Off-campus Research (REUs and more)
Opportunities abound to conduct research off-campus during the summer. Most summer positions are paid and last approximately 10 weeks. These programs are good way to experience and get to know other universities and their faculty, which can be especially useful if you plan to apply to graduate school in the future.
The application deadline for most summer research internships is in January and early February, so you should start to put your application together early (e.g., December to early January) and give your letter writers plenty of advance notice.
Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs)
REUs are the National Science Foundation's summer research programs for undergraduates. As an REU student you are granted a stipend to work with professors or other researchers at a host institution for 10-12 weeks during the summer. Each institution hosts 10 or so REU students. REU application deadlines are in late January or February (the exception is the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory's REU, which takes place during the Chilean summer January-March and so has an early October application deadline).
A comprehensive list of astronomy REUs can be found at:
Students will work with scientists at the SETI Institute and at the nearby NASA Ames Research Center on projects spanning the field of astrobiology from microbiology to planetary geology to observational astronomy.
Students will conduct astronomical research with Texas A&M faculty and research staff, participate in weekly seminars and group discussions, and attend an observing trip to McDonald Observatory. Possible fields of study in astronomical research include supernova, cosmology, the high-redshift Universe, Dark Energy, the cosmic distance scale, the Milky Way galaxy, and extrasolar planets. In addition, the Munnerlyn Astronomical Instrumentation lab seeks students to participate in designing and building astronomical instrumentation to support these fields of research, for projects in which Texas A&M University is an institutional member: Giant Magellan Telescope, Hobby Eberly Telescope, Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, and Dark Energy Survey.
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.
Students will work on individual research projects with Cornell faculty and research staff on a wide range of topics in planetary science, astronomical instrumentation, astrophysics, general relativity and cosmology. Students interested in computer science and engineering are also encouraged to apply. View the list of research projects.
Research opportunities in a number of areas including optics (using lasers of all kinds including ultrashort pulse and UV lasers), computer modeling, plasmas, solid state and thin film science, acoustics, theory, and astronomy.
Most projects involve analysis of data from space missions such as Yohkoh, SOHO, TRACE, RHESSI, Hinode, and SDO and ground-based observatories. Experience has shown that data analysis projects are suitable for most undergraduates at the sophomore or junior level. Additionally, each year there are a few opportunities in the solar-stellar connection (dynamo theory, data analysis), solar magneto-hydrodynamics, and space hardware development.
NASA offers paid summer research positions in its locations ranging from Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland to the Ames Research Center in California. The range of research opportunities is broad, including robotics, space instrumentation, astrobiology, and solar physics. The application deadline is in January.
The U.S. Department of Energy sponsors paid research internships at national labs across the country. The applications deadlines are in August for fall internships; November for spring internships; and April for summer internships.
The University of California, Berkeley sponsors a Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP), offering students opportunities for faculty-mentored research in the fields of Astronomy, Astrophysics, Chemistry, Computer Science, Earth & Planetary Science, Geology, Geophysics, Mathematics, Physics, and Statistics. The eight-week program is held on the UC Berkeley campus. The application deadline is in February.
This program takes both US and international students. STScI manages the science mission of Hubble and of the next generation James Webb Space Telescope for NASA and provides a very dynamic science setting. The application deadline is in February.
NASA - the Lunar and Planetary Institute invites undergraduates with at least 50 semester hours of credit to experience research in the planetary sciences. As a summer intern, you will work one-on-one with a scientist either at the LPI or NASA Johnson Space Center. 10 week program. $5,000 stipend and $1,000 travel expenses for US or $1,500 for foreign nationals. The application deadline is in January.
Summer programs offered to learn statistics and data-modeling techniques. Application deadlines vary.
Exceptional undergraduate students of mathematics, engineering, computer science, and physical and life science disciplines are sought, to apply to this unique summer research program. Past RIPS project sponsors included Arete, Symantec, Amgen, Pixar, JPL, Lawrence-Livermore and Los Alamos National Labs, and others. 36 students will be in-residence at UCLA for nine weeks.
[Attended and recommended by former UT Astronomy student Agnes Kim] Teaching Assistants act as tutors and mentors, and assist students in using astronomical equipment and personal computers, under the direction of two senior faculty. They also organize recreational and social activities, and deliver one or more lectures on topics of their own choosing. Applicants should be graduate students, graduating seniors, or rising college seniors, majoring in physical science or engineering. SSP alumni are especially encouraged to apply.
The Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) at Northwestern University offers a 9-week, paid summer research experience for undergraduates. The students are paired up with some of the leading research professors in science and engineering fields. Research areas include ceramics, polymers, nanocomposites, photonics, nanoparticles, molecular electronics and biomaterials. While there are many REU programs, the NU-MRSEC stands out in offering students an interdisciplinary research experience.Students currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in science or engineering who are US citizens or permanent residents are eligible. Participants are paid a $4500 stipend, a travel allowance, and on-campus housing is provided.
In the Netherlands. The Programme enables astronomy students (graduate or advanced undergraduate) to spend the summer (10 to 12 weeks) at the Dwingeloo Observatory, conducting astronomical research under the supervision of ASTRON and JIVE staff members. The application deadline is in February.
A three week program in Europe for students ages 16-24 from around the world, and whose common interest is astronomy. The application deadline is in April.
Many universities, laboratories, and observatories have their own undergraduate research programs. If there's an institution you'd like to work at, odds are they have some sort of program for you! Some useful links which have partial lists of these other opportunities are given below.