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UT Research Courses

Recommended Coursework

  • AST 376: Practical Intro to Research

This course is a must for all those considering getting involved in undergraduate research and all those already working on research. This course emphasizes must-have skills for research, including analysis of imaging data, visualization, programming exercises with idl, statistical analyses, and training for papers and oral presentations.

  • AST 351: Astronomical Instrumentation

Learn how astronomical instruments are designed and constructed in this course, which is particularly useful for students who want to do research in observational astronomy or instrumentation.

Students who do research may be eligible to graduate with honors in astronomy if they meet the following criteria:

  1. Astronomy 379H, Honors Tutorial Course, in which the student completes a supervised research project; the student may take a second semester of Astronomy 379H if necessary to complete the project; two semesters in this course may be counted toward the major requirement
  2. A written report and oral presentation on the research project, approved by the research supervisor and the honors adviser
  3. A University grade point average of at least 3.00 and a combined University grade point average in physics and astronomy of at least 3.50
  4. Completion at the University of at least sixty semester hours of coursework counted toward the degree



UT Research Fellowships

UT offers several fellowships to fund your research, and also has other resources for every step from getting involved in research to presenting your results.

2022 Summer Internship at the McDonald Observatory 

Astronomy and Physics undergrads ... looking for a unique summer experience? The Frank N. Bash Visitors Center at the McDonald Observatory will be offering one summer student position to work at the University's remote campus in the heart of the mountains of West Texas near the town Fort Davis. From June through August, the Visitors Center hosts over 20,000 visitors for an extensive array of public and educational outreach programs such as:

  • Guided Tours of some of the largest research telescopes in the world open to the public
  • Solar Viewings, presenting live views of the Sun in our multimedia theater
  • Star Parties, where many visitors get their first views of a truly dark sky
  • Scout Night programs hosting evening activities specially designed for scouts

As a summer student, the successful applicant will not only participate in these programs but also learn how to present them, as well. Presenting these programs is an excellent opportunity to develop public speaking skills in addition to being an opportunity to share your knowledge of astronomy and physics.

In addition to an hourly wage (based on your UT status), full room and board will be provided in the Astronomers Lodge (AL) where both researchers and technicians stay while working at the Observatory. Dinnertime at the AL is an excellent opportunity to make contacts with researchers, graduate students, and professors from UT as well as other universities and observatories around the world. Of course, you'll also enjoy some of the darkest night skies of any major observatory in the US and have access to the Visitors Center telescopes to use on your own time, if you'd like. The position runs from as early as May 23rd and runs through as late as August 19th, although the exact dates are flexible. Applications should be submitted no later than April 15.

A successful applicant will have completed, at least, AST 307 or its equivalent. The successful candidate will have an outgoing personality, a good speaking voice, as well as, preferably, some knowledge of amateur telescopes and equipment. The candidate will also have a valid class “C” driver’s license and provide a current three year driving record.

To apply, send a resume and/or letter of interest to the Visitors Center's Program Manager Rachel Fuechsl at fuechsl@utexas.edu. For questions, etc., use the same address or call 432-426-4188.

Freshman Research Initiative (FRI)

If you're a freshman, FRI is the perfect way to get started in research. FRI is a three-semester program of courses and direct research experience. For astronomy research, FRI currently offers Exploring the Universe with White Dwarf Stars with Don Winget and Mike Montgomery.

Deadlines: Turn in early applications January - May; turn in summer applications May - July

Freshman Research Initiative Fellowships

These fellowships offer a summer stipend for College of Natural Science undergraduate researchers and FRI students and alumni to work in research groups for a minimum of 8 weeks over the summer. Students must be US Citizens or permanent resident aliens. Full-time fellowships require 35-40 hours per week for at least 8 weeks and come with a stipend of $2500. Half-time fellowships require either 18-20 hours per week for the full eight weeks, or 35-40 hours per week for 4 weeks, and come with a stipend of $1250.

Deadline: March

LSAMP Summer Research Academy

This program is designed for minority students in any discipline who are sophomores and juniors. Students are matched with a research mentor, carry out a research project, and receive a $2500 stipend.

