LIGO Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF)


Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships

June 18 - August 23, 2024
Caltech  ·  LIGO Hanford  ·  LIGO Livingston

Program Overview

Undergraduate students in physics, astronomy and engineering are invited to participate in the development of gravitational-wave astronomy through the Caltech LIGO Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) program. This intensive summer program takes place each year at Caltech or one of the LIGO observatory sites, funded in part through the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program of the National Science Foundation. Undergraduate students from all institutions (both U.S. and foreign) are invited to apply to the Caltech LIGO SURF program. Research awards include a summer stipend and some funding for travel to the research site as needed.

Selected applicants who identify themselves as under-represented minorities will be contacted to inquire if they wish to participate in Caltech's WAVE program or to be considered for a Carl Albert Rouse Fellowship or a Victor M. Blanco Fellowship. See the WAVE page for details.

The LIGO Laboratory is an NSF-supported endeavor to design, build, and operate an astrophysical observatory for the detection and study of gravitational radiation. LIGO is a joint Caltech-MIT endeavor. The observatory includes two sites (Hanford, Washington and Livingston Parish, Louisiana) with laser interferometric detector systems. (More about LIGO and gravitational waves.) The aim of the Caltech LIGO Summer Undergraduate Research Program is to organize the participation of undergraduate students in research associated with the LIGO Laboratory.

Program requirements and expectations
LIGO SURF program at the Caltech SURF website


Caltech LIGO Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows will pursue research projects under the mentorship of one or more LIGO Laboratory scientists and/or engineers: faculty, postdocs, graduate students, scientific and engineering staff members, and expert visitors. They are all actively pursuing research and development in the science of gravitational waves, the astrophysics of their sources, and their detection via high-precision metrology. You can count on your mentor being a world expert in their field, passionate about their work, and enthusiastic about developing your research skills.

Students who are accepted into the program will be matched with a mentor based on their research interests as part of the admissions process. Students do not need to identify a mentor before they apply.

Range of projects

LIGO research projects may cover many areas of science and engineering related to the detection of gravitational radiation, including:

  • Laboratory projects in mechanical, laser, optical, and electronic systems
  • Modeling and analysis of optomechanical systems
  • LIGO Data analysis projects, including searching for and analyzing gravitational wave signals from astrophysical sources
  • Modeling of astrophysical sources of gravitational radiation

To see the 2022 projects, click the button below. The 2023 projects will be very similar. Please write your application in reference to these projects.


Students in the Caltech LIGO Summer Program reside either at Caltech, one of the LIGO sites in Washington and Louisiana, or UC Riverside.