SAO REU Summer Intern Program: Overview

Important note: the Astronomy REU program at SAO has been informed that we have been funded by NSF for 2019 and 2020. Accordingly, on March 1 we anticipate making offers to 11 undergraduates for the summer of 2020.

Second important note: because of the many disruptions in Puerto Rico caused by the multiple earthquakes there, this year we will consider applications from students from Puerto Rico after the January 31 deadline. If that applies to you, please reach out directly to program Co-Director Matthew Ashby, at mashby "at"

We will begin accepting applications for the 2020 summer program starting December 1, 2019. To apply, point your browser to the applications page.

For more information, please DOWNLOAD OUR FLYER from the 2019 program.

The SAO Summer Intern Program is an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) internship where students take on an astrophysics research project with an SAO or Harvard scientist. In 2020 the program will run for 10 weeks, from June 7 - August 15. Students are expected to work at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics for the full duration of the program. We house our interns in Harvard's graduate student dormitory facilities.

The program is funded by the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution.

Potential areas of research include (with a few example study subjects that reflect ongoing research at the CfA):

  • Galaxies. How do they form, what powers them, how will they evolve over cosmic time?
  • Our Solar System. What are near-Earth asteroids? What kinds of objects populate the Oort Cloud and Kuiper Belt?
  • Stars and Planets. Are stellar models accurate? Where are new planets to be found?
  • Lab Astrophysics. What chemistry takes place in space? Do ices matter? How did the Earth get its water?
  • Extreme Astrophysics. What connects supermassive black holes to their host galaxies? What can we learn from X-ray emitting binary stars?

...and can involve data from a host of facilities, including space-based telescopes like NASA's Kepler, Spitzer, and Chandra missions (among others), and the many ground-based observatories often used by SAO scientists, such as:

Undergraduate students interested in astronomy, astrophysics, physics, or related physical sciences are encouraged to apply. We provide a wide range of projects to our interns. That said, we have noticed in recent years that many of our projects involve programming tasks, and Python tends to figure prominently in them. You may find it helpful to bring some Python proficiency to your internship -- but this is by no means required; we have hosted many successful interns with NO prior programming experience. In a similar vein, you may find it useful to have taken at least an introductory Astronomy course, for scientific context. Again, that is NOT required.

Note added December 3: for the 2020 session, we expect to offer a few instrumentation-oriented projects in addition to a variety of science-themed projects. If you have a strong preference for instrumentation, it might be helpful to let us know that in your application essay.

Check here periodically for further updates.


Clay Fellow Warren Brown