UM-SANSA International Research Experience for Students (IRES)

The University of Michigan and South African National Space Agency (SANSA) Space Weather International Research Experience for Students (IRES) program (UM-SANSA-IRES or MSI for short) will support 18 students (six per year) spending the northern hemisphere summer (8-weeks) at the SANSA Space Science Directorate located in Hermanus, South Africa working on a variety of space weather science and engineering projects. The students will be paired with SANSA scientists, engineers and post-docs to provide one-on-one research mentoring and will participate in the annual “Space Weather Winter School” held by SANSA in June and July.

Two-weeks worth of pre- and post-trip activities at the University of Michigan will provide scientific, cultural and professional development programs to enhance the impact of the international research experience. The students will also have a U-M scientific mentor to engage the students’ prior and after the IRES experience, which also fosters scientific collaborations between U-M and SANSA scientists and engineers. Space Weather is the field of space science that seeks to understand the impact of solar disturbances on the Earth’s space environment especially with respect to technology.

The goals of MSI include:

  • Engage undergraduates in publishable research projects
  • Development of students’ scientific communication skills
  • Development of culturally competent and societally aware scientists and engineers
  • Strengthening existing and developing new UM and SANSA collaborations and exchanges
  • Application Deadlines and Descriptions

Project Timeline

MSI will be a 10-week program, with one week’s worth of activities at U-M late in the Winter semester, an 8-week research experience at SANSA, and a week’s worth of activities at U-M early in the Fall semester. Specifically, the annual calendar of the MSI program will be:

Fall Semester:

NEW STUDENTS: (September through December): Recruitment (online, email, web-page, presentations to key audience targets (such as M-STEM and WISE).

RETURNING STUDENTS: (August, September and October): Debrief and evaluation meeting, meetings with U-M mentor, Graduate Program Workshop, MSI conference/undergraduate Symposium.

Winter Semester:

NEW STUDENTS: (January-March): Applications due, applications evaluated, group interviews conducted, MSI cohort selected. (March-April): MSI students paired with U-M and SANSA mentors (face-to-face meeting with U-M mentors and Skype meeting with SANSA mentors), Science Research Journal Club meeting, Science Communication Workshop (Portals to the Public and SAIP Abstract activities), International Research Orientations (travel logistics, cultural awareness, culture shock awareness, reporting activities and training (blog creation, weekly reporting requirements, Twitter and Facebook logistics) and pre-program participation evaluation surveys.

RETURNING STUDENTS: (April) one-year evaluation survey regarding graduate school and career plans.


END OF MAY, JUNE through MID-JULY: Students reside at SANSA conducting research and outreach activities with SANSA mentors and education professionals (SANSA drivers will pick up MSI students from Airport and SANSA will provide a welcome orientation upon arrival in Hermanus).

END OF JUNE and EARLY JULY: SANSA Space Weather Winter School (PI will participate).

EARLY JULY: presentation of results at SAIP meeting.

MID-JULY: Pre-departure “debrief” and discussion of “reverse-culture shock” issues (things to expect upon their return after an extended foreign travel); Departure “Braai” (a South African BBQ) party to thank the SANSA mentors, staff and students and help “close” the research experience (funds budgeted for this event); departure back to US (PI will depart country with MSI students and confirm arrival of students back in US).

Applying to the Program

Applications are due by February 16th to be eligible for the program. In addition to your application, please arrange for one of your professors to write a brief reference letter. Go to the U-M SANSA IRES application page for additional details and to apply.