NSF-REU Internships in Astronomy

Applications for summer 2015 will be available soon!

2014 Application (MSWord)
2014 Application (PDF)

The spiral galaxy NGC 4911 as seen by Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA).

The spiral galaxy NGC 4911 as seen by Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA).

For more than 50 years, the Maria Mitchell Observatory (MMO) has offered summer research opportunities in astronomy and astrophysics for students on the picturesque island of Nantucket. Six summer internship positions will be available in 2014 for qualified undergraduate astronomy and physics students through the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, which is supported by a generous grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

REU students at the MMO work on individualized research projects under the guidance of experienced astronomers. For summer 2014, we are delighted to have the following astronomers join us as affiliated faculty members:

  • Dr. Michael Gregg (University of California, Davis)
  • Dr. Gretchen Harris (University of Waterloo)
  • Dr. William Harris (McMaster University)
  • Dr. Christine Jones Forman (Harvards-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)
  • Dr. Katherine Rhode (Indiana University)
  • Dr. Peter Stetson (Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, National Research Council of Canada)

as well as MMO Director Dr. Michael West.

Current areas of research include:

  • Formation and evolution of stars and galaxies
  • Groups and clusters of galaxies
  • Stellar populations
  • Stars clusters
  • Astrophysical masers and lasers
  • Cosmology and the early universe
  • History and culture of astronomy

Data for projects are obtained from Hubble Space Telescope, leading ground-based optical, infrared and radio telescopes, and next generation surveys such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) and UKIRT Infrared Deep Sky Survey (UKIDSS). Students also obtain data and develop their hands-on observational skills with the MMO’s 24″ and 17″ research telescopes equipped with modern CCD cameras. In addition, students have access to the digitized photographic plate collections of the MMO and the Harvard College Observatory, a unique historical resource for studies of variable objects over long time periods.

Research at MMO emphasizes state-of-the-art data reduction techniques and thoughtful physical interpretation. Most MMO REU students become authors or co-authors of papers published in scientific journals based on their research, and 60% go on to graduate school to obtain a PhD.

2013 REU students outside the Maria Mitchell Observatory on Vestal Street.

2013 REU students outside the Maria Mitchell Observatory on Vestal Street

the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring was conferred upon 23 individuals and organizations. Among the awardees was the Nantucket Maria Mitchell AssociationThe Maria Mitchell Observatory is a recognized leader in training the next generation of astronomers. Since its inception in 1957, hundreds of undergraduate students have discovered the joy of doing astronomical research surrounded by the natural beauty of Nantucket island. Many have gone on to successful careers as astronomers at leading universities, observatories and other organizations around the world. In fact, an estimated 5% of all American women PhDs in astronomy today acquired their first research experience at the MMO.

In 2009, the Maria Mitchell Association received the highly prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring from President Obama for its half-century long program of mentoring undergraduate student research in astronomy.


MMO offers six REU internships in astronomy each summer. These positions provide an opportunity for students to conduct independent research supervised by a senior staff of the MMO and visiting scientists. To be eligible, students must be enrolled in an undergraduate institution with a planned graduation date after September 2014. U.S. citizenship or permanent residency is required.


Positions will be available starting June 1st and continuing until late August. Stipends are $1,800 monthly, and free furnished housing is also provided. Up to $500 for roundtrip travel between the student’s home and Nantucket is available, as are funds for to present research results at the January AAS meeting. The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association is an affirmative action and Equal Opportunity Employer and encourages all interested individuals to apply.

Application Process

The application process is now closed.  Please consider applying in 2015!

2014 Application (MSWord)
2014 Application (PDF)

Internship applications are due February 15th each year. In addition to the completed application form, applicants must arrange for copies of transcripts from all colleges and universities attended (scans of official transcripts are acceptable) and at least two letters of recommendation to be sent before the deadline. All application materials, letters and transcripts should be e-mailed to reu2014@mariamitchell.org. Questions about the MMO’s REU program can also be sent to the same address or to Dr. Michael West, Director of the Maria Mitchell Observatory.

We hope to welcome you to the Nantucket Maria Mitchell Observatory!

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