Undergraduate Summer Research Program (USRP)

Every summer, our department runs the Undergraduate Summer Research Program (USRP), in which 15-20 students carry out astrophysics research projects under the supervision of faculty and postdoc advisors.  The summer starts with a week-long intensive workshop on computer programming and astronomical statistics.  Students then work one-on-one with a faculty member or a postdoc on an independent research project;  some even co-author research articles for peer-reviewed journals based on their summer research.  The topics that undergraduate researchers have tackled in the past have spanned all of experimental, observational, and theoretical astronomy. Participating in the summer program is an excellent introduction to research astronomy, and for students interested in majoring in astrophysics, it is a great way to learn whether this is something you would like to pursue for a career (many former participants have gone on to graduate school and to careers in astronomy and other sciences).

Sample Student Research Topics from previous years

  • Transport of Energetic Particles in Astrophysical Turbulence
  • Stellar Response to Hydrodynamic Mass Loss Extinction
  • Cross Sections of Onion-like Graphite in the Interstellar Medium
  • Blend Analysis of HATNet Transit Candidates
  • Automated Characterization of Resolved Binary Star Systems
  • WFIRST Astrometry: Centroiding on the Arms of the PSF
  • Dynamical Formation of Gravitational Wave Inspirals
  • Chaos in Bar Potentials
  • Searching for Ultra-Diffuse Galaxies beyond Galaxy Clusters using HSC
  •  Examining the Host Galaxies of Quasars
  • Understanding Mass Assembly of Luminous Red Galaxies in HSC Galactic Conformity and Stochasticity
  • Finding the Missing Baryons: Insights from Enzo AMR Cosmological Simulations

How to Apply

Princeton students should submit only* the following application materials through the University's Student Activities Funding Engine (SAFE) where the program is listed as Undergraduate Summer Research Program in Astrophysics Independent Project http://www.princeton.edu/studentfunding/

1) A brief essay consisting of approximately two paragraphs, no more than one page (reasonable margins, 12-point font).  The first paragraph should briefly describe course-work and/or previous research experiences that you feel are relevant.  The second paragraph should describe why you would like to participate in the summer program. Please also indicate the subject in which you intend to major.

2) On a separate page please provide a list of the courses you have taken and the grades received (a screenshot from the registrar's website will suffice).

Tentative dates for the summer of 2021 program are Monday, June 7th through Monday, August 9th.   The deadline for applications from Princeton students is February 19, 2021.  We expect to inform applicants of decisions by the week of March 8.  We strongly encourage rising sophomores to apply.

Every accepted student will receive a stipend of $4,000, paid in two installments.  In addition, they will be accommodated in University housing free of charge, unless the program must be virtual.  Exceptions from University housing (e.g. for family or health reasons) may be requested individually.   

Applications of non-Princeton students are made through the National Astronomy Consortium (NAC):  https://science.nrao.edu/opportunities/student-programs/nac operated by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO).  NAC provides research experience and long-term mentoring and cohort support, and is directed to women and underrepresented minority undergraduate students studying astronomy or related fields.  

Applications to the Princeton Astrophysics Undergraduate Summer Research Program are limited to students enrolled in U.S. universities, U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

If you have questions about the program, please contact:

Polly Strauss (Academic Program Administrator; pstrauss AT princeton.edu)

* it is not necessary to complete all fields in SAFE, such as project statement, planned itinerary, qualifications; you may enter "NA" (not applicable).