It’s hard for high school students to get involved in astrophysics - a field that can require deep physics knowledge, access to advanced equipment, or expert guidance. There are a few summer programs that do, however, give students a taste of what astrophysics could look like - we explore them in this article!
Location: Varies as per course
Stipend: Available, depending on academic level and session duration
Financial assistance: NA
Application deadline: Early March
Program dates: 10 weeks from late May/early June – August
Eligibility: Students must be a minimum of 16 years of age, be US citizens and have a cumulative GPA of 3.0
You can finally make your dreams of working at NASA come true! NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center offers a number of astrophysics-related high school internships. You can also go through the full list of NASA’s internships here, just search for high school to filter out the opportunities applicable to you. General suggestions for increasing chances of acceptance include applying early and networking with previous interns. Needless to say, a NASA internship is bound to be a highly inspiring experience!
Application deadline: There are four cohorts throughout the year. Applications are due in February, May, September, and December, respectively. Apply here!
Program dates: There are four cohorts throughout the year in spring, summer, fall, and winter.
Eligibility: All high school students may apply.
Lumiere was founded by researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Hundreds of ambitious high school students do research through the Lumiere Research Scholar Programs. Each student is paired with a top PhD and works with their mentor 1-1 to produce a university-level research paper.
The programs are entirely virtual and vary in duration based on the student’s end goal with respect to how much of a deep dive they would prefer. The research opportunities range from STEM to non-STEM subjects, AI, business.
Close to 400 students have already done university-level research in astrophysics, making it one of the most popular tracks at Lumiere. Past student research has explored how Dark Matter and Dark Energy play with the evolution of the Universe, the critical factors that affect the habitability of celestial bodies in our solar system - to name a few.
Also, check out the Lumiere Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students.
Location: Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium at Yale University
Financial assistance: Limited, need-based financial aid available usually ranging from 50-80%
Application deadline: March 13, 2023
Program dates: June 26, 2023 – August 6, 2023, 2 weeks of self-study followed by a 4 week residential program
Eligibility: Open only to rising seniors who are 15.5 years or older by July 9, 2023
A truly comprehensive program, the YSPA brings together elements of research, practical work, and the experience of college life. In a group of 36 students, you will take classes, use the telescopes at the Leitner Observatory and analyze data in the observatory’s computer lab. Classes include topics like observational astronomy, spectroscopy, telescope optics, and more. You will work in teams of 4 on a research project that will culminate in a scientific paper and presentation. Some have even been published in science journals!
Location: CIERA (Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics) at Northwestern University
Fee: $2,500 + $1,500 for REACH Further
Financial assistance: Full and partial scholarships are available
Application deadline: March 20, 2023
Program dates: Session 1 from June 12, 2023 – June 30, 2023, Session 2 from July 10, 2023 – July 28, 2023
Eligibility: Open to all high school students
A core element of this program is its focus on learning programming and scientific data analysis, and then using those skills to study astronomy. In the 3 weeks of this course, you and your team will work on projects based on actual research being done at CIERA. You can also opt for REACH Further, which has limited availability, to work on an independent research project with one-on-one guidance from a mentor for 3 additional weeks.
Location: Texas Tech University
Financial assistance: NA
Application deadline: February 15, 2023
Program dates: June 18, 2023 - August 3, 2023
Eligibility: 17-year-old students who graduate in 2023 or 2024
You could be one of the 12 highly qualified students who get to attend this prestigious, highly selective program. With physics being one of the program’s tracks, you could work on an astrophysics research project. If you’re looking for a program focused on hands-on practical research that also allows you to hone critical thinking skills and explore career options with the faculty, then this is an ideal option.
Location: Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, Michigan State University
Financial assistance: NA
Application deadline: March 27, 2023
Program dates: July 23, 2023 – July 28, 2023
Eligibility: All high school students who are US residents
This free week-long residential program looks into the domain of atomic nuclei and how it intersects with astrophysics and cosmology. Not only will you get to research at a top rare-isotope laboratory but also perform your own nuclear physics experiments! The recruitment process includes a pre-application, application, and teacher recommendations, so keep in mind that it’s fairly selective.
