with your summer in Charlottesville. Please do not hesitate to contact or with questions or concerns.

General Information

General information of interest for all summer students, regardless of assigned site, is collected in a separate document. This document includes information on start dates, stipends, travel reimbursement, your research assignment and schedule, and the opportunity to present your research at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

Getting Here

Charlottesville is a city of about 40,000 people, although the "metropolitan region" contains closer to 200,000.  It is located in Albemarle county in the eastern half of the commonwealth of Virginia, 70 miles west of the state capital, Richmond, 110 miles southwest of the nation's capital in Washington D.C., 20 miles east of Staunton, and 70 miles north of Lynchburg. The NRAO has two facilities in Charlottesville: our Headquarters, located on the Grounds of the historic and picturesque University of Virginia (UVa), and the NRAO Technology Center (NTC), located about 1.5 miles west of UVa's Central Grounds.

Please review the NRAO travel reimbursement policy before arranging your travel plans. Details are given in your acceptance letter, and can be found on-line at http://science.nrao.edu/opportunities/students/NRAOstudents_summer#Travel.

If you drive to Charlottesville, you can find driving directions here (includes links to maps with the NRAO indicated) or here (general directions to UVa). Or try Google Maps. A good map of the area, including local hotels/motels, may be found here. The NRAO Scientific Offices are located at the base of Observatory Hill, at 520 Edgemont Road, and the NRAO Technology Center (NTC) is located at 1180 Boxwood Estate Road, near the Birdwood Golf Course on Route 250 West. Contact information is found here. A map of Charlottesville with many street names listed is here. Other maps of the area can be found at http://www.virginia.edu/Map/.

If you fly to Charlottesville, there is commercial service via Charlottesville Albemarle Airport (CHO), about 10 miles north of town. CHO is served by American, Delta and United Express. You can take a taxi from the airport to the NRAO or to your lodging in Charlottesville.

You can also fly into either Washington Dulles (IAD) or Richmond International Airport (RIC). You should arrange for transportation to get from the airport to Charlottesville. It's about a 2.5 hour ride from Dulles and 1.5 hours from Richmond. In addition, Charlottesville has a train station (CVS) which can be reached from a number of locations by Amtrak.


Prior to Arrival

You will need to secure a place to live over the summer. Information to help you find housing is given below. It is often advantageous to do this early (remotely), since most sublets are from UVa students, who leave at the end of the school term. However, if you prefer to secure housing after you arrive, the NRAO will reimburse you for temporary accommodations at a local hotel, up to a maximum of $300. You might consider staying at the Red Roof Inn or the Cavalier Inn. Both are near the UVa grounds. The Cavalier Inn has a courtesy shuttle from the Charlottesville airport (call (434) 296-8111).


For your living arrangements, you will need to sublet a room for the summer. You will most likely want to sublet a furnished apartment with air conditioning, as summers in Charlottesville can get pretty warm. As Charlottesville is a college town, there are plenty rooms available during the summer term. Almost all sublets revolve around the academic calendar of the University of Virginia (UVa). So most sublets will begin in late May or early June and go through the second week in August.

Staying in UVa dorms has not been a popular option for students in the past, since the rooms are shared, generally cost more than a private room in a sublet, and there is no flexibility in the start and end dates. Instead, we have collected on-line resources to help you locate an apartment, tabulated below. This includes links to local land barons, classified ads, and electronic bulletin boards.

Typical sublets in Charlottesville go for about $500-800/mo plus utilities for a room in an apartment. Most places will require a security deposit, and perhaps even the first month's rent. Please be aware that these expenses are your responsibility. From past experience, sublets advertised in March and April are more expensive and have more stringent time constraints, while those advertised in May and June include many bargains (utilities included, extra weeks, etc). However, do not wait too long before trying to sublet, as it is hard to contact students once they leave town. In other words, your best bet is to try to sublet a place BEFORE you get here. Sources of sublet listings are given below.

