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

Student Observing Support (SOS) Program

NRAO SOS Program

Current Opportunity: Proposals to support student research using data from the public ALMA data archive

Deadline: May 24, 2024 at 5:00 pm ET


NRAO has funding through the North American ALMA Science Center to support student involvement in research projects using ALMA archival data. Investigators from US institutions are invited to apply for this fellowship program. Funding may be used to support either graduate or undergraduate students.

To apply for SOS funding:



The SOS program is a Fellowship intended to strengthen the role of the Observatory in training the next generation of telescope users. The program is available to support new observing programs for the VLA, VLBA, and ALMA (through the North American executive) as well as programs that use ALMA archival data. SOS application deadlines and reviews are held separately for ALMA and VLA/VLBA programs. Funding applications for new observing programs are due about one month after disposition letters are delivered for the observing proposals. Deadlines are therefore approximately in September (ALMA), December (VLA/VLBA), and June (VLA/VLBA) each year.  Follow this page for exact deadlines for each new opportunity.


    • 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 (for SOS Calls associated with new observations). The PI of the SOS request must be resident at the same institution as the student for whom support is being requested.
    • For SOS Calls associated with new observations, if neither the student nor the student's university advisor is 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 name the student to be funded. 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.
    • Funding must commence no later than one year after the notification of the award.
    • Applications should include a description of the student's role in the planned research project.  This description is an important component used by the external committee to decide awards.  If the research is part of the student's Ph.D. thesis, the document should also include the student's plan of dissertation research, which can be appended to the document describing the student's role.
    • 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 and to describe the need associated with the proposed funding.
    • Awards are subject to a funding cap of $40,000 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.  Overheads may not be charged to travel and computing costs.
    • 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, which is made up of scientists external to NRAO. Factors considered in making awards include, but are not limited to:
      • The scientific ranking and scheduling priorities of the associated observing proposal (for applications associated with new observations).
      • The scientific justification (for applications using the ALMA data archive).
      • 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.
      • An equitable distribution of awards.  The SOS program is not intended to provide continual support throughout a student's graduate career.
    • Upon submission of the SOS proposal you will receive notification of its receipt.
    • For applications involving new observations, you will receive notification about the disposition of your application within six weeks. For opportunities using the ALMA data archive, where an independent science review is required, the notification is sent within eight weeks.  Contact Jim Braatz with questions.
    • The over-subscription rate for SOS opportunities has been 2X-3X.  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.  However, for Supplemental Calls targeting projects with already-delivered data, the science ranking of the proposal is not an important factor in determining awards.
    • 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.
    • For awards associated with new observations, 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: