The University of California, Riverside, and the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena have established a UCR-Carnegie Graduate Student Fellowship program that will greatly benefit students in the university’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.

At any given time, the program will support two graduate student fellows. The fellowships will be offered each year. Each fellowship is for one year, extendable to two years.  Per year, the approximately $50,000 fellowship covers tuition fees, stipend, and benefits for each recipient. Recipients will be required to concentrate on full-time research.

“This is a great endorsement of the strength of UCR’s Astronomy Program — both faculty and students — by one of the world’s great observatories with a long history of major contributions to astronomy,” said Shawn Bowler, the dean of UCR’s Graduate Division. “The financial support is really very helpful as we try to find ways to support our students at the graduate level. The faculty who worked to make this happen deserve thanks for that alone. But the experience — and the positive contribution to the research of our students — is in many ways even more valuable to our students and our program.”

All students in the UCR Astronomy Program who have already passed their comprehensive exam are eligible to apply for the fellowships. A team comprised of UCR astronomy faculty and Carnegie science staff will review and rank the applications.

To apply for the fellowship, students need to submit a research proposal explaining the type of research they are going to perform while at Carnegie. They also need to explain how they will use the available facilities at Carnegie to perform their research. A steering committee will oversee the progress of the program and select the fellows. The first fellowship will be awarded in January 2019.

“Graduate student fellowships are very rare,” said Bahram Mobasher, a professor of physics and astronomy who was instrumental in realizing the agreement between UCR and the Carnegie Observatories, and will direct the fellowship program. “The UCR/Carnegie graduate student fellowship program will allow our students to work in both institutions and gain knowledge about future plans in astronomy. The program also brings two research groups together; the University of California and Carnegie are leading partners in the next generation of ground-based telescopes.”

The UCR astronomy group, one of the strongest astronomy groups in the UC system, now has 10 full time faculty — the result of strategic hiring to cover a wide variety of modern astronomy topics.

“As a result of this growth, a large number of research topics performed at UCR overlap with those performed by the science staff at the Carnegie observatory,” Mobasher said. “Further, both institutions are leading partners in Extremely Large Telescopes. A fellowship program like this is likely to lead to stronger collaborations between the UCR faculty and the Carnegie staff.”

The UCR Graduate Division will cover the tuition fees for two students per year. Carnegie will cover their stipends. The initial period for the program is five years and is extendable by another five years.

“I expect our graduate students will take full advantage of these fellowships, and turn in strong applications,” Mobasher said. “These prestigious fellowships will give them important new contacts, broaden their research experience, enhance career opportunities, give them access to telescopes such as Keck in Hawaii and Magellan in Chile, and give them the opportunity to learn about future developments in such Extremely Large Telescopes.”

-Iqbal Pittalwala

Inside UCR Awards & Honors