Deadline: February

Schlumberger-SPC Undergraduate Research Fellowship

These fellowships are for physics majors with junior or senior standing who are interested in careers in industry. For more information, contact Dr. Sarah L. Simmons: [s.l.simmons@mail.utexas.edu].

Deadline: April

Undergraduate Research Fellowship

These fellowships provide support for specific research projects conducted by full-time UT undergraduates in any department. Awards are up to $1000.

Deadlines: Fall: September; Spring: January.

Natural Sciences Summer Research Abroad Scholarships

These scholarships provide up to $2000 for students who have arranged to spend 12 weeks over the summer doing research connected to a foreign university. For more information, contact Dr. Sarah L. Simmons: [s.l.simmons@mail.utexas.edu].

Astronomy Department Funding for Travel and Research Support

Departmental aid and awards to support UG research (publications; posters; travel to conferences, McDonald, and other observatories).

Other UT Undergraduate Research Resources

Regular info sessions on how to get started in undergraduate research.

Undergraduate research mailing list to keep you up-to-date on scholarships, fellowships, and research opportunities at UT.

EUREKA! database of research opportunities at UT.

SURGe is a student group that works on building an undergraduate research community at UT.

Undergraduate Research Forum is an event every spring for undergraduates to present posters and talks about their research. Among the awards given out is the College of Natural Sciences Award for Excellence in Astronomy Research for $500. 

Off-campus Research (REUs and more)

Opportunities abound to conduct research off-campus during the summer. Most summer positions are paid and last approximately 10 weeks. These programs are good way to experience and get to know other universities and their faculty, which can be especially useful if you plan to apply to graduate school in the future.

The application deadline for most summer research internships is in January and early February, so you should start to put your application together early (e.g., December to early January) and give your letter writers plenty of advance notice.

Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs)

NSF's website for Research Experiences for Undergraduates

REUs are the National Science Foundation's summer research programs for undergraduates. As an REU student you are granted a stipend to work with professors or other researchers at a host institution for 10-12 weeks during the summer. Each institution hosts 10 or so REU students. REU application deadlines are in late January or February (the exception is the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory's REU, which takes place during the Chilean summer January-March and so has an early October application deadline).

A comprehensive list of astronomy REUs can be found at:

Astronomy and Planetary Science REU at the SETI Institute

Students will work with scientists at the SETI Institute and at the nearby NASA Ames Research Center on projects spanning the field of astrobiology from microbiology to planetary geology to observational astronomy.

REU Program in Astronomical Research and Instrumentation at Texas A&M

Students will conduct astronomical research with Texas A&M faculty and research staff, participate in weekly seminars and group discussions, and attend an observing trip to McDonald Observatory. Possible fields of study in astronomical research include supernova, cosmology, the high-redshift Universe, Dark Energy, the cosmic distance scale, the Milky Way galaxy, and extrasolar planets. In addition, the Munnerlyn Astronomical Instrumentation lab seeks students to participate in designing and building astronomical instrumentation to support these fields of research, for projects in which Texas A&M University is an institutional member: Giant Magellan Telescope, Hobby Eberly Telescope, Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, and Dark Energy Survey.

NRAO Summer Student Program

Each NRAO summer student conducts research under the supervision of an NRAO staff member at one of three NRAO sites (Socorro, New Mexico; Green Bank, West Virginia; Charlottesville, Virginia), on a project in the supervisor's area of expertise. The project may involve any aspect of astronomy, including original research, instrumentation, telescope design, astronomical site evaluation or astronomical software development.

Cornell University's Research Experiences for Undergraduates

Students will work on individual research projects with Cornell faculty and research staff on a wide range of topics in planetary science, astronomical instrumentation, astrophysics, general relativity and cosmology. Students interested in computer science and engineering are also encouraged to apply. View the list of research projects.

Brigham Young

Research opportunities in a number of areas including optics (using lasers of all kinds including ultrashort pulse and UV lasers), computer modeling, plasmas, solid state and thin film science, acoustics, theory, and astronomy.

