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Applications for the 2024 summer internship are now closed. See the "Apply" tab to learn how to view your application completion status.

For more information, please DOWNLOAD OUR FLYER for the 2024 program.

2017 REU Interns
2017 SAO REU Summer Interns


The SAO Summer Intern Program is a 10-week NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) internship where students take on an astrophysics research project with an SAO or Harvard scientist. Students are expected to work at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics for the full duration of the program. We house our interns in Harvard's graduate student dormitory facilities.

The program is funded by the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution. Undergraduates who are US citizens or green card holders at the time of the internship are eligible to apply. For more details regarding eligibility requirements, see the FAQ page.

The many potential areas of research at the CfA can be seen here and can involve data from a host of facilities, including space-based telescopes like NASA's Kepler, Spitzer, and Chandra missions (among others), and the many ground-based observatories often used by SAO scientists, such as: 

Undergraduate students interested in astronomy, astrophysics, physics, or related physical sciences are encouraged to apply. We provide a wide range of projects to our interns. That said, we have noticed in recent years that many of our projects involve programming tasks, and Python tends to figure prominently in them. You may find it helpful to bring some Python proficiency to your internship -- but this is by no means required; we have hosted many successful interns with NO prior programming experience. In a similar vein, you may find it useful to have taken at least an introductory Astronomy course, for scientific context. Again, that is NOT required.

Check here periodically for further updates.


The 2024 summer session is expected to run for ten weeks, starting Sunday, June 2 (move-in day) and ending Saturday, August 10. Those dates are subject to change without notice, depending on availability of housing.

In concert with many other REU sites, we anticipate making offers to 11 undergraduates on Friday, March 1.


The 2024 application is now closed, but you may review the completion status of your application materials (such as the receipt of letters) by following the application link and hitting "View Application Status."

Application Instructions

Some Instructions Regarding Letters of Recommendation:

The letters of recommendation are essential elements of your application. Make sure that you ask your recommenders long enough in advance of the deadline that they have adequate time to write your letters and submit them.

Double-check your recommenders' contact information for accuracy. They will be contacted using the email address you enter, exactly as you enter it.

Be sure that you save the application.

Alert your recommenders that they can expect to be contacted by, and tell them when. Needless delays occur when recommenders ignore emails from that address, or when the email request ends up in their spam folders.

If you decide to change your recommender before completing your application, be sure to notify your previous reference as a courtesy and to prevent confusion.

Instructions Regarding Transcripts:

Make sure that your name appears on each transcript.

Black out your SSN, date of birth, and address.

IMPORTANT: Print all transcripts to PDF format or otherwise flatten them to remove security from the document, so we can print them.

Instructions Regarding the Essay:

The essay is to be a maximum of two pages in 12-point font in PDF format only. We have to read literally hundreds of essays, it will not help your cause if you ignore this instruction.

Your name should appear at the top of each page (in the margin is OK).

Notes Related to the Application Portal:

Because our program is funded by a federal agency (NSF), we can only accept undergraduates who are US citizens or green card holders. We strongly encourage women and members of underrepresented groups to apply.

Our interns will receive a stipend. Housing will be provided free of charge for the duration of the internship (subject to Harvard re-opening). Questions about these and other matters are addressed on our FAQ page.


Astrophysics REU News

Wednesday, January 11, 2023: At a press conference yesterday during the 241st meeting of the AAS in Seattle, former REU intern Theo O'Neill (UVA) described work they led to characterize the three-dimensional structure of the magnetic field of the local superbubble. More details of this exciting work can be found here.

December, 2022: Our REU will be participating in next month's 241st meeting of the AAS in Seattle, Washington.

Prospective REU students: please come find Co-Director Jonathan McDowell in Seattle. On Sunday January 8 starting at 5:30, Jonathan will be attending the undergraduate fair in Ballroom 6B at the convention center, and would be delighted to meet with you and answer any and all questions you have about our program!

Many of our recent alumni will be describing the results of their research at the Seattle meeting. Their presentations include:

C. Carreira: The Effect of Spiral Arms on Molecular Cloud Formation in M33, Program number 211.01, in Giant Molecular Clouds and Gas Structures

V. Catlett: How Host-Galaxy Properties Influence Jet Formation in Hybrid Morphology Radio Sources, Program Number: 111.01, in AGN I

A. DelFranco: The Complex Organic Interstellar Chemistry of H2-bearing, CO-rich Ice, Program number 278.04, in Laboratory Astrophysics - iPosters

A. Dwomoh: Characterizing a Planetary Remnant Orbiting a White Dwarf, Program Number 366.04, in White Dwarfs

A Fehr: Surface Characteristics of the Only Known Saturnian Co-orbital, Program Number: 104.15, in Solar System

M. Ferrari: Improved Temperatures from IUE UV Spectra of Hot Stars in Detached Eclipsing Binaries for a Stellar Mass-Temperature Relation Program Number: 302.10, in Binary Stars 1

W. Golay: Beam me up, SCOTTY! New algorithms for characterizing the beams of next-generation CMB experiments, Program Number: 465.03, in CMB iPosters

R. Hemmer: Quantifying the Impact of Atomic Data Uncertainties on Future Observations of X-ray Spectra, Using Hitomi Observations of the Perseus Galaxy Cluster, Program Number: 353.06, in Perspectives on Galaxy Evolution and Surveys

S. Larner: Flares and Binary Self-Lensing Events in Archived Chandra Data, Program Number: 302.20, in Binary Stars 1

C. McGee: Dark Matter Accounts for Perturbation in the GD-1 Stellar Stream, Program Number: 177.63, in Overflow iPoster Session

T. O'Neill: A 3D Map of the Local Bubble’s Magnetic Field, Program Number: 129.02, in Dynamics, Turbulence, and Magnetic Fields in the ISM

S. Rankin: Correlating Stellar Mass and Protoplanetary Disk Mass in the Cepheus OB3b Star-forming Region, Program Number: 128.01, in Circumstellar Disks I

T. Waters: Gas Morphology of Milky Way-like Galaxies in the TNG50: Signals of Twisting and Stretching, Program Number: 279.02, in Spiral Galaxies


Application Questions: Please email us at, if you can't find an answer to your question at our FAQ page.