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We will begin accepting applications for the 2021 summer program starting December 1, 2020. For application information, see the Apply tab below.

For more information, please DOWNLOAD OUR FLYER  from the 2019 program

2017 REU Interns
2017 SAO REU Summer Interns


The SAO Summer Intern Program is an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) internship where students take on an astrophysics research project with an SAO or Harvard scientist. In 2021 the program will run for 10 weeks, from June 6 - August 14. 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.

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 2021 summer session is expected to run for ten weeks, probably starting Sunday June 6 (move-in day) and going through Saturday August 14. Those dates are subject to change without notice, depending on availability of housing on the Harvard campus. They also assume a return to an in-person mode of instruction. In 2020 we carried out our REU remotely, and there is a distinct possibility that we'll be doing the same in 2021.

In concert with many other REU sites, and contrary to what was formerly posted on this page, we anticipate making offers to 11 undergraduates on Monday March 1.

Important note: we have applied to NSF to renew the funding for our REU site, and (like all other REU sites up for renewal) we don't expect to get word on our funding status until early 2021. Our program is contingent upon an award from NSF. Until the decision is known we will accept and process applications in the usual way.



We anticipate opening the web portal to begin accepting applications for summer of 2021 on December 1.

Application status may be checked by following THIS LINK to the applications form.

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 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 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:

Be aware that because of a bug in our webform, it is erroneously reporting that applications are "complete" even when they are not. It is apparently also occasionally reporting that applications are incomplete when they are not. We realize that this is extremely un-helpful. We are working to fix the problem and apologize for the inconvenience.

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.

Applications will close at midnight on Monday, February 2, 2021. To receive full consideration, applications must be completed by midnight EST on February 1, including all letters of recommendation.



Application Questions: Please email us at