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

Leiden Observatory and ESA will welcome applications for the fourth edition of the LEAPS program from mid-december 2015. Application will be carried out through a web submission form (see below for more details).

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 will be a web submission form that will be opened in mid-December. The questions include selecting three 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.

Research Projects, Categories and Supervisors

The research projects proposed for the LEAPS Program 2016 are currently being collected and the list will be updated shortly.

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

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.

Several other 2014 and 2015 students are still working with their advisors to publish the results of their projects!

The 2013 group of LEAPS students 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.

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.