International Research Experiences for Undergraduates


The main goal of this NSF funded program is to take 6 undergraduates, from the upstate New York area, to Brazil for 6 weeks every summer for the next 3 years (a different set of students each time), and have them collaborate with leading Astronomers/Engineers and students from the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC) (in particular Prof. Antonio Kanaan) and the Laboratorio Nacional de Astrofisica (LNA) to firstly develop software for a robotic telescope, and secondly, to use this robotic telescope in making observations pertinent to cutting edge Astrophysics problems such as the crystalline structure of white dwarfs and the Cepheid distance scale. This project is in collaboration with Prof. Antonio Kanaan of the Physics Department, UFSC. A secondary goal is to give students a significant cultural experience by living/working in a very different environment to upstate New York. Students will also be able to develop an extensive set of professional contacts which will be of use in their future careers.

Application procedures are given at the bottom of this page.


Probably from July 10-August 20, 2008, 2009, 2010. Some flexibility around these dates may be required. This choice is dictated by availability of UFSC personnel but will enable students to experience UFSC at the end/beginning of a semester and in between semesters.

What is provided?

Students air fare, accommodation for 6 weeks, health insurance, plus a stipend of $2160 are provided by the NSF. Though the working language will be English, students will be expected to take a short course in Portuguese/Brazilian culture and history at SUNY Oswego prior to the trip to enhance their overall educational experience. This course plus the 6 week research component in Brazil is available as a 3 unit credit course through SUNY Oswego's Office of International Education Programs (OIEP).

What do you provide?

You need to provide a valid passport and visa. If you do not have a passport and are interested in going you should apply for one IMMEDIATELY. Suitably qualified students from minority groups are strongly encouraged to apply.

What experience do you need?

We welcome applications from Math/Computer Science/Engineering/Physics/Astronomy majors. You do need to have strong computer/programming skills and should have tried some programming in Python.

The Project

Students will work closely with Brazilian undergraduates/graduate students on initially developing software for the robotic telescope control system: example projects include a GUI interface for users, pointing verification, a fine guidance system for long exposure objects, checking the focuser, and developing a data reduction pipeline. The control system is written in Python and students should become familiar with this before embarking on the trip. Science projets include observation of Cepheids in the Magellanic Clouds, analysis of a new set of infra-red observations of LMC Cepheids, working on Whole Earth telescope (WET) observing campaigns and searching for roAp stars in open clusters.

Students will be based at UFSC though they will spend 1-2 weeks at the LNA facility in Minas Gerais in the interior of Brazil. During the trip, students will be able to attend talks on research topics of interest to UFSC/LNA faculty in Physics/Astrophysics/Computer Science and Astronomical Instrumentation.

There will be wonderful opportunities to mix socially with Brazilian undergraduates and experience a wide range of local cultural activites.

Brazil, Santa Catarina and Florianopolis

Students will be based in Florianopolis which is located on the beautiful island of Santa Catarina in the South of Brazil. A map of Brazil showing its location is given here.

A map of the island of Santa Catarina where you will be based is here.

A picture of the historic center of Florianopolis is here. Canto da Lagoa is here. The bridge connecting Santa Catarina island to the mainland is here. Some of Floripa's numerous beaches are shown here and here. Some more pictures can be found here.


A picture of the probable B&B where accommodation will be provided is here and the view from one of the bedrooms is here.

The Federal University of Santa Catarina

The Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC) is one of the premier research universities in Brazil. Students in this program will be based in the UFSC Departamento de Fisica. This department consists of over 50 faculty members with specialities ranging from astrophysics, condensed matter nuclear physics, thin films and medical physics. Students will have the opportunity to attend lectures in many of these areas. Students will interact closely with members of the astrophysics group at UFSC, in particular Prof. A. Kanaan who is leading the robotic telescope project in Brazil.

A picture of the main campus of UFSC is here.

Laborotorio Nacional de Astrofisica

The Laborotorio Nacional de Astrofisica (LNA) is responsible for maintaining and running the Pico do Dias Observatory (OPD) in Minas Gerais, Brazil. This is the largest professional observatory in Brazil. LNA reports directly to the Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology and is charged with providing the infrastructure for optical and infra-red astronomy for the entire Brazilian community. It has a staff of astronomers, mechanical and electrical engineers and is in the forefront of a number of instrumentation projects for the GEMINI and SOAR telescopes. LNA staff have extensive contacts internationally. Students will have the opportunity to interact closely with LNA personnel.

LNA is located in the town of Itajuba, Minas Gerais. Some pictures of the robotic telescope are here, its control room and a view of the surroundings.

How do you apply?

For more information, email kanbur(at) A flyer is here. Review of applications will begin on January 10 and continue until all positions are filled. Electronic applications can be sent to kanbur(at) Applications consist of a CV, undergraduate grade transcript, two reference letters, and a short statement outlining how you could contribute to the project and what you expect to gain from the overall experience to

Dr. Shashi Kanbur

Department of Physics

SUNY Oswego

Oswego, NY 13126