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2020 High School Summer Research Experience in Astronomy at Northwestern

Deadline: 11:59pm, March 8, 2020

The official application deadline passed on February 16. Stay tuned for Summer 2021 applications.


2020 Program Update: In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Northwestern has decided that there will be no on-campus summer programs for high school students. Therefore, the High School Summer Research Experience in Astronomy will now run remotely. We are working very hard working hard to create the best possible remote-learning experience. The revised program will continue to focus on developing technical skills and other research skills, through python programming lessons, astronomy lessons, and a series of “mini projects” designed by CIERA scientists based on their own research.

For any questions regarding the program update, please email: ciera-


CIERA is pleased to announce the High School Summer Research Experience in Astronomy at Northwestern during Summer 2020. This highly-interactive, small-cohort program provides exposure to real astronomy research experiences in an atmosphere of team-style learning, hands-on training, and individual mentorship and advising.

HS Program Flyer 2020
Students enrolled in the program will:
  • take computer programming classes
  • participate in introductory astrophysics courses
  • tackle selected readings and structured assignments
  • gain real world experience in an active academic research environment
Special programming includes:
  • science communication training
  • field trips
  • panel discussions to learn about careers in astronomy

During the program, students will be assigned their own research project with an astronomer mentor, and will have the opportunity to present their research to CIERA at the end of the program.

When is it?

June 29 – August 7, 2020


What will you do?

A program instructor will accompany the students on all activities except for lunches beyond the first week. Optional field trips to science facilities such as the Adler Planetarium will take place during the program, on Saturdays.

Activities for Week 1

Computer Programming Courses: Coursework includes an extensive introduction to programming and scientific data analysis with the Python programming language, with additional topics such as:

  • Introduction to the Unix command line
  • Jupyter notebooks
  • GitHub
  • High Performance Computing (supercomputers)
  • Collaborative coding
  • Data visualization

Introduction to Astronomy Courses: Lectures covering a wide variety of astronomy topics, such as

  • Stars
  • Planets
  • Galaxies
  • Cosmology
  • Telescopes
  • Black Holes
  • Gravitational Waves
Activities for Weeks 2-6

Independent Research: Students will meet their mentors, who will introduce them to their research projects. Students will work independently, with guidance from their mentors and program staff, on their research projects. To see examples of past research projects, see our program page.

Introduction to Astronomy/Computer Programming  Courses: A continuation of the programming and astronomy lectures from Week 1. These activities will slowly be reduced in favor of an increasing amount of Independent Research time each week.

Who are we?

Program Director: Dr. Patrick Sheehan is a CIERA Postdoctoral Fellow, and has over eight summers of experience in leading Astronomy focused high school summer programs.

Lecturers: Program courses will be taught by CIERA graduate students, postdocs, and faculty. Our CIERA community places particular emphasis on excellence in scientific communication and our researchers are experienced in communicating astronomy to a variety of audiences.

Research MentorsResearch projects and mentors are drawn from our diverse community of active researchers in Astronomy. Students will be integrated into the activities of their respective research groups.

Who are you?

  • Must be a current high school student at time of application.
  • This is strictly a daytime program. Students must arrange their own transportation to and from the program. Housing for students cannot be provided. 
  • Parent/guardian permission required.


How to apply?

The application includes collection of applicant’s basic information and an essay question. To complete the application you will need: 

  • Applicant’s basic contact information, parental contact information, and grade level 
  • Name and address of applicant’s high school
  • A current transcript of the applicant
  • A 1-page essay answering any ONE of the following questions:
    • Someday you will be a leader in the world scientific community, and will have to decide between funding either a crewed undersea exploration base or a crewed Moonbase — you can only fund one. Which would you fund and why?
    • If you could travel back in time or across the Universe, which would you choose and why?
    • You are the leader of a Nobel-prize winning research team. You’ve been given a grant to hire either a world-renowned graphic artist or a world-renowned writer to help tell the story of your work. You can only fund one. Which do you choose and why?
  •  A recommending teacher’s name and email address. Teacher will send a letter of recommendation to an email address provided on the application.

$3,000 for 6 weeks. Need-based financial assistance may be available and can be requested on the application form.


Please submit the application online via this Google form:


Application results will be announced no later than Saturday, February 29th. We reserve the right to cancel the Summer 2020 program with 12 weeks’ notice.  


Please email us at .