Opportunities > Students > Information for Incoming NRAO Summer Students

Information for Incoming NRAO Summer Students

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 information specific to individual sites, such as 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 three types of Summer Student appointments within the NRAO summer student program:

  • 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 (NSF)'s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program.
  • 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 which 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

Official start dates for the program for 2015 are Tuesday May 25th and Monday June 1st, and your appointment will be from 10 to 12 weeks. You should arrange for your start dates and the duration of your appointment directly with your NRAO adviser (contact information will be in your offer letter). If you cannot meet this schedule, please contact your adviser for alternative arrangements. After you settle your start dates with your adviser, 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 includes an adjustment for local housing.

Travel Reimbursement Policy

You will be reimbursed for your travel expenses, 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 go about this 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 adviser will have told you the topic of your research prior to your acceptance. You will spend 10-12 weeks over the summer working on this research project. You are expected to conduct your research during the normal weekly operating schedule. Justifiable alternatives can be discussed with your adviser. If you require a break in your research schedule, and your adviser 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 (~15min) lunch talk to the scientific staff about your research, and will write up a short project summary. Examples of past year projects and summaries can be found on the main NRAO Summer Student Program page. You will also produce a short (~4 page) report outlining your summer research, and present this to your local Summer Student coordinator by the end of September.

Presenting Research at the AAS Meeting

The NRAO has 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 in discussion with the NRAO adviser it is decided that it would be worthwhile for the student to attend this meeting, then the student should prepare a proposal, more information will be available on this soon. To be eligible for NRAO support, the student must have submitted a project summary and 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. It would be wise to check this and to bring any necessary medical insurance documents with you.

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, reporting information, etc.

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