Opportunities > Student Programs > Information for Incoming NRAO Summer Students

Information for Incoming NRAO Summer Students

by Jim Braatz last modified Apr 02, 2020

Welcome to the Summer Student Research Assistantship Program at NRAO! This document contains important information for incoming summer students. It covers general NRAO policies, and includes links to other useful information. Of particular interest are the links to the site-specific documentation at the bottom of this page. These links contain local information, travel instructions, reporting instructions, and local housing information. If you have questions, please email sstudents@nrao.edu.


The NRAO has supported a Summer Student program since 1959. There are several types of Summer Student appointments within the NRAO summer student program, including:

  • The NRAO Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program is for undergraduates who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States or its possessions, and is funded by the National Science Foundation's REU program.
  • The National Radio Astronomy Consortium (NAC) is for undergraduate students (1st-4th year) who are U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or are enrolled in an accredited U.S. undergraduate program (including community college). The NAC program is intended to increase the number of women and underrepresented minority students entering, and remaining in, STEM areas that support the field of astronomy (e.g., science, engineering, computing, EPO, and more), by providing research experience, long-term mentoring, and cohort support. Summer research experiences range from 8-12 weeks, and may take place at NRAO or one of the other NAC partner sites. For more information, see go.nrao.edu/nac.
  • NRAO Undergraduate Summer Student Research Assistantships are for undergraduate students or graduating college seniors who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States or its possessions or who are eligible for a Curriculum Practical Training (CPT) from an accredited U.S. undergraduate Program. This program primarily supports students or research projects that do not meet the REU guidelines, such as graduating college seniors, some foreign undergraduate students, or projects involving pure engineering or computer programming.
  • NRAO Graduate Summer Student Research Assistantships are for graduate students who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States or its possessions or who are eligible for a Curriculum Practical Training (CPT) from an accredited U.S. Graduate Program.

In each of these programs, the student spends 10-12 weeks over the summer conducting research under the supervision of a member of the NRAO staff. Students with a background in Astronomy, Physics, Engineering, Computer Science, and/or Math are preferred. See our Summer Student Research Assistantships page for further information.

Start Dates

Preferred start dates for the 2018 summer program are Monday May 21nd or Tuesday May 29th.  Other start dates are possible.  You should arrange for your start date and the duration of your appointment directly with your NRAO advisor.  The contact information for your advisor will be in your offer letter.  After you settle your start dates, you can make your travel arrangements, subject to the guidelines listed below.


The remuneration you receive for your research experience is considered a "stipend". Stipend payments received by students participating in the Summer Student Research Program may be considered taxable income by the IRS, in whole or in part, and students will receive the required IRS Form 1099 reporting stipends paid. Additional information is provided by the IRS at http://www.irs.gov/publications/p970/ch01.html.

A stipend check for your first two-week appointment will be waiting for you on your assigned start date, and every two weeks thereafter. The amount of your stipend depends on your school standing (undergraduate vs. graduate), and may include an adjustment for local housing.

Travel Reimbursement Policy

You will be reimbursed for the travel expenses used to arrive at your assigned NRAO site, subject to the following guidelines (from the NRAO travel policy):

  • Reimbursement will cover the actual cost of transportation and incidental expenses, up to a maximum of $900 roundtrip, regardless of transportation mode. Airline travel must be based on lowest available advance purchase (minimum seven days) coach air fare. Mileage will be reimbursed at the prevailing IRS standard mileage rate with the distance being based on published highway mileage tables.
  • Lodging while en route will not be reimbursed. Students based in Charlottesville or Socorro will be reimbursed for the actual cost of temporary accommodations, up to a maximum of $300, while securing more permanent lodging. Green Bank-based students are housed on site.

Variations on the limits listed above will be described in your offer letter.

Summer Housing

Students assigned to Green Bank will have housing provided on site for a nominal monthly charge. Students assigned to other sites will need to secure a place to live over the summer. Information to help you find housing will be sent to you in a separate mailing or can be found in the site specific documentation linked to below. It is often advantageous to arrange housing prior to arriving on site, since many sublets are from local students who leave at the end of the school term.

Research Assignment and Schedule

Your project advisor will arrange your research topic.  Your research project will be the primary focus of your 10-12 week appointment. You are expected to conduct your research during the normal weekly operating schedule. Justifiable alternatives can be discussed with your advisor. If you require a break in your research schedule, and your advisor agrees, a brief period of absence can be negotiated. Students who fail to report regularly, perform poorly, or who violate NRAO rules or regulations may lose their research appointment without notice.

At the end of your appointment, you will give a short (15 min) lunch talk to observatory staff about your research.  You will also write a (4 page minimum) report outlining your summer research, and present this to your advisor and local Summer Student coordinator by the end of August. Examples of previous projects can be found on the main NRAO Summer Student Program page.

Presenting Research at the AAS Meeting

The NRAO may have a small amount of funds to help students attend the winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society in the January following their appointment, for the purpose of presenting a poster or talk about their summer research project. If the NRAO advisor advocates that it would be worthwhile for the student to attend this meeting, then the student should prepare a proposal.   The student coordinator will provide more information on this toward the end of your summer term.  To be eligible for NRAO support to attend the AAS, the student must have submitted a written report outlining their summer research to their local Summer Student coordinator by the end of September.

Medical Insurance

Students will not be provided with health insurance. It is likely that you will be covered under your school or family's plan during the summer. Students should check this and carry any necessary medical insurance documents .

Acceptance Package

After you accept a summer student appointment with NRAO, you will be sent an acceptance package. This package will contain the following information:

  • Student Data Sheet (includes emergency contact information and information on visa status)
  • NRAO Travel Policy
  • Travel Accident Insurance Beneficiary Record and Plan
  • NRAO Computer Use Policy
  • Employee Acknowledgment of Receipt of Computing Policy
  • NRAO Non-Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Policy
  • NRAO Patent Agreement
  • NRAO Image Use Agreement
  • Self-addressed stamped envelope.

Please fill out and sign the appropriate forms, and return to us in the enclosed self-addressed stamped envelope. Issuance of stipend checks is contingent upon prompt return of the forms. Soon after, you should receive a mailing from your assigned site, containing information on local housing and reporting information.

Site Specific Information

The following links provide additional information specific to the individual NRAO sites to which students may be assigned. This includes local history, weather, travel, directions (including maps) to the NRAO sites, housing, and contact information.

Other Information