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The Leiden/ESA Astrophysics Program for Summer Students (LEAPS) 2016

Update: 29, March 2016

The organisers and the advisors of the LEAPS projects thank all the students who applied for the 2016 LEAPS program. Due to the high number (more than 400) and the high-quality of applications, choosing the best candidate has been a hard task. An offer has been made to all the selected students, and we will send an official e-mail to all the candidates shortly. We encourage all the candidates to apply next year.

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 most past participants have been senior-undergraduate or masters' students 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 2016 and end before end-August 2016. 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 is a web application form opened from 8, January 2016. The deadline of the applications is February 5 2016. The questions include selecting two projects from the Research Project list below that you are most interested in working on (the research projects are being collected and the list will be updated regularly). Please note that the submission page requires the creation of a username and password. On the submission page you will be required to submit the following documents (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).

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.

LEAPS 2016 Poster:

Research Projects, Categories and Supervisors


These are the proposed research projects for LEAPS 2016. Please note that not all projects will go ahead and some may still be added in the near future. Final funding decisions lie with the Faculty sponsors. And please make a note that if you are interested in an ESA project, to check if your state is an ESA member or affiliate state.

Project list (as of December 14 2015):

Revealing the chemical origins of the most massive stars in the Galaxy

Supervisor:

Type of project: Star formation, Observations

More info

Probing the kinematics of protoplanetary disks with ALMA observations

Supervisors: ,

Type of project: Star and Planet Formation, Modelling

More info

Investigating complex organic molecule formation and survival in the planet-forming regions of protoplanetary disks

Supervisors: ,

Type of project: Astrochemistry, Modelling

More info

Understanding the chemical complexity in protostellar outflows

Supervisors: ,

Type of project: Astrochemistry, Modelling

More info

Searching for diffuse radio emission from galaxy clusters

Supervisor:

Type of project: Observations, radio, galaxy clusters, survey

More info

Resolving the origin of filaments in the lobes of Centaurus A

Supervisor:

Type of project: Observations, radio, radio galaxies

More info

Using neutron stars to understand accretion

Supervisor:

Type of project: Computer simulations, theoretical, studying neutron stars

More info

High-redshift galaxies in the 3D-HST survey

Supervisor:

Type of project: Extragalactic observations

More info

Examining the Conditions of Multiple Star Formation in Perseus and Orion

Supervisor:

Type of project: Observational

More info

Probing star forming regions and their circumstellar/protoplanetary discs

Supervisor:

Type of project: Star formation, millimetre interferometry, ALMA data analysis and imaging

More info

Habitability in the Universe

Supervisor: ,

Type of project: Analyzing cosmological simulations

More info

Combining LOFAR with novel redshift catalogues

Supervisor: , ,

Type of project: observational, extragalactic

More info

Cannibalism in stars: progenitors of supernovae

Supervisor: ,

Type of project: Observational / symbiotic stars

More info

Rosetta: From Science Fiction to Science Fact

Supervisor:

Type of project: Science Communication, Content Analysis

More info

Radio interferometric imaging of M87: AGN feedback in action

Supervisor: ,

Type of project: Observational (radio interferometry), AGN

More info

Straylight correction for the TROPOMI and S5 instruments

Supervisor:

Type of project: Earth observation, Data analysis, instrument optics

More info

Searching for observables of planet formation and evolution (ESA Project)

Supervisor:

Type of project: planet formation and data analysis

More info

Large-scale vortices at the Earth's magnetopause during extreme solar events (ESA Project)

Supervisor: ,

Type of project: space science, space weather, data analysis from Cluster spacecraft

More info

Meteoroid properties from meteor spectroscopy (ESA Project)

Supervisor:

Type of project: Small bodies of the Solar System (meteoroids, comets, asteroids), Data reduction (meteor spectrum), modelling (spectrum)

More info

Probing Unusual Star Formation Using Galaxy Surveys in the Ultra-Violet (ESA Project)

Supervisor:

Type of project: galaxy evolution, observational, UV survey, data analysis

More info


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.

Previous LEAPS Successes


LEAPS 2015 was a great success! Twenty-two students from four continents spent their summer in Leiden doing astrophysics research.

  • Joshua Borrow (with supervisor Pedro Russo) published a paper on astro-ph entitled "A Blueprint for Public Engagement Appraisal: Supporting Research Careers."
  • Lukasz Tychoniec (supervised by John Tobin) presented his research at the Polish Astronomical Society Summit, and his research already contributed to one published paper and he is preparing a paper on the full results.
  • Tessa Wilkinson (supervised by Anna-Lea Lesage) presented her research at the 2016 American Astronomical Society meeting.
  • Jeremy Dietrich (supervised by Christian Ginksi) submitted a paper to MNRAS "Archival VLT/NaCo multiplicity investigation of exoplanet host stars".
  • Maria Vincenzi (supervised by Carlo Manara) presented a poster at the workshop: "The accretion/outflow connection in YSOs" at ESTEC in October and a paper is in preparation.
  • Hope Boyce (supervised by Nora Lutzgendorf) presented a poster at the Canadian Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics and a paper is in preparation.
The 2013, and 2014 groups of LEAPS students also performed very well and the first scientific publications are out!

  • Ryosuke Goto and his advisor Sean McGee published a paper on galaxy formation in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society on his LEAPS project; "The stellar mass function and efficiency of galaxy formation with a varying initial mass function". See here.
  • Steffi Yen and her advisor, Adam Muzzin, presented a poster at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) winter meeting in Washington DC, "Searching for the Most Distant Galaxy Clusters". See here.
  • Fiona Thiessen and her advisor Sebastien Besse submitted a paper on Lunar surface composition and lava flows (figure below).
  • Conny Weber worked with Agnes Kospal on infrared variability of young stars in Chamaeleon which featured on a poster at the "The Universe Explored by Herschel" conference in Noordwijk (conference website). See the poster here.
  • Hannah Harris, a 2014 LEAPS student, and her advisor Pedro Russo published a paper in the Space Policy Journal, "The Influence of Social Movements on Space Astronomy Policy." See here.
  • Saul Kohn (now a PhD student at UPenn) and his advisor David Sobral published a paper in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society on his LEAPS project; "The most luminous Halpha emitters at z~0.8-2.23 from HiZELS". See here (link here).
  • LEAPS student Michael Hammer (from Cornell University) and his adviser Lucie Jilkova studied close stellar flybys that lead some stars to lose parts of their circumstellar discs. Using simulations in the AMUSE framework (www.amusecode.org), they showed that if the two stars approach each other close enough, part of the disc lost from one star can be transferred to the other one. These close encounters can happen shortly after stars form when many stars are clustered together. They further showed that even our Solar System might have experienced such an interaction and stolen some material, which is now orbiting in its outer parts, from another star. Michael presented a poster on the results of his LEAPS project on the 225th AAS meeting. The project eventually resulted to publication in an international refereed journal, which led to several press releases, for example: New Scientist, Scientific American, Universe Today.

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. leaps2015 @ ESTEC

ESTEC group picture (joint tour with ASTRON summer school).

leaps2015 @ LOFAR

The rain could chase us away from LOFAR! (not quite drenched yet in this picture).

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