Summer Research Programs

There are many summer programs all around the world intended to provide young astronomers with research experience at various institutions. These include, but are not limited to, universities, national laboratories, and private companies. Summer programs are particularly useful for learning about research because they allow you to focus on one project for an extended period of time without the pressure of classes during the academic year.

One excellent way to spend your summer is to stay at Berkeley to conduct summer research. Professors are often able to fund summer research; if you have completed the URAP program in both the fall and in the spring with one project, then the professor will have funding available to also support your research in the summer. Otherwise, professors often have group funds for summer students, or you may be able to get funding through the SURF program ( Staying in Berkeley for the summer is a great way to get to know your research group better and to make important connections within the department. This is also a good way to find your first research project, since professors are less busy during the summer and can devote more time to mentoring research students.

Another possibility that you may wish to consider is to participate in a summer research program outside of UC Berkeley. These programs provide a wonderful opportunity to network, learn about research at other institutions, and participate in projects that may not be available in Berkeley. They can also be a great reason to travel and experience a new region or country with expenses fully or partially covered.

Below are some programs that may be of interest to help begin your search for summer projects outside of Berkeley. These tables are not thorough, comprehensive lists of all programs; they are simply a starting point to begin looking. Keep in mind that programs may be removed or added over the years, so they are not guaranteed to exist next year just because they are available this year. Additional programs may also be searched at the following links or elsewhere on the internet:


Program Name Duration Location Due Date (Approximate) Letters of Rec Paid? Additional Comments
LIGO SURF Program Minimum 10 weeks Caltech Early February Unknown Yes (full coverage?) Women and minorities encouraged to apply; positions available for students as early as summer after freshman year.
University of Chicago REU 10 weeks University of Chicago Mid February 2 Yes (full coverage) Intended for underrepresented minority groups (African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans) and women. Program includes many fields of physics, including astro.
Cornell REU 10 weeks Cornell University Early February 2 Yes (full coverage) Only about 8-10 students selected; exceedingly well-paid including funds to travel and present research, but very competitive.
MIT REU 10 weeks MIT Haystack Observatory (near Boston) Early February - Yes (full coverage) Includes seminars, tours, attendance at conferences, etc.
Northwestern University REU 10 weeks Northwestern Unviersity (Chicago) Early February 2 Yes (full coverage) -
Rutgers REU 10 weeks Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey Early February 2 Yes (~$5000 stipend plus free housing Combined physics and astro program. Approximately 9 spots available every year with varying proportions of physics/astro. For 2017, ~300 students applied for these 9 positions (3 astro, 6 physics).
SULI Program 10-12 weeks USA (various laboratories) Early January 2 Yes (full coverage) Minimum 3.0 GPA
NASA Program (OSSI) 10 weeks USA (various laboratories) March 1st (BUT applications are viewed on a rolling basis, so applying earlier is recommended. 2-3 Yes (full coverage) Must be a US citizen; minimum 3.0 GPA. Apply for up to 15 positions through the same portal.


Program Name Duration Location Due Date (Approximate) Letters of Rec Paid? Additional Comments
UCL International Students Dean's Summer Studentship 2 months (flexible) London April 1-2 Yes (full coverage) Very laid-back and flexible; you can choose your own advisor and project. All expenses paid, highly competitive. But, note the very late due date.
Royal Astronomical Society - UK February 1 Yes (partial coverage) This is application must be submitted by an advisor who is part of the Royal Astronomical Society; if you find someone in the UK that you would like to work with then they may be able to apply and fund your summer research with them.
Robert Cormack Bequest/Piazzi Smyth Bequest Vacation Research Scholarships 6 weeks Scotland - - Yes (partial coverage) -
RISE/DAAD 3 months (minimum 10 weeks) Germany Mid January 1 Yes (partial coverage) This is a very large program including physics, engineering, astro, etc. Not a lot of astro positions, however. Comes with a free 2-week German course in Munich or Berlin.
ASTRON/JIVE 10-12 weeks Netherlands (Dwingeloo Radio Observatory) Early February 2 Yes (full coverage) -
Leiden/ESA Astrophysics Program 10-12 weeks Netherlands Early February 1 Yes (full coverage) ~20 positions available, includes field trips to observatories etc. Unless you are from an affiliate member country, you cannot apply for ESA projects (the USA is NOT an affiliate)
UROP International 10 weeks Aachen (Germany) Late January 1 Varies Requires a GPA of 3.2 or higher. Approximately 60 positions available; 30 of these will include a scholarship to cover living expenses (but not enough to also cover travel).
ThinkSwiss - Switzerland Late January 1 Yes (partial coverage) You will need to email Swiss professors and find someone to agree to host you before you can apply.
CERN 8-13 weeks Switzerland Late January 1 Yes (full coverage) You are not eligible unless have already completed your third year of university. These are also not actually astro positions, but they may be of interest if you are thinking about going into more of a physics route.
AAO Student Fellowships 10-12 weeks Australia Mid February 2 Yes (full coverage) The people who run the program are really nice!

*All of the listed international opportunities are opportunities completed in English. Some may include an opportunity to speak other languages, but you wouldn't need to be worried about a language barrier.

In these tables, full funding indicates that travel, housing, food, and potentially some leisure activities should all be covered. Most internships will provide a response by around mid-March.

It is also possible, but potentially more difficult, to look into researchers who you may be interested in working with (at any university or institution!) and to try to work out details directly with them, without a set program. This may be done by simply finding a professor whose work you find interesting, or by asking Berkeley professors if they might know anybody working in a particular region in your subject area of interest. This is a less structured method that would likely be much more relaxed than applying to programs; however, it can be really hit-or-miss and depends a lot on the individual researcher. If you have specific questions about this approach, feel free to email those of us who have had experience with this technique (Malena or Goni) and we'd be happy to talk to you about what that was like.

Summer Schools

Short summer schools (usually ranging from a few days to a week) are similar to conferences, but they are much more like quick “crash courses” that provide background and more in-depth information for specific topics and specializations in astronomy. Many of these programs are intended for graduate students or postdocs, but they are sometimes also aimed towards or willing to accept undergraduates. Note that these programs are NOT full courses that can be taken for credit.

In-depth descriptions are not provided here because many of the annual summer schools vary in topic and/or location by year, so they must be independently researched depending on your topic of interest. To begin your search, here are a couple of annual summer school programs that may be of interest:

Other summer schools may also be found at the following links, which include information about both astronomy conferences and summer schools:

Additional ways to learn more about summer schools include taking a look at some of the posters around the department and searching elsewhere on ever-knowledgeable Google.