The Leiden/ESA Astrophysics Program for Summer Students (LEAPS) 2021
The application and review process for LEAPS 2021 is now completed, and all final offers have been made and accepted.
The organisers and the advisors of the LEAPS projects thank all the students who
applied for the 2021 LEAPS program. Due to the high number (more than 300) and
the high-quality of applications, choosing the best candidate for each project has been a hard task.
If you have not been contacted, we would like to encourage eligible candidates to re-apply next year.
LEAPS is an opportunity for students with an interest in astronomy and astrophysics
to perform a 10 week summer research project in collaboration with a research scientist
from Leiden Observatory or ESA. The program is open to all students not currently
engaged in a Ph.D. program, although most past participants have been senior-undergraduate
or masters' students who are enthusiastic about research in astrophysics.
Students are selected for the program based on their academic achievements
and research potential. Each applicant has the opportunity to choose up to two projects of interest,
and they are selected by project advisors based on what they
indicate their scientific interests and experience to be. Research at Leiden Observatory and ESA
takes place on a diverse array of topics (see below for LEAPS 2021 projects), and
student projects will likely consist of anything from the analysis of data from
world-class telescopes, to large computer simulations, to hands-on work in the astrochemistry laboratories.
The LEAPS 2021 program will run from June 14 to August 20 2021, although start dates for specific projects may vary. Due to the uncertainty surrounding travel restrictions amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the LEAPS 2021 program will be carried out remotely.
Leiden Observatory (located in the Huygens and Oort buildings, Niels Bohrweg 2, Leiden) is a world-class institute for research in astronomy and astrophysics based in the Netherlands, approximately 35km from Amsterdam. The atmosphere at the observatory is dynamic, with approximately 100 faculty/research scientists and 70 graduate students engaged in astrophysical research on a wide range of topics. Major fields of interest include extrasolar planets, star formation, cosmology, galaxy formation, instrumentation, and astrochemistry. Multiple research projects will likely be available within these fields.
European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC/ESA)
ESTEC is ESA’s largest establishment, and its technical and organisational hub. ESA develops and manages many types of space missions,
from exploration, telecommunications, to earth and space science. The Research and
Scientific Support Department at ESTEC consists of approximately 40 staff scientists,
with research interests ranging from the geology of planets in our solar system, to
plasma physics in the magnetosphere of the Earth, space weather, to observational
astronomy with ESA's space missions such as Planck, Herschel, GAIA and EUCLID.
How to Apply
The application process for LEAPS 2021 is now complete. We encourage interested and eligible candidates to apply next year.>
The program is open to all international students provided they are not currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program. For ESA projects (Type of project: ESA), in case of equivalent qualifications, preference will be given to nationals of one of the following ESA member states and cooperating states: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom plus Canada, Latvia, and Slovenia.
The working language of the observatory is English, and students should be sufficiently proficient in English to perform a research project.
If you have any questions about the application process or the program, please consult the Frequently Asked Questions page. If you have any questions that are not answered on the FAQ page, please
Past LEAPS Successes
The LEAPS 2019 cohort had a great summer in Leiden and are already starting to share their research results with the world.
Danielle Rowland (supervised by B. Ribeiro and A. Paulino-Afonso) presented her research with a poster at the 2020 American Astronomical Society meeting. See here.
Lorena Acuña presented exoplanet atmospheric transmission spectra she obtained following her research on "Exploring the clearness/cloudiness of the atmosphere of gas giant exoplanets" in a poster at the ARIEL Science, Mission & Community 2020 conference held at ESA/ESTEC in January 2020.
and more publications are on the way!
LEAPS 2015 was a great success! Twenty-two students from four continents spent their
summer in Leiden doing astrophysics research.
Joshua Borrow (with supervisor Pedro Russo) published a paper on astro-ph
entitled "A Blueprint for Public Engagement Appraisal: Supporting Research Careers."
Lukasz Tychoniec (supervised by John Tobin) presented his research at the
Polish Astronomical Society Summit, and his research already contributed to
one published paper and he is preparing a paper on the full results.
Tessa Wilkinson (supervised by Anna-Lea Lesage) presented her research at the
2016 American Astronomical Society meeting.
Jeremy Dietrich (supervised by Christian Ginksi) submitted a paper to MNRAS
"Archival VLT/NaCo multiplicity investigation of exoplanet host stars".
Maria Vincenzi (supervised by Carlo Manara) presented a poster at the workshop:
"The accretion/outflow connection in YSOs" at ESTEC in October and a paper is
Hope Boyce (supervised by Nora Lutzgendorf) presented a poster at the
Canadian Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics and a paper is in
The 2013, and 2014 groups of LEAPS students also performed very well and the first
scientific publications are out!
Ryosuke Goto and his advisor Sean McGee published a paper on galaxy formation in
the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society on his LEAPS project;
"The stellar mass function and efficiency of galaxy formation with a varying
initial mass function".
Steffi Yen and her advisor, Adam Muzzin, presented a poster at the
American Astronomical Society (AAS) winter meeting in Washington DC, "Searching
for the Most Distant Galaxy Clusters". See
Fiona Thiessen and her advisor Sebastien Besse submitted a paper on Lunar
surface composition and lava flows (figure below).
Conny Weber worked with Agnes Kospal on infrared variability of young stars
in Chamaeleon which featured on a poster at the "The Universe Explored by
Herschel" conference in Noordwijk
See the poster here.
Hannah Harris, a 2014 LEAPS student, and her advisor Pedro Russo published a
paper in the Space Policy Journal, "The Influence of Social Movements on
Space Astronomy Policy." See here.
Saul Kohn (now a PhD student at UPenn) and his advisor David Sobral published a
paper in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society on his LEAPS project:
"The most luminous Halpha emitters at z~0.8-2.23 from HiZELS". See here
LEAPS student Michael Hammer (from Cornell University) and his adviser
Lucie Jilkova studied close stellar flybys that lead some stars to lose parts of
their circumstellar discs. Using simulations in the AMUSE framework
(www.amusecode.org), they showed that if the two stars approach each other
close enough, part of the disc lost from one star can be transferred to the other
one. These close encounters can happen shortly after stars form when many stars
are clustered together. They further showed that even our Solar System might
have experienced such an interaction and stolen some material, which is now
orbiting in its outer parts, from another star. Michael presented a
poster on the results of his LEAPS project on the 225th
AAS meeting. The project eventually resulted to
publication in an international refereed journal, which led
to several press releases, for example:
New Scientist, Scientific American, Universe Today.
Figure of the submitted paper by Fiona Thiessen, students of the LEAPS 2013 class.
(a) M3 color composite image of the Imbrium basin (red: IBD1000, green:
IBD2000, blue: R750 nm). Numbers indicate the basalt units mapped in this work. Large
and spectrally bright craters are mapped separately in grey and were excluded from the
basalt units. The surrounding highlands and kipuckas inside the Imbrium basin are also
shown in grey. Dark strips correspond to portion of the lunar surface not observed
with M3 using OP1B. (b) Eratosthenian basalt flows from Schaber  with
flow phases I-III.
ESTEC group picture (joint tour with ASTRON summer school).
The rain could chase us away from LOFAR! (not quite drenched yet in this picture).
The 2013 LEAPS students (and some supervisors) on their visit to the Westerbork
Radio telescope in Dwingeloo, the Netherlands.