Intern at BSRC

Berkeley SETI Research Center Summer Research Experience for Undergradutes

Applications for Summer 2021 are now closed. Please check back in December for information about our 2022 program.

Current sophomore, junior, and senior undergraduates are invited to apply for research internship positions at Berkeley SETI Research Center. BSRC is a world-leader in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence – the quest for a scientific answer to one of humanity’s oldest questions: Are we alone in the Universe? Housed in the Astronomy Department at the University of California, Berkeley, the team at BSRC leads the science program for the $100-million Breakthrough Listen project. 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, connections to leading players in industry, and we’re based in one of the world’s premiere astronomy research institutions. We’re also psyched that we get to wake up each day and hunt for aliens.

We are now accepting applications for undergraduate research interns for summer 2021, to 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. In fact, our Director Dr. Andrew Siemion started his own research career as a UC Berkeley undergraduate!

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.

You will be required to be resident within commute distance of the UC Berkeley campus for the duration of the program, except in the event that COVID restrictions require us to run the program virtually for all or part of the summer. By applying, you commit to being available for 40 hours of work per week (June 7 – August 13, 2021). You’ll be expected to work closely with other interns, to consult with our researchers as necessary, and to attend twice-weekly meetings. 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 $8364 is provided, which is intended to cover all of your expenses during the program including travel, meals, and accommodation. The program is open to students currently enrolled at degree-granting institutions in the United States (including non-citizens legally present in the US for study purposes). 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 12, 2021 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

To apply:

  • STEP ONE: fill in and submit the form at https://forms.gle/HT3FpdHhZ7YfP2jY8
  • STEP TWO: make a single PDF format file containing your cover letter, recent transcript, and CV. The name of this file should be Lastname_Firstname.pdf (e.g. Sagan_Carl.pdf).
  • STEP THREE: email the PDF file from Step Two to bsrc@berkeley.edu. The subject of your email should be “BSRC Intern Application” and it must arrive no later than February 12, 2021.
  • STEP FOUR: ensure your academic referee sends their letter of recommendation (preferably in PDF format with filename Lastname_Firstname_Rec.pdf) to bsrc@berkeley.edu no later than February 12.

Opportunities for Irish students

Students studying in Ireland (or who have freedom of movement to Ireland) are invited to apply for 12-week positions (June 7 - August 27) working on Breakthrough Listen science on the LOFAR station at Birr Castle. COVID restrictions permitting, research activities will take place in person at Birr, under the supervision of Dr. Evan Keane (National University of Ireland, Galway), 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 400 EUR per week (reflecting the local cost of living) will be provided, which is intended to cover all of your expenses during the program including travel, meals, and accommodation.

To apply (IRISH STUDENTS ONLY - US STUDENTS USE THE FORM LINKED ABOVE):

  • STEP ONE: fill in and submit the form at https://forms.gle/NAgM1gGaiAGNgTY68
  • STEP TWO: make a single PDF format file containing your cover letter, recent transcript, and CV. The name of this file should be Lastname_Firstname.pdf (e.g. Sagan_Carl.pdf).
  • STEP THREE: email the PDF file from Step Two to bsrc@berkeley.edu. The subject of your email should be “BSRC Intern Application - Ireland” and it must arrive no later than February 12, 2021.
  • STEP FOUR: ensure your academic referee sends their letter of recommendation (preferably in PDF format with filename Lastname_Firstname_Rec.pdf) to bsrc@berkeley.edu no later than February 12.

Opportunities for Canadian students

Students who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents (or who are full-time students at the University of Toronto, or have a work permit allowing them to work at UofT) are invited to apply for paid 16-week positions (May 3 - August 20) working on Breakthrough Listen science and engineering projects under the supervision of Dr. Cherry Ng (University of Toronto / SETI Institute / UC Berkeley), in collaboration with the team at Berkeley. Students will participate remotely in team meetings with the Berkeley interns when timezone differences permit. Eligible students should apply via the UofT SURP program by February 12, being sure to express an interest in the project "SETI search with MeerKAT and the VLA" with Cherry Ng.

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.

Current UC Berkeley undergraduates interested in working with us during the semester should apply through the URAP program.