Cal-Bridge HERA Astronomy Minority Partnership (CHAMP)

hera design  hera antennas

PHOTO (left): Design for a full 350-antenna HERA array. PHOTO (right): The first 19 HERA antennas constructed on-site in the Karoo Desert in South Africa.

Cosmology and Radio Astronomy research with CHAMP

The CAMPARE-HERA Astronomy Minority Partnership (CHAMP) program is a new opportunity within CAMPARE to study cosmology and radio astronomy at one of seven universities, which are partnering on the Hydrogen Epoch of Reionization Array (HERA) project, a new radio astronomy telescope being built in South Africa. The HERA array will explore the large-scale structure in the baryonic universe by observing the redshifted "spin-flip" emission line of neutral hydrogen gas, emitted  when the universe was roughly half a billion years old. It was then that light from the first stars was able to ionize the hydrogen from neutral atoms into electrons and protons—a period known as the epoch of reionization. The ancient light from this primordial neutral hydrogen gas has today been redshifted into the radio spectrum, requiring state-of-the-art telescopes like the one pictured above to detect its faint signal. 

CAMPARE scholars may work at each CHAMP site, as part of a team of faculty, postdocs, graduate students, and other undergraduates, on all aspects of the HERA project, including:

  • design and testing of critical subcomponents of the telescope and associated electronics
  • writing computer code to analyze test data
  • early data analysis, advanced pipeline development, and end-to-end data and analysis simulations
  • studying radio-frequency interference
  • building models of extended radio sources to improve image-based calibration
  • modeling of expected results

Students with an interest in hands-on laboratory and computer-based work, while working to understand the underlying science of the project, are especially encouraged to apply to CHAMP. While prior experience with electronics and computer programming are not required, such experience should be indicated in your application. Barring such experience, a strong interest in learning such skills is critical to a successful experience in these opportunities.

Visit each of the CHAMP research sites in the navigation at right to explore the projects at each site. Students who apply to CHAMP may be placed at any of the seven sites, but preferences for placement may be noted in the personal statement.

Program Details

What is it?

Students will begin the summer attending a one week radio astronomy “boot camp” designed to give them some of the skills they will need to succeed in their research. They will then work for the next 9 weeks with faculty and staff at one of the CHAMP sites on HERA-related projects.

Selected students will receive a $6000 stipend for the full 10 weeks. In addition, participants will be provided with housing and will be reimbursed for travel from home or campus to their research site.

Who should apply?

Applicants must be at least 18 years of age by the beginning of the program. They must be enrolled in one of the CAMPARE participating institutions at the time of their application. Participants should not have graduated from their 4-year institution before the beginning of the summer internship. Community college students in the process of transferring to a 4-year institution are eligible to apply.

All applicants must have completed a minimum of one full year of college-level physics by the start of the program.

When and How to Apply

Applications are due February 1, 2022. To apply to the program, follow the Application Instructions.

In addition, you must ask two faculty members (or others familiar with your academic or work background) to submit letters of reference using the link on the application instructions page. Indicate their names, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses in your on-line application where appropriate. It is your responsibility to confirm that these letters have been sent and failure to obtain these two letters will render your application incomplete and lead to its rejection without review.

Successful students will be notified in March. The research program runsMonday, June 6, to Friday, August 12, 2022 (10 weeks). Participants must be available during the entire 10-week period of the program.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grants DUE-1741863, AST-1636646, and AST-1836019.