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2020 High School Summer Research Experience in Astronomy at Northwestern

Deadline: 11:59pm, February 16, 2020

Cohort photo at poster session

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.



Students enrolled in the research experience 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.




June 29 – August 7, 2020


Program Schedule and Activities

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.

Daily Schedule for Weeks 1-2 (tentative)

10:00am – 12:00pm: Computer Programming Courses
Coursework includes an extensive introduction to programming and scientific data analysis with the Python programming language, with additional topics such as the following: 

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

12:00pm – 1:00pm: Lunch 
Students should bring or purchase their own lunch. Lunch will be on campus or at a restaurant in downtown Evanston with the program cohort.

1:00pm – 2:00pm: Introduction to Astronomy Courses 
Lectures covering a wide variety of astronomy topics, such as:

  • Stars 
  • Planets 
  • Galaxies 
  • Cosmology 
  • Telescopes 
  • Black Holes 
  • Gravitational Waves 

2:00pm – 4:00pm: Computer Programming Courses (continued) 

Daily Schedule for Weeks 3-6

10:00am – 12:00pm: Independent Research Time 
Students will work independently on their research projects during this time. Students can also use this time to meet with their mentors, or to ask questions of the program staff. 

12:00pm – 1:00pm: Lunch 
Students can bring their lunches and eat in the CIERA cafeteria, or will be allowed to explore restaurant options in downtown Evanston. 

1:00pm – 2:00pm: Introduction to Astronomy/Computer Programming Courses 
A continuation of the programming and astronomy lectures from Weeks 1 & 2. 

2:00pm – 4:00pm: Independent Research Time 



$3,000 for 6 weeks. Need-based financial assistance may be available. 


  • 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.

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.

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 .