Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Lab Project Objective

The Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Lab is a publicly visible research laboratory where museum visitors can see astronomers at work, visualizations of their research, current space mission and science highlights, and state-of-the-art “ fly throughs” of the solar system, and beyond.

The Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Lab at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. Dr. Rachel Smith pictured in the back right corner in front of one of the many lab visualizations.

The Astronomy/Astrophysics Intern will work in the lab with Dr. Rachel Smith on a combination of research and outreach related to creating visualizations for the general public. Research opportunities will center on Dr. Smith’s high-resolution telescopic observations of young stellar objects observed with the Very Large Telescope [VLT] and/or Keck telescope. The specific data set used for the summer project will be selected by Dr. Smith and the intern after discussions about goals and skill level. The intern will work in a unique laboratory setting, and gain valuable experience on communicating research products to the general public.


Award Level

$6,000 (10-week internship)

Eligibility Requirements

Applicants must have a 3.0 GPA and be majors in one of the following (Astronomy/Astrophysics, Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Computer Science, and related fields). This position targets undergraduate majors.

Internship Project Description

Major Tasks to be Performed:

  1. Use computer (IDL) codes to process molecular spectra observed toward young stellar objects in the Galaxy;
  2. Conduct online searches to expand the currently minimal set of imagery and video;
  3. Synthesize imagery and video into coherent presentations for a general museum audience;
  4. translate data products from ongoing research related to astrochemistry, solar system formation, galactic morphology/evolution, and other planetary/astrophysics conducted by lab scientists into presentations that are visible and meaningful to a public audience;
  5. As needed, assist in curation duties related to the meteorite collection and explore the connection of meteorites to forming planetary systems.

Final Product or Outcome Anticipated:

  1. Significant and reasonable progress on the data set chosen for the project, with potential for publication in a scientific journal;
  2. Visualizations related to the research that will be displayed to the general public through the glass walls of the lab;
  3. Research poster that must be completed BEFORE the end of the internship. This will be presented at the NC Space Grant Space Conference on April 12, 2019 in Raleigh, NC.

Knowledge gained by Intern

The successful intern will learn an extensive amount on how spectra are analyzed a broad perspective of current astrophysics, and will work on new research with state-of-the-art astronomical data. She/he will learn how to integrate complex and varied scientific information for a general audience, incorporating visitor-centered research findings into their work. The intern will learn skills in interacting with a diverse audience, toward being successful communicators.

SPECIFIC job duties:

  1. Use IDL codes to process spectra;
  2. Conduct literature searches for papers related to the research;
  3. Create a scientific research poster on the project;
  4. Search various space mission-oriented websites (e.g. NASA, JPL, etc.) for freely available, high-resolution videos and images of current developments related to astronomy and astronomy research.

Describe how periodic and final evaluations will be conducted

Evaluations will be based on regular meetings between the intern and Dr. Smith, and discussions of progress. This will be a collaborative and iterative process.

Resources available to intern

Computers and workspace, all necessary software and reduced data products will be available. The lab is Mac-based, but interns can use their own laptop if they wish.

To Apply for the NCSG/NCMNS Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Lab Internship, click HERE

Application system will be open on or before February 4, 2019
Applicants must click new user registration button to begin application
(Letter of recommendation must be submitted by faculty research mentor by March 5, 2019). Interviews will begin mid-March 2018, with announcement by late-March 2019.

Awardee Requirements:

Selected intern must:


 Project supervisor:  Dr. Rachel Smith (Head, Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Lab/Curator of Meteorites) Email: Phone: 919.707.8239