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The Leiden/ESA Astrophysics Program for Summer Students (LEAPS) 2015

Leiden Observatory and ESA are pleased to welcome applications for the second edition of the LEAPS program. LEAPS is an opportunity for students with an interest in astronomy and astrophysics to perform a 10-12 week summer research project in collaboration with a research scientist from Leiden Observatory or ESA. The program is open to all students not currently engaged in a Ph.D. program, although we are most interested in students at the senior-undergraduate or masters level who are enthusiastic about research in astrophysics.

Students will be selected for the program based on their academic achievements and research potential, and will be matched to staff projects based on what they indicate their scientific interests to be. Research at Leiden Observatory and ESA takes place on a diverse array of topics (see below), and student projects will likely consist of anything from the analysis of data from world-class telescopes, to large computer simulations, to hands-on work in the astrochemistry laboratories.

Projects will begin in June 2015 and end before mid-September 2015. We expect to make as many as 20 appointments this year, depending on interest and the match of projects to students interests and skills. Details on the application process can be found below.

Leiden Observatory

Leiden Observatory is a world-class institute for research in astronomy and astrophysics based in the Netherlands, approximately 35km from Amsterdam. The atmosphere at the observatory is dynamic, with approximately 100 faculty/research scientists and 70 graduate students engaged in astrophysical research on a wide range of topics. Major fields of interest include extrasolar planets, star formation, cosmology, galaxy formation, instrumentation, and astrochemistry. Multiple research projects will likely be available within these fields.

European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC/ESA)

ESTEC is the main technical centre for the European Space Agency (ESA), responsible for spacecraft integration. ESA develops and manages many types of space missions, from exploration, telecommunications, to earth and space science. The Research and Scientific Support Department at ESTEC consists of approximately 40 staff scientists, with research interests ranging from the geology of planets in our solar system, to plasma physics in the magnetosphere of the Earth, space weather, to observational astronomy with ESA's space missions such as Planck, Herschel, GAIA and EUCLID. Due to tight security requirements for entry to the ESTEC complex, students who work in collaboration with the ESTEC Research Fellows will be based primarily at Leiden Observatory and their advisor will meet with them on a regular basis.

Travel, Housing and Stipend

Students accepted into the LEAPS program will be provided with travel costs to/from Leiden. We will also provide housing accommodations near the observatory, as well as a modest stipend to help with living costs during the internship. Leiden is a small, picturesque university town located between the major cities of Amsterdam and The Hague. Summer is a beautiful time of year to be in Leiden, and we encourage LEAPS students to socialize and use their free time to enjoy the numerous summertime activities available in Holland. English is widely spoken throughout the Netherlands and international students should find it easy to live in the Leiden area. We are planning several field trips for LEAPS students including visits to the ESTEC complex where many ESA satellites are being built, and potentially to the LOFAR radio array, the world's largest low-frequency radio telescope.

How to Apply

The program is open to all international students provided they are not currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program. ESA projects are only available for students from ESA member or affiliate states (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Canada). Students from Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia and Slovenia (affilliate members) can also apply for ESA projects. The working language of the observatory is English, and students should be sufficiently proficient in English to perform a research project.

To apply, there will be a web submission form that will be openned in mid-December. The questions include selecting three projects from the Areas of Research list below that you are most interested in working on (research projects being collected). Please note that the submission page requires the creation of a username and password. On the submission page you are also required to submit the following (in PDF format please):

  • a one-page document describing your interest in an area of astrophysics research relevant to staff members (see below), as well as details of any previous research experience or relevant research skills (e.g., scientific computer programming).
  • the name and contact details of an academic who has been asked to submit a letter of reference for you. This person should be able to speak to your potential to carry out scientific research, rather than just your performance in undergraduate lectures. Letters of recommendation must be received by the application deadline, please make sure your referee is aware of this.
  • a transcript of undergraduate/masters level course grades.
  • a curriculum vitae (optional, but helpful).

Once you have submitted you application, or saved a draft version, an email will be sent to your reference letter writer requesting the letter. Students will be evaluated for participation in the program on the basis of their research potential and match to available projects in their area(s) of interest.


Update: The application page will open in mid-Decmber 2015 and we anticipate a due date in the first or second week of February. If you have any questions about the application process or the program, please . If you want to know more about the projects on offer, please email the project supervisor directly by clicking on their name below.

Research Projects, Categories and Supervisors


LEAPS 2015 Projects coming soon, check back in mid-December

Please note that the ESA projects are only available for students from ESA member or affiliate states (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Canada). Students from Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia and Slovenia (affilliate members) can also apply for ESA projects.

2013 LEAPS Successes


The 2013 group of LEAPS students performed very well and the first scientific publications are out!

Figure of the submitted paper by Fiona Thiessen, students of the LEAPS 2013 class. (a) M3 color composite image of the Imbrium basin (red: IBD1000, green: IBD2000, blue: R750 nm). Numbers indicate the basalt units mapped in this work. Large and spectrally bright craters are mapped separately in grey and were excluded from the basalt units. The surrounding highlands and kipuckas inside the Imbrium basin are also shown in grey. Dark strips correspond to portion of the lunar surface not observed with M3 using OP1B. (b) Eratosthenian basalt flows from Schaber [1973] with flow phases I-III.

The 2013 LEAPS students (and some supervisors) on their visit to the Westerbork Radio telescope in Dwingeloo, the Netherlands.