Intern at BSRC

Breakthrough Listen Summer Undergraduate Research Internships

Applications for Summer 2022 are now closed. Please check back in December 2022 for details of our Summer 2023 programs.

Current sophomore, junior, and senior undergraduates are invited to apply for research internship positions with the Breakthrough Listen project. Breakthrough Listen is the world's most comprehensive, intensive, and sensitive search for extraterrestrial intelligence. We seek a scientific answer to one of humanity’s oldest questions: Are we alone in the Universe?

The core team is based at Berkeley SETI Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, and we also have team members and collaborators based in several of the world’s premiere research institutions. Our scientists and engineers are pioneers in the development of software, instrumentation, and science strategy for the search for intelligent life on other worlds. We have access to substantial amounts of time on the planet’s largest telescopes, and connections and collaborations with some of the leading players in the tech industry. We’re also psyched that we get to wake up each day and hunt for aliens.

Summer interns work at the cutting edge of the search. Previous interns have written machine learning algorithms to look for anomalous signals, searched data from the TESS spacecraft for transiting megastructures, used observations from the Green Bank Telescope to study fast radio bursts, and much more. If you are motivated, work well as a member of a team, and can take initiative and responsibility for your own work, you’ll fit in well in our group. Interns have gone on to graduate school at UC Berkeley, Caltech, Columbia, Cambridge, and many other prestigious institutions, in addition to careers at Facebook, Google, and other leading companies.

The majority of our projects make heavy use of modern programming languages and tools. While we don’t expect applicants to be experts in all of these areas, familiarity and experience with one or more of Python / Jupyter, version control (e.g. git / github), database software (e.g. MySQL), visualization tools (e.g. Bokeh, D3, etc.), GPU programming, visualization, interface design, machine-learning, cloud computing, Unix / Linux scripting, and / or public outreach will make for a strong application. Prior astronomy research experience is not a prerequisite, although if you have knowledge or experience of positional astronomy, observational astronomy, radio astronomy, signal processing, and / or data reduction we would like to hear about that in your application. We'll also train you to operate some of the planet's largest radio telescopes (Green Bank and Parkes) - again, no prior experience is required, but we would like to hear about it if you have any.

For 2022, we are offering internships in the USA, Ireland, UK, and Italy. Note that we will not be running a program in Canada or India this year. We are unable to sponsor visas so please carefully read the eligibility criteria below for the country for which you are applying. Women, underrepresented minorities, transfer students, and others traditionally underrepresented in science are strongly encouraged to apply.

Here’s what you’ll need to apply:

  • A recent transcript (unofficial is fine)
  • A CV
  • A letter of recommendation from a faculty member, researcher, or other academic mentor (please ask this person to email this to bsrc@berkeley.edu ahead of the February 11, 2022 deadline). Please note that only one letter is requested - subsequent letters will not improve your chances of selection.
  • A cover letter, which should include details of
    • Your interest in the program / science area
    • Your programming experience (including projects worked on)
    • Any prior research experience
    • Any other relevant information

If you are eligible for more than one of the international programs (please carefully note citizenship requirements) feel free to complete more than one of the relevant application forms. If applying for multiple sites, you only need to email one copy of your application PDF and your reference writer only needs to submit one letter of recommendation.

Opportunities in the USA (applications closed for 2022)

Our US program is open to US citizens, legal permanent residents ("green card" holders), and non-citizens who are already enrolled at degree-granting institutions in the United States (e.g. F1 visa holders, DACA recipients). We cannot sponsor visas for other international students. At this time, we anticipate that the US program will mainly take place in-person in the UC Berkeley area. In the event that pandemic restrictions make this impractical, we expect, as we did successfully in summer 2020, to pivot to an online program. We may also be able to offer remote participation, or participation at partner institutions or telescopes (e.g. Hat Creek Radio Observatory), to a limited number of applicants. Since the situation is rapidly evolving, we are not asking you to commit to a particular method of participation at this stage, but we do ask you to indicate your interest in various options on the application form. Further details will be confirmed at the offer stage.

By applying, you commit to being available for 40 hours of work per week (June 6 – August 12, 2022). You’ll be expected to work closely with other interns, to consult with our researchers as necessary, and to attend weekly meetings and lectures. The week of June 6 - 10 will consist of an intensive week of preparatory lectures, and the remainder of the summer will consist of independent research. You’ll be expected to keep notes on your progress, to check your code in frequently to github, and to keep in touch with us on our Slack account. A stipend of $8873 is provided, which is intended to cover all of your expenses during the program including meals and accommodation. Additionally, travel costs to and from the program site will be reimbursed - instructions regarding booking and reimbursement will be provided to accepted students.

Opportunities in Ireland (applications closed for 2022)

Students studying in Ireland (or who have freedom of movement to Ireland) are invited to apply for 12-week positions (June 6 - August 26) working on Breakthrough Listen science on the LOFAR station at Birr Castle. Research activities will take place in person at Birr and / or Dublin, or remotely if necessary, under the supervision of Dr. Evan Keane (Trinity College Dublin), in collaboration with the team at Berkeley. Students will participate remotely in team meetings with the Berkeley interns when timezone differences permit. A stipend of 550 EUR per week will be provided, which is intended to cover all of your expenses during the program including meals and accommodation. Additionally, travel costs to and from the program site will be reimbursed - instructions regarding booking and reimbursement will be provided to accepted students.

Opportunities in Italy (applications closed for 2022)

Students studying in Italy (or who have freedom of movement to Italy) are invited to apply for two month positions (June - July, exact dates TBC) working on Breakthrough Listen science on the Sardinia Radio Telescope in Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy. Research activities will take place in person in Cagliari, or remotely if necessary, under the supervision of Dr. Andrea Melis and the team at SRT, in collaboration with the team at Berkeley. Students will participate remotely in team meetings with the Berkeley interns when timezone differences permit. A stipend of 550 EUR per week will be provided, which is intended to cover all of your expenses during the program including meals and accommodation. Additionally, travel costs to and from the program site will be reimbursed - instructions regarding booking and reimbursement will be provided to accepted students.

Opportunities in the UK (applications closed for 2022)

Students studying in the UK (or who have freedom of movement to the UK) are invited to apply for 10-week positions (approx. June 13 - August 19; exact dates TBC) working on Breakthrough Listen science at the University of Manchester / Jodrell Bank Radio Observatory. Research activities will take place in person in Manchester and / or Jodrell Bank, or remotely if necessary, under the supervision of Prof. Michael Garrett, in collaboration with the team at Berkeley. Students will participate remotely in team meetings with the Berkeley interns when timezone differences permit. A stipend of 450 GBP per week will be provided, which is intended to cover all of your expenses during the program including meals and accommodation. Additionally, travel costs to and from the program site will be reimbursed - instructions regarding booking and reimbursement will be provided to accepted students.

Berkeley SETI summer internships are sponsored by the National Science Foundation under the Berkeley SETI Research Center REU Site Grant No. 1950897, and by Breakthrough Listen, which is managed by the Breakthrough Initiatives, sponsored by the Breakthrough Prize Foundation.