2020 AstroTech Summer School FAQ

***2020 AstroTech Summer School is CANCELLED due to COVID-19***

Please click a topic below for FAQs related to that topic and answers to those questions.

AstroTech Organization & Goals

Q: Is AstroTech an REU?

A: No. AstroTech is a 5-day summer school in July 2020.  AstroTech participants do not receive a stipend, but we offer is substantial financial support for traveling to the summer school.  Further details are in the Costs and Funding section below.


Q: What are the overall goals of AstroTech?

A: AstroTech is designed to help students and early-career individuals a from a broad range of backgrounds gain skills, knowledge, and mindset to advance in the field of instrumentation.  In particular, AstroTech aims to establish an inclusive and equitable community that supports the advancement of people from groups currently underrepresented in the field of instrumentation.

Q: Why is ISEE running the summer school?

A: The Institute for Scientist & Engineer Educators (ISEE) has partnered with telescopes for more than 15 years, and has focused on training undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdocs throughout that time.  ISEE is located at University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), which is the headquarters of UC Observatories and the Center for Adaptive Optics.  AstroTech is a product and continuing example of longstanding collaborations between ISEE, UC Berkeley, and W.M. Keck Observatory.


Q: How is AstroTech funded?

A: AstroTech is funded by the Heising-Simons Foundation and by the National Science Foundation through the Keck All-Sky Precision Adaptive Optics (KAPA) project (AST #1836016).

Eligibility and Selection

Q: Who is eligible for the summer school?

A: The AstroTech summer school is designed to serve individuals with a career interest in astronomy instrumentation, who are either “upper-level” undergraduate students (at least two years of undergraduate experience prior to attending the summer school) or “masters-level” graduate students (in the first ~two years of a graduate program, whether terminating in a Masters or PhD).  Individuals who have completed an undergraduate degree but are not enrolled in a graduate program are also eligible.  We may consider applications from individuals outside of these circumstances, who can demonstrate the value of AstroTech to their career trajectory.

Technical work in astronomy instrumentation includes individuals with a broad range of disciplinary backgrounds, including engineering, physics, astronomy, and computer science.  We will consider applicants specializing in any of these disciplinary areas. 

To be eligible for the summer school, applicants must be studying or working in the United States (including Alaska, Hawaii, and U.S. territories) in 2020. 

Q: I am not a U.S. citizen.  Am I eligible?

A: Yes, we will consider applications from anyone who is currently studying or working in the U.S., regardless of citizenship or national origin.

Q: Why is there an application to attend the summer school? 

A: The summer school is limited in size, due to funding as well as a format that emphasizes team activities and small discussions.  In 2020 we will include ~30 participants from across the U.S. 

Q: What criteria are being used to select summer school participants?

A: The selection criteria include several factors, including:

  • Career goals related to instrumentation

  • Value of AstroTech to the applicant (uniqueness of opportunity and alignment with applicant’s career interests)

  • Prior coursework and academic performance relevant to instrumentation

  • Skills or experience relevant to instrumentation (we will consider technical skills/experience, and broader skills/experience with creating things and addressing open-ended problems) 

  • Interest in equity & inclusion and/or awareness of existing challenges

  • Interest in improving teamwork and collaboration skills

  • Evidence of perseverance in response to challenges

  • Availability for the full duration of the summer school

Applicants will have the opportunity to address these factors through written responses on the application form, by identifying a reference for further input, and by providing relevant academic transcripts.

A core goal of AstroTech is to help reverse the underrepresentation of people of color, women and gender minorities, and other marginalized groups in astronomy instrumentation.  We especially encourage individuals from historically underrepresented groups to apply.

Costs and Funding

Q: What are the costs of attending the summer school?

A: Our aim is for AstroTech to be an affordable opportunity for as broad a set of participants as possible.  All applicants selected to participate in AstroTech will be provided with substantial financial assistance for travel and accommodations.  AstroTech’s funding sources (see next Q) allow us to significantly reduce costs to participants.  Below is an itemized list of which costs are covered by AstroTech, and which costs participants must cover on their own or with support from their home institution. 

Registration fee: waived for all accepted participants

Lodging: AstroTech will arrange double-occupancy lodging in campus student housing or a basic hotel.  AstroTech will cover the costs of lodging for all participants.

Airfare: AstroTech will cover the cost of economy-class airfare for all participants.  Participants will need to purchase their own ticket, and will be reimbursed after the summer school.  The closest airports to UC Berkeley are Oakland (OAK) and San Francisco (SFO).  

Ground transportation to UC Berkeley:  AstroTech will cover the cost of ground transportation to UC Berkeley from OAK or SFO airport.  In most cases AstroTech will reimburse transportation costs for participants who use alternative options to air travel, subject to prior approval.

Ground transportation between participant home and local airport: participants flying to attend the Summer School must cover their own transportation costs between their home and airport of origin.

Lunches during summer school: AstroTech will cover the costs of catered lunches during the Summer School (July 20-24).

Other meals: participants must cover the cost of all meals except for lunches on July 20-24.

Other costs: participants must cover all other costs and incidentals.


Q: How should I secure funding for costs that are not covered by AstroTech?

