Student Observing Support (SOS) Program

NRAO maintains a program to support research by students, both graduate and undergraduate, at U.S. universities and colleges. This program is intended to strengthen the proactive role of the Observatory in training new generations of telescope users. SOS proposals associated with successful observing proposals submitted for the Green Bank Telescope (GBT), the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), the Very Large Array (VLA), and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) that are submitted through the North American executive are eligible. More general information on the program structure and background information is available on the Overview of the NRAO Student Observing Support Program.  A summary of the steps in the application process is as follows:

  • For ALMA proposals: Following the release of proposal dispositions to principal investigators, a separate call for SOS proposals will be issued to those PIs who have been granted observing time.
  • For JVLA/GBT/VLBA Proposals: The information regarding SOS proposals for each semester will be included in the disposition email itself.
  • After reading the Terms and Conditions, PIs of successful observing proposals must fill-out an NRAO SOS Proposal using our NRAO SOS Proposal Submission Form.
  • SOS proposal Requesting Investigators cannot be students or postdocs, but can be any other investigator working with the successful telescope proposal PI who is also resident at the same institution as the student for which support is being requested.
  • If the science conducted with the observing proposal will be part of the student’s PhD dissertation, a “Plan of Dissertation Research” of no more than 1000 words must be submitted with SOS proposals. At a minimum the plan should contain a thesis time line and an estimate of the level of NRAO telescope resources needed. The plan provides some assurance against a dissertation being impaired by an adverse review of a proposal when the full scope of the thesis is not seen.  New thesis plans must be in pdf format.  If the student is an undergraduate, or a graduate student who will not include the data in his or her thesis, then a brief description of the student’s role in the planned research project must be submitted instead.
  • It is vitally important for the SOS proposal PI to include an up-to-date listing of their current and pending support with their SOS application.
  • Subject to a funding cap of $35,000 per year per investigator (a maximum of $3,000 of which can be used for miscellaneous expenses for computer hardware and/or student travel to domestic meetings to present results based on funded research), eligible expenses include:
    • Student stipends.
    • Student travel to present results at a domestic scientific conference.  Note that travel support requested through an SOS proposal cannot be used for travel expenses associated with data acquisition or reduction. Those receiving funding through the NRAO Student Observing Support Program remain eligible for the standard NRAO user support programs, including travel to the NRAO for observing and data reduction.
    • Computer equipment.
  • The Budget Description section of the SOS proposal must include:
    • Justification for any student stipend requests.
    • Details regarding travel support requests (i.e. will travel funds be used to allow the student to present results from this research proposal at a meeting).
    • Any detailed information to support requests for computer hardware.
  • Funding will be awarded by the Student Observing Support Committee. Factors considered in making awards include, but are not limited to:
    • The ranking and scheduling priorities of the related observing proposal.
    • A work assignment that clearly outlines the student’s contributions to the research.
    • The importance of the work to the student’s professional development (e.g., whether or not the research will be included in the student’s dissertation).
    • A responsible request for funds, given the number of hours allocated to the observing proposal and the availability of other funds to support the research.
  • Shortly after submission of the SOS proposal you will receive notification of its receipt.
  • Within six weeks of your application, you will receive notification about the disposition of your application for student support. This latter notification will come from the NRAO Student Observing Support Coordinator. Contact Alison Peck for details.
  • If your application for student support is approved, you will be asked to read the General Provisions, and then fill in the Final Funding Proposal, Budget Form and the Final Funding Proposal, Budget Narrative Form. Funding is contingent upon the general terms and conditions outlined in the General Provisions. Awards will be added to a Cumulative Record of Awards.
  • Final Funding Proposals will be received and processed by the NRAO Student Observing Support Administrator.
  • After the proposal receives observing time, the award will be activated and the institution may then begin submitting Funds Report and Requests along with institutional invoices for access to funds. Invoices must be emailed to the NRAO Student Observing Support Administrator.

A list of the program’s documents and forms follows:

Student Observing Support (SOS) Status

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