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High School Summer Research Experience in Astronomy at Northwestern 2019

Deadline: 11:59pm, May 31, 2019

  • The program is currently full and is operating on a waitlist. You are encouraged to still apply, as we are actively looking for ways to expand our capacity.

CIERA is pleased to announce the Summer Research Experience in Astronomy at Northwestern for high school students during Summer 2019. 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, hear astronomy lectures on various cutting-edge topics, and tackle selected readings and structured assignments. Special programming includes science communication training, field trips, and panel discussions to learn about careers in astronomy. During the second three weeks of the program, students will be assigned their own research project with an astronomer mentor.

Program Flyer

First three weeks: June 24 – July 12, 2019. Second three weeks flexible.

Program Schedule and Activities

A program instructor will accompany the students on all activities. Optional field trips to science facilities such as Fermilab or Argonne National Labs will take place twice during the program, on Saturdays.

Daily Schedule for Weeks 1-3 (tentative)

10:00am – 12:00pm: Computer programming courses
Instructors include graduate students in physics and astronomy and other computational experts. Coursework includes an extensive introduction to programming in Python, 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 – 1:30pm: Lunch
Students should bring or purchase their own lunch. Lunch will be on campus with the program cohort.

1:30pm – 2:30pm

Monday, Wednesday, Friday:  Meet with astronomer research mentors.

Tuesday & Thursday:  Special topics (such as research communication training) and career exploration (such as career panels and informal discussions with professional astronomers).

2:30pm – 3:30pm: Introduction to Astronomy Courses
Lectures covering a wide variety of astronomy topics, such as:

  • Galaxies
  • Cosmology
  • Astronomy simulations
  • Telescopes
  • Black Holes
  • Gravitational Waves

3:30pm – 5:00pm: Open discussion and study time with cohort

Schedule for Weeks 3-6

Weeks 3-6 will have more open schedules focused on engaging with an astronomy research project. These projects will call upon the skills and knowledge acquired in the first three weeks and be closely guided by an astronomer research mentor. Students and mentors will meet for at least two hours per day and students will be provided any necessary resources and space in CIERA to work alongside their cohort. Students will have the opportunity to present their projects at the end of the program.


$2,700 for 6 weeks; $350 each additional week. Need-based financial assistance may be available.

  • Must be a current high school student at time of application.
  • This is a daytime program. Students must have their own reliable transportation to and from the program.
  • 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 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 to be announced as soon as possible. We reserve the right to cancel the Summer 2019 program with 12 weeks’ notice.


Please email us at