Call for Applications: Summer Visiting Program for Astronomers Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA)

In this program, astronomers from middle- and low-income countries can apply to spend a month in the northern summer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). Travel and basic living expenses will be covered by the grant.

In their application, candidates have to present a work plan in line with the projects proposed by the mentors (see below) and outline the benefits of their visit for the continuation of their career and the development of astronomy back in their home country. Two visiting scientists will be selected for the summer of 2015. Two local mentors have proposed a scientific project (see below).

We foresee mutual benefit from such a visiting program for both the visiting scientist and the CfA scientists and staff, who will have the opportunity to learn from the visitors about the status of astronomy in their countries. From such visits lasting collaborations can grow that foster knowledge exchange and education (e.g., workshops/schools later organized in the country of the visitor), and increase integration, all high priorities for the International Astronomical Union and its Office of Astronomy for Development.

Program Location
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics 60 Garden Street Cambridge MA 02138.

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) hosts over 400 scientists studying all aspects of the Universe. The stimulating environment in which the CfA is embedded has been the scientific/academic/ideological breeding ground of a number of important discoveries in astrophysics. The CfA has a long history in training graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from across the world.

The program aims to develop participants’ research and teaching skills and build lasting collaborations between participants and their CfA hosts. Selected scientists will have their trip and basic local expenses paid for through the grant. During their visit to the CfA they will work on a particular project (see proposed projects for 2015 below) for a few weeks (up to one month) with a local mentor.

Target Audience
Professional researchers in astronomy and astronomy education at the postdoctoral level or more advanced (e.g. professors) from middle- to low-income countries all over the world can apply.

Applications from women candidates are particularly encouraged.

Eligibility Criteria
Applicants must:
• be a citizen and resident in a middle- or low-income country
• have a PhD in astronomy or closely related field
• have the possibility of obtaining a visa to visit the US, with an invitation letter from CfA;
• outline the benefits of their stay at CfA in their application, and how they will implement these in their country.

All applications must be submitted online. The selection committee will choose two candidates based on the criteria above. The selection committee will include members of IAU TF1 (Task Force 1 Universities and Research) and CfA contacts.

The OAD will independently collect and analyse confidential monitoring and evaluation data.

For selected applicants the project should lead to measurable deliverables for their own career and the status of (teaching of) astronomy in their home country.
• Selected scientists will present a talk at the CfA about their work and the status of astronomy in their country.
• Selected scientists will develop a post-project plan to continue to further their own professional development and support astronomy in their country of residence (e.g. teach a new course, publish a paper, spread the knowledge, etc.).
• The OAD will evaluate the project; selected scientists will be asked to complete brief pre- and post-visit questionnaires and interviews immediately and 6 months after their visit.

Project Timeline
mid-April 2015: call for applications
8 May 2015: Selection begins
May to early June 2015: selection of two candidates and arrangement of stay and flights
July 2015: visit of max 1 month
November 2015: project report to OAD by organizers
May 2016: OAD evaluation report

Andrew Szentgyorgyi (CfA), Katrien Kolenberg (CfA, TF1)

Monitoring and Evaluation
The IAU’s Office of Astronomy for Develpment (OAD) would like to further our understanding of the benefits exchange programmes offer and how projects can be improved. If you consent, we will ask you for personal monitoring & evaluation data when you apply. These data will be kept strictly confidential, anonymised and separated from your application by the OAD Project Officer. Data you provide for evaluation only will NOT be seen by the selection panel.


If you have any questions about the project or applicant eligibility criteria, please contact Katrien Kolenberg (CfA) at

If you have any questions about the application process, how application data are dealt with, confidentiality or the evaluation process, please contact Eli Grant (OAD) at Enquiries to the OAD will not be disclosed to CfA members or to the selection panel.

Mentors and Projects
Mentor 1: Prof. Rosanne DiStefano – Project: Gravitational lensing
Gravitational microlensing provides a way to discover dim astronomical objects, including planets. The visiting researcher will select one of two projects designed to discover planets. The first project involves the analysis of publicly available data. The analysis techniques can continue to be used from home. The second project is the prediction of gravitational lensing events, a new area of research. During the coming years, observers from around the world, many using small telescopes, will participate in this exciting endeavor. The work at the CfA will be on making predictions, and such work, hopefully combined with observing predicted events, can continue from home.

Mentor 2: Prof. Scott Wolk – Project: Mid-IR analysis of star-forming regions.
NGC 281 is a remarkable laboratory for studying the complex interactions between a massive star and a molecular cloud. Chandra and Spitzer data combined with ground-based data show a partial bubble of cold molecular gas surrounding an HII region. Within the HII region, an elongated bubble of 10~MK gas is detected by Chandra. We have obtained PACS and SPIRE observations to map the distribution of dust and protostars in NGC 281. The distribution of protostars will be used to search for triggered star formation at the cloud/HII region interface and to examine evidence for two modes of triggered star formation. The dust distribution will be used to map the interaction of the molecular cloud and the HII region. Of additional interest is the presence of dust toward the hot, X-ray emitting gas. Such dust may facilitate charge-exchange with ions giving rise to high energy lines observed in the hot plasma. The researcher will be tasked with combining the Hershel data with existing Spitzer data. The project may start with learning how to install and run the idl package cluster grinder. This will be followed by the assignment of the various stars to Classes based on both colors and the slopes of their Spectral energy distributions. There is an analytical discovery space available in improving the mappings from color based to slope based classification systems. Once the sources are classified clustering analysis should be performed to ascertain if, and to what extent the various classes are clustered. A second goal is to compare the various epochs of data and quantify the observed variability as a function of Class.

How to Apply

Please note that selection will begin from 8 May 2015. Applications submitted before this date will be given priority but the call will remain open until both opportunities are filled.

Data requested on the application form which relate only to evaluation are labelled as being “for evaluation only” and will appear only if you consent to participating in the evaluation.

To apply now, please complete the CFA online application form. You will be asked to upload:
1) an academic CV;
2) a 1-page motivation for working with one of the mentors on the outlined projects;
3) a 1-page document outlining how you hope to benefit from your stay at CfA

Please ensure that you complete all fields. Once you’ve clicked Submit, you should see a confirmation page and receive a confirmation e-mail. If you do not, please check through the form for errors. If you do not receive e-mail confirmation within a few hours of submitting, please contact the OAD.