IPAC enjoys a vibrant research environment, and there are many opportunities for students to collaborate and work with IPAC scientists! 

Programs and opportunities are available for:

Caltech also hosts a comprehensive resource for student-faculty programs. Please see: https://sfp.caltech.edu/

Need more information? Have questions? Please contact Dr. Davy Kirkpatrick, who has volunteered to be a resource for students exploring potential research opportunities at IPAC!

Graduate Students
IPAC Visiting Graduate Fello​wship

IPAC announces the availability of six-month graduate student fellowships. The program is designed to allow students from other U.S. institutions to visit IPAC-Caltech and perform astronomical research in close association with an IPAC scientist. Eligible applicants are expected to have completed preliminary course work in their graduate program and be available for research during the period of the award. Funding from IPAC will be provided for a 6-month period via monthly stipends. Several students are expected to be accepted each year, subject to the availability of funding. Students are expected to be at IPAC during the duration of the Fellowship, nominally January to July, with some flexibility on the starting and ending dates.

Details about applying, deadline dates and research projects are described here: http://www.ipac.caltech.edu/page/graduate-fellowship.

For more information please contact the program coordinator, Dr. Jessie Christiansen.


Undergraduate Students
Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) program

SURF students have the opportunity to conduct research under the guidance of experienced mentors working at the frontier of their fields. Students experience the process of research as a creative intellectual activity from beginning (defining and developing a project) to end (presenting their results at SURF Seminar Day).

  • Students collaborate with a potential mentor to define and develop a project
  • Applicants write research proposals as part of the application process
  • Faculty review the proposals and recommend awards
  • Students carry out the work over a 10-week period during the summer
  • At the conclusion of the program, students submit a technical paper and give an oral presentation at one of several SURF Seminar Days, symposia modeled on a professional technical meeting.

In 2023, Fellows will receive a $7,100 award for the ten-week period. SURF is open to both Caltech and visiting students.

For more information, see: https://sfp.caltech.edu/undergraduate-research/programs/surf.

Note that prospective students need to identify a suitable research mentor before beginning the application process. For information about the research interests of the IPAC Science staff, see the Science staff directory. For tips on finding a mentor at IPAC,  and at Caltech in general, please see: https://sfp.caltech.edu/undergraduate-research/getting-started/finding_a_mentor.

Wave Fellows

Caltech WAVE aims to foster diversity by increasing the participation of underrepresented students in science and engineering PhD programs and making Caltech's programs more visible and accessible to students not traditionally exposed to Caltech.

Fellows will carry out the work over a 10-week period during the summer and submit two interim reports, a research abstract, and final paper. At the conclusion of the program, students give an oral or poster presentation at one of several WAVE Seminar Days, symposia modeled on a professional technical meeting.

For summer 2023, selected students will receive a research stipend of $7100 for 10 weeks, plus a campus housing supplement of $2000 and a $300 travel supplement. The research program runs from June 21 to August 25, 2023.

For more information, see: https://sfp.caltech.edu/undergraduate-research/programs/wavefellows.

CAMPARE - Cal-Bridge Summer Program

Selected students for CAMPARE will be part of Caltech's WAVE Fellows program.

Applicants must be at least 18 years of age by the beginning of the program. Applicants must be enrolled at a CSU or California Community College at the time of their application. Participants may not have graduated from their 4-year institution before the beginning of the summer internship, but community college students may be in the process of transferring to a 4-year institution. Citizens, permanent residents, and AB540/DACA students are eligible to apply.

All applicants must have completed a minimum of one full year of college-level physics by the start of the program.

For more information, see: https://www.cpp.edu/calbridge/summer-research/research/caltech.shtml.

Federal Work-Study Program

The Federal Work-Study (FWS) is a program of financial assistance for eligible students that is jointly funded by federal and departmental contributions. It allows students to work to earn a portion of their college expenses.

The Financial Aid Office determines student eligibility for the FWS program once the student completes their financial aid application. For the 2022-23 academic year, first-year students are generally awarded $1,350 in work-study funds, while continuing students are awarded $2,500.

Opportunities for student employment will be posted on the Caltech jobs website: https://caltech-csm.symplicity.com/.

High School Students
SRC - Summer Research Connection

The Summer Research Connection (SRC) is a 6-week program for K-12 science teachers and Pasadena Unified School District high school students. Participants are placed in research labs at Caltech where they conduct scientific research in assigned student-teacher teams under the guidance of research mentors.

For more information, see the SRC website.

NASA / IPAC Teacher Archive Research Program (NITARP)

NITARP, the NASA/IPAC Teacher Archive Research Program, gets teachers involved in authentic astronomical research. We partner small groups of largely high school educators with a mentor professional astronomer for an original research project.

The educators incorporate the experience into their classrooms and share their experience with other teachers. The program runs January through January. Applications are available annually in May and due in September.

See https://nitarp.ipac.caltech.edu/ for more information.

In Their Words

"I would just like to thank you again for this summer, it has truly sparked an interest for research I did not know I had, and I hope to continue honing in on the skill in college."

Kareem Ammar
Senior, Polytechnic School, Pasadena
High school student participant in Caltech's Summer Research Connection 2020 and now an undergraduate at UC Berkeley

Citizen Science

IPAC scientists have been a part of a number of NASA citizen science projects. For example, Dr. Davy Kirkpatrick works on "Backyard Worlds: Planet 9" and "Backyard Worlds: Cool Neighbors" - please contact him to learn more!

Citizen Science projects are collaborations between scientists and interested members of the public. Through these collaborations, volunteers (known as citizen scientists) have helped make thousands of important scientific discoveries. More than 410 NASA citizen scientists have been named as co-authors on refereed scientific publications. Want to work on some real NASA science? See: https://science.nasa.gov/citizenscience.

Citizen science student collaboration call

Students and their mentors Dr. Davy Kirkpatrick and Mr. Dan Caselden discussing their citizen science project.


In Their Words

"In the past 3 years, under the guidance of IPAC mentors, I've grown from a random member of the public with a passing interest in science, to an Astrophysics undergrad student, with a real passion for astronomy. They saw the spark of intrigue, and instinctively, through guidance and mentorship, ignited it into a flame; all the while, allowing me to perform (and publish!) real and exciting science."

Tom Bickle
Citizen Scientist with Backyard Worlds: Planet 9
Astrophysics Student at The Open University

"When our collaboration began, I had no experience with the tools, datasets, or science of astronomy. IPAC mentors closely guided me to build a foundational skillset while conducting meaningful research in the field. As a bonus, many of these skills translated to and grew my professional career in tech."

Dan Caselden
Citizen Scientist with Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 and Backyard Worlds: Cool Neighbors.
Computer Security Researcher and now Research Associate at the American Museum of Natural History

Working at IPAC

Interested in working at IPAC? Most years, students have an opportunity to work at IPAC over the summer. While these include an opportunity to learn and observe, these jobs are for real tasks and work needed at IPAC. You can make a difference! 

We circulate information about potential student hires internally at IPAC to see if there may be a project need and match. If you are interested, please contact Dr. Davy Kirkpatrick. Opportunities will also be posted on our Job Opportunites webpage.