A little bit about JINA-CEE, it stands for the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics - Center for the Evolution of the Elements. JINA-CEE is a network of 24 institutions in 9 countries and is part of the National Science Foundation’s Physics Frontiers Center program.
Location: Three programs available at New Mexico State University, University of Colorado Boulder, and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Financial assistance: Financial aid is available depending on applicant’s financials
Application deadline: March 3, 2023
Program dates: June 18, 2023 – July 26, 2023 in Mexico and Colorado; June 11, 2023 – July 19, 2023 in Chapel Hill
Eligibility: Open to high school juniors between 15 and 19 years of age, who have completed the prerequisites
Does determining the orbit of an asteroid sound like an enticing summer project? SSP’s astrophysics track gives you the opportunity to do just that. In teams of three, you will learn celestial coordinates to select a near-Earth asteroid, observe it through a telescope, and use programming to calculate its orbit. It’s a prestigious program to have your record but the 10% acceptance rate does make it hard to get into.
Location: Chapters available in a number of different cities; an online chapter is available too
Financial assistance: NA
Application deadline: April 15, 2023
Program dates: July 1, 2023 – July 31, 2023, Talaria Conference in mid-August
Eligibility: Any student, from rising high school freshmen to rising college freshmen, can apply
Hosted by a non-profit organization ‘ATHENA By Women In STEM’, this month-long research mentorship program is for female and genderqueer students. You will work with a mentor through one-on-one meetings and write a formal scientific research paper (topics are varied and astrophysics can very well be one of them). In the end, you will present your research at the Talaria conference, receive a certificate, and might even get published in the Talaria journal. The acceptance rate in 2022 was 13%, so it might be wise to apply to this program alongside others.
Fee: $250 (CAD)
Financial assistance: Limited need-based funding is available
Application deadline: March 16, 2023
Program dates: July 17, 2023 – July 28, 2023
Eligibility: Open to juniors and seniors with a passion for physics and math, more prerequisites can be found here
Organized by a Canadian non-profit, you are still eligible for this intensive physics program as an international student. Although concentrating on theoretical physics, it does offer a look at topics like quantum mechanics, special relativity, cosmology, general relativity, and black holes. The structure consists of independent work, interactive online sessions, simple experiments conducted at home, and sessions on career insight.
Location: Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Fee: $5,999 for the residential track and $5,199 for the commuter track
Financial assistance: Limited financial aid is available
Application deadline: May 19, 2023
Program dates: Session 1 from June 25, 2023 – July 14, 2023, Session 2 from July 16, 2023 – August 4, 2023
Eligibility: Open to students between grades 7 and 11 who have Advanced CTY-level math scores
CTY’s astrophysics course will cover a wide array of topics within the field and is ideal for a broad understanding of the subject. You will learn about the constituents of the universe and how to construct patterns between them, study how physics influences the life cycle of stars, interpret the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, use mathematical computations to study astrophysics theories and more.
Location: University of Pennsylvania
Financial assistance: Available for select Philadelphia students
Application deadline: Closed for 2023
Program dates: July 9, 2023 – July 29, 2023
Eligibility: Open to high school freshmen, sophomores and juniors
Peter Harnish, the instructor of this program, says it is meant to guide students past memorization and test prep into a deeper understanding of physics. It’s best to choose this program if you’re okay with learning astrophysics as part of a broader curriculum including mechanics, electromagnetism, and quantum dynamics. Your learning will be via lectures, activities, projects and valuable research talks given by Penn faculty members.
Another option is Alfred University’s Astronomy High School Institute for those who would like to focus on astronomy instead.
Location: Mt. Lemmon Observatory
Financial assistance: Need-based scholarships are available
Application deadline: Applicants accepted on a first-come, first-served basis from the beginning of March
Program dates: June 17, 2023 – June 24, 2023
Eligibility: Open to students between the ages of 14 and 18
A wholly immersive experience, this summer camp will take you on a seven day camp under the stars! You will be housed at Mount Lemmon Station Observatory and be given access to its telescopes to complete one or more individual research projects. Previous research activities have included astronomical photography, spectroscopy, electronic photometry, and CCD imaging. Bear in mind that the program accepts 20 students and had a 30% acceptance rate in 2022.
Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.
Image source: NASA website