“As close to a perfect summer internship as you can get.”
“Had a profound impact on my academic trajectory.”
“The best overall professional experience I've had to date. The quality of the training and mentorship was great. It was the best-organized internship I've had too, and the best social experience I've had in an internship.”
“I would not be where I am, or who I am, today without my experiences working with the Berkeley SETI / Breakthrough Listen team.”
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. 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 list of available projects changes from year to year. Students are paired with mentors based on their interests and skillset, but if there are particular areas of our research portfolio that interest you, feel free to mention these in your application. Some example projects from previous years include:
The Weirdest Stars on the Sky: A Multiband Follow-up - Lana Tilke (Connecticut College)
Lana worked with Dr. Ann Marie Cody to search for indications of engineered megastructures around stars. Applying machine learning techniques to data from NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, Lana explored a huge set of archival lightcurves to find anomalies which could be technosignature candidates or signs of interesting astrophysics. Lana received a 2022 SETI Forward award in recognition of her research.
A Search for ETI around Proxima Centauri - Shane Smith (Hillsdale College)
Shane worked with Dr. Danny Price and Dr. Sofia Sheikh (also one of our former summer interns!) to search for radio technosignatures in data from the Parkes radio telescope. Although he didn't find ET, he did get a first-author article in the prestigious Nature Astronomy journal and coverage in the New York Times, Scientific American, National Geographic, and elsewhere. Shane is now an engineer at the Aerospace Corporation.
Radio Technosignature Searches of Nearby Galaxies - Carmen Choza (University of Chicago)
Carmen worked with Dr. Steve Croft to search for radio technosignatures in a sample of 100 nearby galaxies observed with the Green Bank Telescope. This is one of the major components of the Breakthrough Listen program as announced at the Royal Society in London in 2015, and Carmen is currently finalizing a first-author paper presenting the analysis of this huge observational dataset.
Other interns have written high performance computing pipelines for the MeerKAT telescope, developed a citizen science platform for technosignature searches in collaboration with Zooniverse at Oxford University, searched for fast radio bursts, looked for laser signals in spectra from the Automated Planet Finder telescope, simulated populations of Doppler drifting signals from the known properties of exoplanetary systems, and much more!
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 2023, we are offering internships in the USA, Ireland, UK, and Italy. 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.
In addition to a stipend to cover your living expenses during the summer, we reimburse air travel to the program site, and field trips to some of the telescopes we use for our searches. Funding is also available to support interns who successfully complete the program to present their work at meetings such as the American Astronomical Society meeting in New Orleans in 2024.
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.
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 - if you don't already fall into one of the above categories, please don't apply. At this time, we anticipate that the US program will mainly take place in-person in the UC Berkeley area. 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. 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 5 – August 11, 2023). 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 5 - 9 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 $10,140 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.
Students who are citizens, permanent residents, or who hold work authorizations in the European Union or the United Kingdom are invited to apply for positions in the EU and UK. If you do not fall into one of the prior categories (e.g. you would need to apply for a visa) you are not eligible to apply. Internships will be between 8 - 12 weeks, depending on location, during the months of June, July, and / or August. Possible locations for internships in 2023 include:
Ireland: LOFAR Observatory at Birr Castle. Observational technosignature searches using the Breakthrough Listen backend at I-LOFAR. Research activities will take place in person at Birr and / or Dublin, or remotely if agreed beforehand, under the supervision of Dr. Evan Keane (Trinity College Dublin), in collaboration with the team at Berkeley.
Italy: Sardinia Radio Telescope in Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy. Observational technosignature searches using the Breakthrough Listen backend on SRT. Research activities will take place in person in Cagliari, or remotely if agreed beforehand, under the supervision of Dr. Andrea Melis and the team at SRT.
UK: Breakthrough Listen research at Oxford University in collaboration with the team at Berkeley. Possible topics include citizen science using the Zooniverse platform, and searches using Breakthrough Listen backends on the MeerKAT and MERLIN telescopes.
Please tell us which of these options you are eligible for, and interested in, in your application. If you hold both US and EU / UK citizenship and are interested in both opportunities, please fill in both Google forms, and explain your circumstances in your cover letter.
Students will participate remotely in team meetings with the Berkeley interns when timezone differences permit. A stipend of 600 EUR / 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.