SURF @ Cosmic DAWN Center

picture from commonsThe summer program will take place at the Cosmic Dawn Center, part of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen

The Cosmic Dawn Center runs an undergraduate summer research program in conjunction with the Caltech SURF program. Thanks to their generosity, we hope to have approximately 5 Caltech students come to Copenhagen and work with us this summer, including students in astrophysics, computer science, and mathematics. Formally, these will be SURF projects taking place in Denmark. Thus, students will prepare a SURF application and be asked to write two progress reports and a final report as well as give an on-campus talk or poster in October. It is possible that some students either from Caltech or other Universities will also be able to come as part of an affiliated NSF IRES REU program

Since travel within Europe can be quite cheap, we plan for this to be an 11 week program (roughly from the official SURF start date in mid-June to September 1), so that students can take a one week vacation the week of August 7-11 to see other parts of Europe. Students will be responsible for their own housing, as they would if doing a SURF at Caltech. Our goal is that students will have about the same take-home pay after travel/housing as they would if they stayed in Caltech housing over the summer, which has generally been possible when booking housing well in advance, but which has not always been the case if housing is not booked until close to the summer.

A couple of projects are already posted on the SURF website. Some of the other research interests of our department can be found here. Only some of the faculty will be around to mentor projects over the summer. These are all projects in astronomy and astrophysics, but we would be happy to have other majors join us for the summer, and several projects would benefit from a strong background in computer science. We would recommend that you only apply for the program if you're at least potentially interested in this as a future direction of research, since otherwise you can probably find a summer project that's more in line with your interests. However, we're happy to have, e.g., somebody with a biology background who has also been possibly interested in astrophysics and wants to find out more about it before deciding which directions are more interesting going forward.

We tend to have more interest than available spots, so our plan is to gather a list of interested students and then figure out who we can invite. We hope to finalize who will be coming by mid- to late-January, to make sure that there will be plenty of time to both write a SURF proposal (due February 22) and take care of any necessary visa/housing. We will ask interested students to let us know they are interested and send a CV and a reference letter by December 31 [For people who haven't done a SURF before, you'll end up needing a few reference letters for the SURF application, so you're just asking for one a little earlier than you'd otherwise need to. In the past, we had also posed a challenge question as part of the application, but are trying a different process this year.

How to apply:

When is the deadline?

  • Full consideration will be given to applications received by December 31. After that, we will begin matching students with mentors but will consider late applications if there are still spots open.

What should I send?

  • Your curriculum vitae
  • Please request that a recommendation letter be sent independently

Where should I send it?

When will I hear back?

  • By the end of January at the latest, hopefully a bit earlier.


I'm a freshman. Can I apply anyway?

  • Yes! Some of the projects will be most suitable for researchers with a more formal background, but one of the wonderful things about astronomy is that there are many projects which require relatively little background in order to get to the point that you can make a useful contribution. We would like to have students with a range of backgrounds come to Copenhagen this summer, and we have had freshmen participate every summer.

Is this open to students from all universities?

Should I apply to a specific project?

  • If you have a specific mentor/project in mind, please let us know when you apply, and we will try and match you up with that project.  However, we might also end up suggesting a match with a different mentor, particularly if most people end up requesting the same project.  

I have some more questions.  Who can I ask?

  • Please contact Charles Steinhardt ( with additional questions about the program.