We encourage applicants to check with their department, university, or company for opportunities to apply for travel funds.  If you are doing research with a faculty member or other supervisor, you might ask if they have a funding source that can support the costs above not already covered by AstroTech.

Q: How is AstroTech funded?

AstroTech is funded by the Heising-Simons Foundation and by the National Science Foundation through the Keck All-Sky Precision Adaptive Optics (KAPA) project (AST #1836016)

Application Materials

Q: Are other materials required in addition to the application form?

Application requirements include:

  • Answering questions about your interest in AstroTech, personal background and experiences, and career motivations
  • Providing unofficial academic transcript(s)
  • Providing contact information for a reference who can speak to your experience and interest in a discipline related to astronomical instrumentation

All of the above can be provided via the online application form.

We recommend that you submit your reference’s contact information as soon as you begin the application.  They will receive a questionnaire that they must submit by January 23, the same date your application responses and transcript(s) are due.


Q: What if I do not have a suitable reference?

A: We will still consider applicants who do not provide a reference.  However, we strongly encourage applicants to provide a reference because they often provide information that strengthens the application.  In some cases, an individual outside of the applicant’s academic program can provide valuable information about the applicant’s motivation and experiences.


Q: Should I submit my CV or resume?

A: We ask applicants for unofficial transcripts, but we will not consider any applicant’s CV, resume, or list of publications.

Agenda, Spaces, and Accessibility

Q: What activities are included in the summer school?

A: The AstroTech Summer School will feature hands-on lab activities that build upon one another toward the goal of building and testing an astronomical spectrograph.  There are additional discussions and activities supporting professional skills and possible career pathways in instrumentation.  A preliminary agenda is available here.

Each day of the Summer School (Monday through Friday) will run from approximately 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with a lunch break of approximately 1 hour and short breaks in the morning and afternoon.  Each day will be full of activities. 

Q: What spaces are used during the summer school?  What physical actions are required of participants?

A: Summer school sessions will take place in the following spaces: 

  • Two classrooms with movable tables and chairs, whiteboards affixed to the walls, and AV equipment
  • Three lab rooms with movable chairs and fixed tables of different heights

All rooms can be accessed by ramp or elevator.  Lab activities will include dark or dimly lit conditions some of the time.  The lab activities may involve some participants standing, reaching for objects, and carefully aligning optics by hand.  However, lab teams will include multiple roles and participants can contribute meaningfully without performing any of these actions.  The Summer School will include a primer on lab safety. 

There are accessible men’s and women’s restrooms near the classrooms and near the lab spaces.  The nearest gender-inclusive (single-stall) restrooms are on a different floor that requires key card entry (individuals may request a key card from AstroTech organizers), or in a nearby building on campus.

The classroom and lab spaces are the same as those used for the 2019 AstroTech Development Workshop.  Photos are available here.

Lodging for summer school participants is still being arranged.  Please check back for more information, or email astrotech@ucsc.edu with specific questions. 

Q: What accommodations are possible?

A: We will do our best to provide accommodations to participants as needed so that everyone is able to maximize their experience at the summer school.  Summer school participants will have an opportunity to indicate accommodations they require, at the time they are notified of their acceptance.  If you wish to discuss accommodations before completing your application, please email us at astrotech@ucsc.edu .


Arrival and Departure

Q: How do I get to the summer school in Berkeley?

A: If you are flying, you should plan to arrive and depart from either Oakland International Airport (OAK) or San Francisco International Airport (SFO).  Check back later for information about transit options between airports and participant lodging for the summer school.


Q: Where on campus will the summer school be held?

A: Summer school sessions will be held in Campbell Hall on the University of California, Berkeley campus.


Q: When should I plan to arrive and depart so that I am present for the entire summer school?

A: The summer school will begin at approximately 9:00 a.m. on Monday, July 20.  Participants traveling from outside the area should plan to arrive the evening of Sunday, July 19. 

Days will be full of activities and participants are expected to attend the entire summer school or else forfeit their participation.

The summer school will conclude the evening of Friday, July 24, and you should plan to depart on Saturday, July 25. 


Q: I plan on commuting to the summer school from nearby.  Where should I park? 

A: The nearest open parking garage to Campbell Hall is Stadium Parking Garage, about a 6-minute walk to Campbell Hall.  The garage costs $15 for up to 10 hours.  Check back later for a map highlighting Campbell Hall and the Stadium Parking Garage.

Lodging Details

Q: Where will participants stay during the summer school?

A: We will provide more information when we have finalized a contract for accommodations in Berkeley during the summer school.


Q: If I live within driving distance of Berkeley should I stay at the hotel or commute from home?

A: Participants who live in Berkeley or immediate surroundings are expected to commute from home to the summer school.  However, participants living more than ~30 minutes away should stay at our participant lodging in Berkeley.  Participants will have an opportunity to specify their lodging needs at the time they are accepted to the summer school.


Q: Can I stay at a different location from the summer school hotel?

A: We are able to book affordable rooms because we enter a contract with the hotel that guarantees we will fill a certain number of rooms.  For this reason, we cannot reimburse participants for lodging expenses from other facilities.