Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Apply for the Carnegie Astrophysics Summer Student Internship Program

By Gwen Rudie

CASSI interns on the catwalk 
of the 200 inch Hale Telescope 
at the Palomar Observatory.

The Carnegie Astrophysics Summer Student Internship Program (CASSI) is a 10 week, paid internship and educational program based at Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, CA. CASSI welcomes a diverse cohort of 10-15 undergraduates annually, most of whom are students at colleges and universities in Southern California. CASSI Interns collaborate with Carnegie astronomers on original research projects from studying exoplanets to distant galaxies. Some CASSI interns also work with Carnegie scientists and engineers on the next generation of cameras and spectrographs for our telescopes.

One unique aspect of CASSI is its educational program that includes over 60 activities during the summer designed to improve students' fluency and ease with scientific communication and scientific computing — two skills required for scientific advancement, but rarely the focus in traditional educational settings. The program begins each year with a coding bootcamp intended to give interns a running start. Other activities occurring throughout the summer include workshops on diversity, equity, and inclusion in astronomy, a talk series by professional scientists at Carnegie about their research, professional development sessions that focus on developing scientific fluency and communication skills, and other programming aimed at introducing the students to the practice of science and the scientific community at Carnegie. The program also features structured mentoring and other forms of professional development intended to fully support the students during the program and in their future careers.

We embarked on a new program this past summer to better support our 2020 interns remotely and formed mentoring teams for each of our students which included scientific staff members and also CASSI alums, including former students now in graduate schools across the country. Each mentor supported our students in different ways, and together they formed a team capable of supporting all aspects of our diverse class of interns. The new team structure was so well received by our students, we plan to include this approach as a staple of our program — even once we hold our programs on campus again.

CASSI is currently accepting applications for summer 2021. We hope to hold the program in person at our Pasadena campus, but if that is not possible due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, we will hold it remotely as we did successfully in 2020. One of the goals of the summer program at Carnegie is to increase participation and retention of under-represented groups in astronomy. We encourage Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous scholars, first-generation college students, and women to apply. Applications are due January 31, 2021. To learn more about CASSI, please visit our program website.

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