Many sublet ads mention proximity to "The Corner"; this is an area adjacent to UVa Grounds that has many restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. It is very close to the the Red Roof Inn indicated on this map or No.14 on this map. Another popular area is just south of grounds along Jefferson Park Avenue or "JPA". This area has mostly graduate student occupied housing. Quieter than the Corner, it is a longer walk to stores/restaurants, etc, but a shorter walk to NRAO. Some listings also mention being close to "The Downtown Mall." This is a quaint, red-bricked pedestrian mall. Lots of bookstores, restaurants, a movie house, and coffee shops. It's an energetic area, but 2 miles away, so if this is what you are looking for, you'll want to check the schedule for the Free Trolley. Many housing areas are within walking distance or on the route of the UVa bus service, which is free. Google maps knows about the Charlottesville Area Transit buses (apart from the Free Trolley, these are all 75 cents each way, or $20 for a month pass), so you can use this to check how easy it would be to get to work from any address, but it does not know about the UVa buses, so you'll have to cross-reference those manually.

Sources for Sublet Listings

Here we list a few on-line resources for sublets/rentals/leases. If you jumped right to this anchor, please first look at the information given under the "Housing" section directly above for maps, bus routes, and considerations about where to live.

Web Sites:

(The Off-Grounds Housing Office website is probably the best resource for local sublets.) You will need to register as a guest in order to get access to this. Once you do, you can do a "quick search", entering location and lease type=sublet. For location, the areas closest to NRAO are "Rubgy Road/Corner" and "Jefferson Park Avenue Area" (see previous section for links with descriptions of these).

Local On-Line Classified Ads:
Local Land Barons:

There are some local land barons that will do summer sublets. The rentals can be a bit higher than the student sublets. Most of the listings will be for long-term leases, but there are sometimes a few sublets. Any sublets will, for the most part, only rent from the first week in June through the second week in August. If no UVa students sign up, it may be possible to stay longer, but they will not promise that ahead of time. They frequently will not rent to undergraduates.

Note that many of the sublets listed in the on-line and print classifieds listed above will be for apartments managed by these land barons. So if you find a sublet listing in the above, you should be able to find a picture and/or map of the property through one of the links below.

You might consider looking for a place with the other summer students. (Shortly after you accept the position, we will be emailing you the contact information for all Charlottesville summer students.) You should email among yourselves to decide on the type of place to get.

Starting Your Appointment

Official start dates for the program were given in your acceptance letter, and are listed in the general NRAO summer student documentation. Your appointment will be for 10 to 12 weeks. You should arrange for your start and end dates directly with your NRAO mentor (contact information will be in your offer letter). If you cannot meet this schedule, please contact your NRAO mentor for alternative arrangements.

On your first day, you should report to the NRAO Headquarters at 520 Edgemont Road. For students working with any of our engineering staff, your regular work site will be at our NRAO Technology Center on Rt. 250 (Ivy Road). Directions to both are given above. Your mentor will take you to our Human Resources Office, where folks will help you will fill out any necessary paperwork and provide you with forms for your travel reimbursement.  There is also a short orientation presentation on the morning of your first day.

Summer Schedule

Your project mentor will have told you the topic of your research prior to your arrival. You will spend the next 10-12 weeks on this project. At the end of your appointment, you will give a short (~15min) lunch talk to the observatory staff about your research, and will write up a short project summary. Examples of previous years projects are linked to from the general summer student webpage. If you obtain results that you and your advisor think are worth presenting at the winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society, then the NRAO has some limited funds that you can apply for to pay for your travel and stay. More information will be available on this during the summer.

During the summer, there will be a lecture series at Edgemont Road. These will feature local members of the scientific or engineering staff or the UVa Astronomy Department giving introductory talks about various fields in astronomy.

Charlottesville students also take a trip to the NRAO site at Green Bank, West Virginia, for the Radio Astronomy Summer School. The Green Bank summer students may also make a trip to Charlottesville during the summer.

Local Information

Charlottesville, at the heart of Jefferson Country, is a quaint, historic city with amazing virtues for you to explore during your time here. Be aware, though, of the weather.  Summers here are hot and humid, so plan accordingly (e.g. you may want to make sure that whatever housing you secure has air conditioning).

You can find on-line information about Charlottesville, and things to do in the area, at the following websites:

Many areas are within walking distance or are accessible via the UVa bus service and the Charlottesville Area Transit, which includes a free trolley downtown.