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"I would say that my SAO/LIP internship was definitely beneficial. The skills I learned at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center were the most important skills I gained period - from any class or internship."

Nicholas Baeza Hochmuth, SAO Latino Initiative Program

SAO Latino Initiative Interns
Three of the SAO Latino Initiative Students in 2019


The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Latino Initiatives Program (SAO/LIP) is an internship program for talented undergraduate science majors who participate in the Urban Massachusetts Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Programs located on the campuses of the University of Massachusetts.


Partnering with the University of Massachusetts (UMASS) , the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) provides summer  internships to 6 students within the consortium annually. With generous support from the National Science Foundation, the Program sponsors seminars and outreach activities that raise awareness about the journeys, accomplishments, and ambitions of Latinos and other underrepresented communities within physics and astronomy. SAO/LIP has welcomed undergraduate majors in physics, computer science, chemistry, biology, and engineering, which is reflective of the ever-increasing interdisciplinary nature of science.

NFS Logo  This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1745460. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. 



Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Latino Initiative Program (SAO/LIP) is open to current undergraduate science majors in the Urban Massachusetts Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Program. Preference is given to students in their sophomore and junior years as students may be invited to continue on a project at the conclusion of their internship. Additionally, internship assignments require preliminary coursework or skill requirements common to undergraduate students in their second or third year of study.


Students will be notified directly by the SAO Fellowship Program Coordinator about their acceptance into the internship program. This notification will be provided in April or earlier.

Length of Appointment

SAO/LIP is a 3-month summer internship program that starts in June and ends in August.  Some students will be invited to present at the American Astrophysical Society Conference; however, they may also present at the Annual Americans in Science (SACNAS) Conference in mid to late November. Students are expected to spend 35 hours a week at the Center for Astrophysics during the summer months.


Funding for your stipend--as well as your conference and travel fees--will be funded through the National Science Foundation. Please direct any questions about these expenses to Christine Crowley, the SAO Fellowship Program Coordinator.


Students should plan to spend 35 hours during the week on their internship in the summer. 

In the summer months, students are required to participate in up to three outreach projects including a trip to the Cambridge Mayor's Summer Youth Employment Program to speak with urban students about selecting science as a major in college. Additionally, students will participate in a panel discussion that centers around issues related to greater inclusion in physics and astronomy among students from underrepresented minority communities. Finally, students will present their research in a poster session to the Observatory community in the Rotunda in anticipation of a possible conference presentation in the near future.


How do I apply?

SAO/LIP is open to students in the UMLSAMP Program. If you are interested in applying, contact the UMLSAMP Grant Program Coordinator, Ms. Shreelekha Girish ( or by phone at 978-934-6621.

How do I get notified of my acceptance into the Program?

Ms. Christine Crowley, the Fellowship Coordinator at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), will contact you to set up an interview with a potential advisor after your application materials have been reviewed. She will notify you by email of your acceptance after your interview or interviews at SAO.

How many hours a week do I spend as an intern at the Observatory?

Students work 35 hours during the summer from the first week of June until the third week in August. If you are taking any vacation time during this period, please let her and your advisor know at least two weeks in advance. 

What are the hours of my internship?

You work out the days and hours of your weekly schedule with your SAO Advisor. There is flexibility with your schedule but it must be approved by your advisor.

What are the requirements?

Besides your weekly research hours, you are required to participate in three outreach projects including a center-wide poster session, the planning of a center-wide panel, and a visit to the Cambridge Mayor's Summer Youth Program. Additionally, you will be required to participate in a week-long orientation, a weekly education seminar and Python training, as well as a weekly meeting with your Peer Mentor. Students are also required to send the SAO Fellowship Program Coordinator a weekly report of their research activities.

Can I get course credit?

Yes, but you must work out the details with UMASS ahead of your internship. Two students have used their internship as a capstone project for course credit.

How do I get paid?

For payment through UMASS, you must contact Ms. Shreelekha Girish. At SAO, interns are paid once-a-month as a non-service fellowship recipient. The process is different from UMASS but more information will be provided during orientation week in June.

Do I have to present my research?

Yes, at the end of your summer research experience in the second week of August you will present a research poster. You will also likely present our poster at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) or at another conference dependent on your interests and at the recommendation of your SAO advisor.

Can I stay beyond my summer internship?

Yes,  students have been invited to stay longer as a research intern. This depends on the quality of your work and the availability of funding from your SAO advisor.


Shreelekha Girish, UMLSAMP Grant Coordintor

Phone: 978-934-6621

Christine Crowley, SAO Fellowship Program Coordinator

Phone: 617-495-7103


The SAO/LIP program gave me an internship opportunity which then turned into a full-time position at the Harvard & Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics as a Physical Scientist. I never imagined that the SAO/LIP program would be one of the single most important stepping stones towards my professional career development, but if it had not been for the program, then I would not be where I am today.
- Frances Skinner, 2020 NSF/SAO Latino Initiative Intern