NC Space Grant/NC Museum of Natural Sciences Internship - Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Lab

*Application system to open January 15, 2018*

Project Objective: The Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Lab is a publically visible research laboratory where museum visitors can see astronomers at work, visualizations of their research, current space mission and science highlights, and state-of-the-art fly throughs of the solar system and beyond. The Astronomy/Astrophysics Intern will work in the lab with Dr. Smith (Head of the Lab) on a combination of research and outreach related to creating visualizations for the lab. Research will center on Dr. Smith’s high-resolution telescopic observations of young stellar objects observed with the Very Large Telescope [VLT] and/or Keck telescope. The specific dataset used for the summer project will be selected by Dr. Smith and the intern after discussion of goals and skill level. The intern will work in a unique laboratory setting, and gain valuable experience on communicating research products to the general public.

Award Level: $5,000 (10-week internship)

Eligibility Requirements: Applicants must have a 3.0 GPA and be majors in one of the following (Astronomy/Astrophysics, Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Computer Science, and related fields). This position targets undergraduate majors, but beginning graduate (MS/PhD) students will be considered.

Internship Project Description

Major Tasks to be Performed:  1) Use IDL codes to process molecular spectra observed toward young stellar objects in the Galaxy; 2) Conduct online searches to expand the currently minimal set of imagery and video; 3) Synthesize imagery and video into coherent presentations for a general museum audience; 4) translate data products from ongoing research related to astrochemistry and solar system formation (Dr. Smith) and galactic morphology/evolution (Dr. Patrick Treuthardt, Assistant Head of the Lab) into presentations that are visible and meaningful to a public audience; 5) As needed, assist in curation duties related to the meteorite collection (Dr. Smith, curator) and explore the connection of meteorites to forming planetary systems. 

Final Product or Outcome Anticipated: 1) Significant and reasonable progress on the data set chosen for the project, with potential for publication in a scientific journal; 2) Research poster that must be completed BEFORE the end of the internship. This will be presented at the Space Grant banquet in November of 2017, as well as the 2017 SNCURS symposium (final dates TBD); 3) Visualizations related to the research that will be displayed to the general public through the glass walls of the lab.

Knowledge gained by Intern:  The successful intern will learn an extensive amount on how spectra are analyzed a broad perspective of current astrophysics, and will work on new research with state-of-the-art astronomical data. She/he will learn how to integrate complex and varied scientific information for a general audience, incorporating visitor-centered research findings into their work. The intern will learn skills in interacting with a diverse audience, toward being successful communicators.

SPECIFIC job duties:  1) Use IDL codes to process spectra; 2) Conduct literature searches for papers related to the research; 3) create a scientific research poster on the project; 4) Search various space mission-oriented websites (e.g. NASA, JPL, etc.) for freely available, high-resolution videos and images of current developments related to astronomy and astronomy research.

Describe how periodic and final evaluations will be conducted: Evaluations will be based on regular meetings between the intern and Dr. Smith, and discussions of progress. This will be a collaborative and iterative process.

Resources available to intern: Computers and workspace, all necessary software and reduced data products will be available. The lab is Mac-based, but interns can use their own laptop if they wish.


To Apply for the NCSG/NCMNS Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Lab Internship, click HERE.

Applicants must click new user registration button to begin application
(Letter of recommendation must be submitted by faculty research mentor by February 27, 2017). Interviews will begin mid-March 2016, with annoucement by late-March, 2017.

Awardee Requirements:

Selected intern must:

  • Submit a final research report to NC Space Grant;
  • Participate in the State of North Carolina Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium (SNCURCS) to be held November 2017 (location TBD). Participation includes an oral or poster presentation at SNCURCS and active involvement throughout entire symposium.
  • Share their research experiences in public forums or educational settings. Presentations that encourage interest in aerospace careers and research to high school students are of particular interest to NC Space Grant;
  • Provide a photo and biographical information upon selection;
  • Inform the Consortium of changes of address; and
  • Respond to academic and employment follow-up surveys administered by NC Space Grant as required by NASA.

Contact: Project supervisor:  Dr. Rachel Smith (Head, Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Lab/Curator of Meteorites) Email: Phone: 919.707.8239


North Carolina Space Grant is a NASA
sponosored program administered by
North Carolina State University.