Opportunities > Students > Summer Student Research Assistantships

Summer Student Research Assistantships

by Purav Patel last modified Feb 02, 2017 by Jim Braatz

2016 summer students

 The deadline for 2017 Summer positions was Feb 1, 2017.  Please direct questions to: sstudents at nrao dot edu.

Celebrating More Than Five Decades of Training Young Scientists

Since its inception in 1959, the NRAO Summer Student Research Assistantship program has engaged over 1,000 young people in scientific research, and many of our summer students have gone on to distinguished careers in astronomy, physics, and other sciences. The list of former NRAO summer students includes women and men who represent a wide range of careers, research interests, geographic locations, and backgrounds.

What and Where is the NRAO?

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory provides state-of-the-art radio telescope facilities for use by scientists from around the world. We are also involved in cutting edge astronomical research, and in the design, development and manufacture of radio astronomy instrumentation and telescopes; NRAO receivers are deployed from the South Pole to beyond the Moon.  The NRAO has facilities for radio astronomical research in New Mexico and Virginia, and coordinates out summer programs with the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia.  NRAO is a partner in operating the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile. Our site in Socorro, New Mexico, hosts the NRAO Very Large Array (VLA) and is the operations center for the Long Baseline Observatory. Green Bank, West Virginia, is the site of the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT), the world's largest fully steerable single aperture telescope. Charlottesville, Virginia, is the site for both the North American ALMA Science Center, located on the Grounds of the University of Virginia (UVa), and the NRAO Technology Center which houses the Central Development Laboratory, a leading center for radio instrumentation and radio telescope design. Maps and directions to NRAO sites are found at http://www.nrao.edu/directions/.

What is Radio Astronomy?

Radio astronomy is the study of astronomical objects through radiation emitted at radio wavelengths (wavelengths longer than about 1mm, or frequencies lower than about 300 GHz). For more information, the NRAO has an introduction to Radio Astronomy; JPL has produced a useful Primer, and MIT Haystack Observatory has an instructive Radio Astronomy Tutorial. Two on-line courses on Radio Astronomy are available: Essential Radio Astronomy by J.J. Condon and S.M. Ransom of NRAO and Physics728, Radio Astronomy by Dale Gary (NJIT dept. of Physics).

What are NRAO Summer Student Research Assistantships?

The NRAO has conducted a summer student research program since 1959, with over 1000 participants to date. Each NRAO summer student conducts research under the supervision of an NRAO staff member at one of three sites (Socorro, New Mexico; Green Bank, West Virginia; Charlottesville, Virginia), on a project in the supervisor's area of expertise. The project may involve any aspect of astronomy, including original astronomy research, instrumentation, telescope design, astronomical site evaluation or astronomical software development. Supervisors choose their own student candidates from all applications received, and the site to which a summer student is assigned depends on the location of the NRAO supervisor who chose them. Students are encouraged to review the webpages of NRAO staff for an idea of the types of research being conducted at the NRAO. On their application, students may request to work with a specific staff member or to work on a specific scientific topic, or to work at a specific site.

The program runs from 10-12 weeks over the summer, from late May to mid-August. At the end of the summer, participants present their research results as a short talk and submit a written report. Often, these projects result in publications in scientific journals. Financial support is often available for students to present their summer research at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society, generally at the winter meeting following their appointment.

Besides their research, students take part in other activities, including a number of social events, excursions, and summer schools.  For example, Socorro students may travel to Apache Point Observatory and Sunspot; and Green Bank and Charlottesville students swap visits.  We also offer an extensive summer lecture series which covers aspects of radio astronomy and astronomical research. Students may also collaborate on their own observational projects using the VLA, VLBA and/or GBT.  Information on previous summer student research projects are available at the following links:

Who is eligible to be a Summer Student Research Assistant?

There are several Summer Student programs available at the NRAO:

  • The NRAO Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program is for undergraduates who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States or its possessions. It is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program.
  • The National Radio Astronomy Consortium (NAC) is a program 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 and long-term mentoring and cohort support. Summer research experiences range from 8-12 weeks, and can take place at one of the NAC partner sites. For more information, see go.nrao.edu/nac.

  • The NRAO Undergraduate Summer Student Research Assistantship program is for undergraduate students or graduating college seniors who are citizens, are from an accredited U.S. Undergraduate Program, or otherwise eligible to work in the United States. 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.
  • The NRAO Graduate Summer Student Research Assistantship program is for graduate students who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States, enrolled in an accredited U.S. Graduate Program, or otherwise eligible to work in the United States.

Students who are interested in Astronomy and have a background in Astronomy, Physics, Engineering, Computer Science, and/or Math are preferred. The same on-line application form (available November 2016) and application process is used for all three programs.  We strongly encourage applications from members of underrepresented groups in STEM.  We have a commitment to providing an inclusive, educational and exciting experience for all young scientists.

How much would I be paid, and where would I live?

The stipends for the 2017 Summer Student Program are $657 per week for undergraduates and graduated seniors, and $703 per week for graduate students.

Students based in Green Bank live in on-site Observatory housing. At the other sites, students are expected to arrange their own lodging, with assistance from the NRAO if needed. Housing resources are listed in the site specific information available from the "Information for Incoming Summer Students". Actual travel expenses to and from the NRAO site will be reimbursed, up to a maximum of $900. Up to seven days lodging can also be reimbursed, up to a maximum of $300, while the student is looking for a place to live.

When would I start, and how long is the program?

The start dates for the program in 2017 are Monday May 22nd or Tuesday May 30th. A later start date is possible to accommodate later academic schedules. Students are expected to be on site for ten to twelve weeks.

Where can I find more information on NRAO Summer Students?

For important information on student life at the various NRAO sites and examples of past student research, visit "Information for Incoming Students".

Please direct questions to: sstudents at nrao dot edu

When will I hear about summer offers?

Initial offers of appointments will be made on March 1, 2017.

Other Astronomy Programs

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is an equal opportunity employer. (M/F/H/V)