Montana State REU

Most projects involve analysis of data from space missions such as Yohkoh, SOHO, TRACE, RHESSI, Hinode, and SDO and ground-based observatories. Experience has shown that data analysis projects are suitable for most undergraduates at the sophomore or junior level. Additionally, each year there are a few opportunities in the solar-stellar connection (dynamo theory, data analysis), solar magneto-hydrodynamics, and space hardware development.

NASA Summer Internships

NASA offers paid summer research positions in its locations ranging from Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland to the Ames Research Center in California. The range of research opportunities is broad, including robotics, space instrumentation, astrobiology, and solar physics. The application deadline is in January.

Department of Energy's Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships

The U.S. Department of Energy sponsors paid research internships at national labs across the country. The applications deadlines are in August for fall internships; November for spring internships; and April for summer internships.

UC Berkeley Summer Research Opportunity Program

The University of California, Berkeley sponsors a Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP), offering students opportunities for faculty-mentored research in the fields of Astronomy, Astrophysics, Chemistry, Computer Science, Earth & Planetary Science, Geology, Geophysics, Mathematics, Physics, and Statistics. The eight-week program is held on the UC Berkeley campus. The application deadline is in February.

Space Telescope Science Institute summer program

This program takes both US and international students. STScI manages the science mission of Hubble and of the next generation James Webb Space Telescope for NASA and provides a very dynamic science setting. The application deadline is in February.

NASA - Houston - Planetary Sciences

NASA - the Lunar and Planetary Institute invites undergraduates with at least 50 semester hours of credit to experience research in the planetary sciences. As a summer intern, you will work one-on-one with a scientist either at the LPI or NASA Johnson Space Center. 10 week program. $5,000 stipend and $1,000 travel expenses for US or $1,500 for foreign nationals. The application deadline is in January.

SAMSI Undergraduate Modeling Workshop

Summer programs offered to learn statistics and data-modeling techniques. Application deadlines vary.

Research in Industrial Projects for Students

Exceptional undergraduate students of mathematics, engineering, computer science, and physical and life science disciplines are sought, to apply to this unique summer research program. Past RIPS project sponsors included Arete, Symantec, Amgen, Pixar, JPL, Lawrence-Livermore and Los Alamos National Labs, and others. 36 students will be in-residence at UCLA for nine weeks.

The Summer Science Program

[Attended and recommended by former UT Astronomy student Agnes Kim] Teaching Assistants act as tutors and mentors, and assist students in using astronomical equipment and personal computers, under the direction of two senior faculty. They also organize recreational and social activities, and deliver one or more lectures on topics of their own choosing. Applicants should be graduate students, graduating seniors, or rising college seniors, majoring in physical science or engineering. SSP alumni are especially encouraged to apply.

Northwestern University's Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC)

The Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) at Northwestern University offers a 9-week, paid summer research experience for undergraduates. The students are paired up with some of the leading research professors in science and engineering fields. Research areas include ceramics, polymers, nanocomposites, photonics, nanoparticles, molecular electronics and biomaterials. While there are many REU programs, the NU-MRSEC stands out in offering students an interdisciplinary research experience.Students currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in science or engineering who are US citizens or permanent residents are eligible. Participants are paid a $4500 stipend, a travel allowance, and on-campus housing is provided.

ASTRON/JIVE International Summer Students Programme

In the Netherlands. The Programme enables astronomy students (graduate or advanced undergraduate) to spend the summer (10 to 12 weeks) at the Dwingeloo Observatory, conducting astronomical research under the supervision of ASTRON and JIVE staff members. The application deadline is in February.

International Astronomical Youth Camps

A three week program in Europe for students ages 16-24 from around the world, and whose common interest is astronomy. The application deadline is in April.

Other Opportunities

Many universities, laboratories, and observatories have their own undergraduate research programs. If there's an institution you'd like to work at, odds are they have some sort of program for you! Some useful links which have partial lists of these other opportunities are given below.

The American Astronomical Society's summer employment opportunities

Careers in Astronomy

So you're earning your degree in astronomy, but then what? Follow these links for information on careers in astronomy.

American Astronomical Society:  Careers in Astronomy

National Optical Astronomy Observatory:  Being an Astronomer FAQ (In Spanish)

NASA:  Careers at NASA