Program Overview

Is the Yale Summer Program in Astrophysics for you? 

  • Are you passionate about Astronomy and Physics? 
  • Are you ready for the challenge of working on a complex project at an elite research university? 
  • Are you ready to see what you can do when you push yourself and the Universe is the limit? 
  • Are you excited to make friends that will last a lifetime? 
  • If so… read on!

The Yale Summer Program in Astrophysics (YSPA) is a research and enrichment program hosted at the Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium (LFOP) at Yale for 32 rising high school seniors (high school students who are juniors when they apply) who have shown an aptitude for science and math, an interest in astrophysics, and who are considering going into careers in scientific research. The program consists of a two-week online (June 24 through July 5, 2024), directed self-study program followed by a four-week residential program (July 7 through August 4, 2024). Students at YSPA live together in a dormitory, take classes at the Leitner Planetarium, learn to program and analyze data in the computer lab at the Leitner Observatory, and use the telescopes at the Leitner Observatory (as well as remote observatories) to collect data for their research project. At the end of the program, students write up their results in the form of a scientific paper and then present those results at our YSPA mini-conference.  

It’s difficult to describe what to expect from YSPA compared to the other ways a high school student might choose to spend her or his summer. If you do a research internship in a scientist’s lab, you might learn some advanced research techniques, but you might not learn any of the fundamental concepts behind the research, and you might not make friends with anyone your age with your interests. At a college summer course, you might learn some interesting science and math and experience a college campus but not get any hands-on experience or learn research methods. At a summer camp, you might have a lot of fun and make a lot of new friends, but you probably would not get to learn new and interesting science (depending on the camp). 

YSPA is not a camp, it’s not a summer course, and it’s not a research internship, but it has elements that are like all of those things. You can expect to be challenged academically and personally and to be pushed to explore the boundaries of your comfort zone. You can expect to feel satisfaction and a boost in self-confidence after completing a complex research project. You can expect to meet peers who are fun, super-smart, and as passionate about science as you are. You may find that completing the program is one of the hardest and most rewarding things you’ve ever done. 

The main goal of YSPA is to provide our students with the opportunity to be academically and personally challenged in a professional scientific research environment. With the experience of meeting these challenges, they can go to college with the confidence that scientific research is something that they are ready to pursue. YSPA has the secondary goal of accelerating the personal growth of our students by giving them the opportunity to live and work in a university environment with their true peers– other high school seniors from around the world who have similar interests in math and science. Finally, YSPA also has a goal of teaching our students practical skills in computer programming, data analysis, statistics, writing, and other research methods— skills which are essential in all science, engineering, and tech fields. See An Inside Look at YSPA.

Many of our alumni have found YSPA to be a life-changing, formative experience. For students’ perspective on what the program is like, check out the YSPA student blog.