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Program Information

SARP Program Information

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The Student Airborne Research Program (SARP) is a eight-week summer program for rising senior undergraduate students to acquire hands-on research experience in all aspects of a scientific campaign using NASA's DC-8 or P-3B airborne science laboratories.

The DC-8 and P-3 are major NASA resources for studying Earth system processes, calibration/validation of space-borne observations, and prototyping instruments for possible satellite missions. Participants will assist in the operation of instruments onboard the aircraft to sample atmospheric chemicals, and to image land and water surfaces in multiple spectral bands.

Research areas include atmospheric chemistry, air quality, forest ecology, and ocean biology. Along with airborne data collection, students will participate in taking measurements at field sites. The program culminates with formal presentations of research results and conclusions.

Students interested in the program should have a strong academic background in disciplines relevant to the Earth system including the physical, chemical or biological sciences or engineering. Image processing and GIS experience will be useful for those interested in remote sensing.

Eligibility requirements include full-time student status at an accredited U.S. college or university. Women and minorities are strongly encouraged to apply.

Applications for the Student Airborne Research Program are opened each fall. Specific application requirements can be found in the annual program detail pages. Once applications are closed, the review process and resulting student selection process are based on the following selection criteria:

  • Excellent academic performance
  • Potential for contributing to nation's future workforce as judged by career plans
  • Evidence of interest in Earth system science and hands-on research
  • Ability to perform in teams

Approximately thirty students are chosen from the applicant pool each summer to participate in the program. Participants will be awarded a stipend as well as a meal allowance. Travel and living expenses will also be provided during the eight-week program.

SARP 2009-2015 Map

School locations of the 213 students from SARP 2009-2015

Outstanding faculty, mentors and staff are drawn from several universities and NASA centers, as well as from NASA flight operations and engineering. Program faculty will present detailed information on their research. Faculty and mentors will then guide participants through instrument and flight preparations, data analysis, and interpretation.


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June 30

Esther Thomas, University of New Orleans, (SARP 2011) operates the Whole Air Sampler onboard the NASA DC-8