LIGO Summer Undergraduate Research

Opportunity Description:

Undergraduate students in physics, astronomy and engineering are invited to participate in the development of gravitational-wave astronomy through the LIGO Project. This intensive summer program takes place each year at Caltech or one of the LIGO observatory sites, funded in part through the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program of the National Science Foundation. Undergraduate students from all institutions (both U.S. and foreign) are invited to apply to the LIGO Summer Undergraduate Research Program. Research awards include a summer stipend and some funding for travel to the research site as needed.

Selected applicants who identify themselves as under-represented minorities will be contacted to inquire if they wish to participate in Caltech's WAVE program or to be considered for a Carl Albert Rouse Fellowship or a Victor M. Blanco Fellowship. See the WAVE page for details.

The LIGO Laboratory is an NSF-supported endeavor to design, build, and operate an astrophysical observatory for the detection and study of gravitational radiation. LIGO is a joint Caltech-MIT endeavor. The observatory includes two sites (Hanford, Washington and Livingston Parish, Louisiana) with laser interferometric detector systems. (More about LIGO and gravitational waves.) The aim of the Caltech LIGO Summer Undergraduate Research Program is to organize the participation of undergraduate students in research associated with the LIGO Laboratory.

Program requirements and expectations
LIGO SURF program at the Caltech SURF website

LIGO research projects may cover many areas of science and engineering related to the detection of gravitational radiation, including:

  • Laboratory projects in mechanical, laser, optical, and electronic systems
  • Modeling and analysis of optomechanical systems
  • LIGO data analysis projects, including searching for and analyzing gravitational wave signals from astrophysical sources
  • Modeling of astrophysical sources of gravitational radiation

Minimum Qualifications and/or Eligibility Requirements: 

All continuing undergraduate students (i.e. who will be students next year) may apply. Women and minorities are strongly encouraged to apply.

Different projects require different skills and background, and we typically have some projects that are suitable for students who have just completed the freshman year.

To be eligible for SURF, you must:

  • Be a continuing undergraduate student
  • Have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5/4.0
  • Complete a full year of undergraduate education at your college or university, including at least one full year course in undergraduate physics
  • Not be under any disciplinary sanction

Application Process: 

Applications for the 2022 Caltech Summer Program are accepted from October 27, 2021 - January 7, 2022. Interested students should submit an application on the SFP website as follows:

  • If you are a student applicant new to SFP's programs, create an account with your email address and a password (remember it!). Else, log in to your existing account.
  • Under "Create an SFP Program Application", select "LIGO Application". Indicate if you are a Caltech student, then click "Create Application".
    NOTE: There are multiple applications hosted on this website that are not affiliated with LIGO. The link to "SURF Application" is for the general Caltech SURF program, not LIGO SURF; you should not prepare that application unless you want to apply to that separate program as well.
  • In the application itself, you will input basic information about yourself, including contact information, citizenship and demographic information, education, and work experience. Then there are text boxes where you will list your prior research experience, research interests, and a "Your interest in the LIGO SURF Program and LIGO science" essay.
  • You will upload one or more (if appropriate) unofficial transcripts of the courses you have taken at the college level.
  • You will enter contact information for two letters of recommendation. After you click "Submit", an email will go out to them, requesting letters to be uploaded. Until you click "Submit", your application will be incomplete and "Awaiting Submission."
  • When you have completed your application, you must click "Submit form to SFP". Make sure that, on your Home page on SFP Online, it indicates that your application is "Complete", your Transcripts say "Complete", and your Recommendation requests say "Not yet received" or "Received".

Application Deadline: 

Friday, January 7, 2022
For more information on this opportunity, please contact: