Graduate Summer Student Research Assistantship

Scholarship Amount

Various Amount

Application Deadline

February 02, 2017


Since its inception in 1959, the NRAO Summer Student Research Assistantship program has engaged nearly 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 ethnic backgrounds.

To celebrate the NRAO summer student program's 50th anniversary in 2009, we featured the stories of several former summer students.  Our goal with these feature articles was to convey the diversity of careers and experiences that NRAO summer students have enjoyed. We hope that prospective students will be able to connect their ambitions to the achievements of our summer student alumni. We also sought to humanize radio astronomy and help the public better understand the many possible paths to a rewarding career in science.

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. 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 manages facilities for radio astronomical research in New Mexico, Virginia, and West Virginia, and is involved in building 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 Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA). 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 theNorth 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, and is heavily involved in radio instrumentation and radio telescope design. Maps and directions to NRAO sites are found at

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 usefulPrimer, 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 NRAO 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 research, instrumentation, telescope design, astronomical site evaluation or astronomical software development. Supervisor's 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 early June 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 available for students to present their summer research at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society, generally at the winter meeting following their appointment.

There are three types of 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 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 2015) 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 2016 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 2016 are Monday May 23th and Tuesday May 31st. A later start date is possible if necessary due to other travel or academic schedule. Students are expected to be on site from ten to twelve consecutive 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".


Required application materials include the following:

Completed on-line application form
Copies of transcripts (unofficial) from all colleges or universities you attended. You will be prompted at the end of the application process to attach a single PDF file containing your transcripts.
Letters of recommendation, submitted using our online form, from three people who can evaluate your ability, experience, and potential.
All questions should be directed to: sstudents at nrao dot edu


Pacific Islander, Hispanic, Caucasian, Asian, American Indian, African American
Graduate Students

Similar Scholarships

Academic Merit Scholarship
Amount: $2,500 | Deadline: April 06, 2017
Learn to Build an App Scholarship
Amount: $1,000 | Deadline: May 31, 2017
Bruce Lee Foundation Scholarship Program
Amount: $1,000 | Deadline: June 10, 2017
Alexia Foundation Student Grants
Amount: Various Amount | Deadline: January 31, 2017
Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship
Amount: $10,000 | Deadline: December 02, 2015