AstroTech Summer School FAQ

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.  AstroTech participants do not receive a stipend, but we offer substantial financial support for traveling to the summer school.  Additional details can be found on the current year’s program page and in the Travel, Lodging, and Site Information page. 

Q: What are the overall goals of AstroTech?
A: AstroTech is designed to help students and early-career individuals 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).


COVID-19 Considerations

Q: How will Covid-19 affect the 2021 AstroTech Summer School?
A: The 2021 AstroTech Summer School is being planned to run in-person, with contingency plans for adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a shortened version offered remotely, if necessary. Additionally, the online application consists of a Part A and Part B. Part A includes the regular application and Part B will include questions about applicants’ ability to meet precautionary measures required by COVID-19. For more details, see COVID-19 Information page.

Q: I was accepted to the 2020 AstroTech Summer School, which was cancelled. Do I need to submit a new application?
A: Yes. A new application is needed for the 2021 AstroTech Summer School.

Q: Will applicants accepted to the 2020 AstroTech Summer School, which was cancelled, get any special consideration?
A: Yes. Due to COVID-19, we had to cancel the 2020 AstroTech Summer School after accepting individuals into the summer school. We will give special consideration to those we accepted in 2020. However, we cannot guarantee that those we accepted in 2020 will be accepted again in the 2021 summer school.

Q: My studies were impacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. How will that affect my chances of acceptance to the 2021 AstroTech Summer School?
A: We understand that the pandemic has impacted everyone’s life in a variety of ways, ranging from common societal challenges to unique personal struggles. Many students decided to take time off, or may have had their studies disrupted in other ways due to COVID-19. We will approach our selection process with that in mind. The selection committee will consider the full picture and avoid looking disfavorably on applicants who took time off due to, or were otherwise impacted by, COVID-19.

If you would like to share anything with the selection committee, please include that in the transcripts section of the application (Part A). For example, if your grades suffered you could not take classes you had planned, or you took a leave-of-absence. You do not need to share personal information. A brief overview of the circumstances, such as, “Due to COVID-19…”, is sufficient.

Eligibility and Selection

Q: Who is eligible for the summer school?
A: See our page on How to Apply to AstroTech

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.  We will include ~30 participants from across the U.S.

Q: What criteria are being used to select summer school participants?
A: See our page on How to Apply to AstroTech.

Application Materials

Q: Are other materials required in addition to the application form?
A. Please review our page on How to Apply to AstroTech for details on the application process and required materials.

Q: Where can I learn more about each section of the application?
A: Please review our page on How to Apply to AstroTech.

Q: I have a specific question about a section of the application.
A: Please review our How to Apply to AstroTech page. If you still have questions, please contact us at

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: No. We ask applicants for unofficial transcripts and we will not consider any applicant’s CV, resume, or list of publications as a substitute.

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 visit our Travel, Lodging, and Site Information page for more information, as it becomes available. Or email 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.  If you wish to discuss accommodations before completing your application, please email us at

Lodging and Miscellaneous

Q: Where will participants stay during the summer school?
A: Please refer to our Travel, Lodging, and Site Info page. 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 will be offered lodging at the hotel, along with participants and instructors, who travel to Berkeley, which will enable local participants to take advantage of informal times to socialize and network. However, local participants preferring to stay at home and commute are welcome to decline lodging. 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. No. 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.

Q: How should I secure funding for small costs not covered by AstroTech?
A. Participants are responsible for costs associated with meals outside of the summer school session schedule and incidentals. There will be many options for meals within walking distance of the hotel, so participants should be able to work with a small meal budget. Also AstroTech does not pay for participants’ transportation to and from their departure airport. We hope participants are able to find inexpensive transportation. For those that need these costs covered, we encourage applicants to check with their department, university, or company for opportunities to apply for travel funds. For example, a faculty member or other supervisor may have a funding source that can support costs not covered by AstroTech.

For a detailed breakdown of costs, see our page on Program Costs.