Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: What is the goal of the program?
A: TAURUS aims to recruit undergraduate students from across the U.S. who have career aspirations in professional astronomy and astrophysics. We are particularly interested in applicants who hold identities that have historically been under-represented in professional astronomy and STEM, more broadly. This includes students of color (in particular Black, LatinX and Native American students), students with disabilities, students belonging to LGBTQIA+ groups, women, and students with other intersectional identities. We hold this focus on students from under-represented groups in recognition that professional astronomers demographically are not representative of the US population as a whole, and that the lack of representation is a manifestation of social inequities. Programs like TAURUS aim to speed up the demographic shift towards proportional representation, and also build a supportive community of scholars that will last a lifetime.
Q: Is TAURUS an official Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program funded through the NSF?
A: No, TAURUS is not an NSF REU. The astronomy department at UT Austin does have an REU program which is launching in summer 2019. TAURUS will run concurrently to this REU, so that there will be substantial interaction between participants of both programs. However, some more minor programatic aspects of TAURUS and the REU will remain distinct. We encourage applicants who are eligible for both programs to submit applications for both TAURUS and the REU.
Q: What are the eligibility requirements?
A: Students should be pursuing undergraduate study in physics, astronomy, or a related field at a US institution (or alternatively, as a US citizen at an institution abroad). No preference is given to students with or without prior research experience.
Q: What is included in the application?
A: The online application involves short 200 word responses to three prompts, followed by some short questions about research interests and information about the applicant. We also request an unofficial copy of applicants’ undergraduate transcripts and a CV or Resume. Letters of recommendation are not required for TAURUS, although we do ask for the names of two references. We encourage applicants to read over the application first, and draft up their responses in a separate document before filling out the online form for submission.
Q: How hard is it to be admitted to TAURUS?
A: TAURUS is a very competitive program, and we are unfortunately only able to offer positions to one out of every ten students who apply. If you have applied in the past and have not been successful, we encourage you to reapply in subsequent years.
Q: When is the deadline, and what is the timeline of the admissions process?
A: Check our website for specific dates each year, but the deadline is typically around February 10-15. Applications typically open in December. First notifications of acceptance are sent out on March 1st and are typically finalized by the first week of April.
Q: I’m not a US Citizen. Am I eligible to apply?
A: Our funding does not require program participants to be US citizens, but we do focus on students who are based in and reside in the US full-time. This includes students who currently hold visas to study in the US or those who hold DACA status. While we appreciate that there are many students world-wide who are enthusiastic about our program, we are not able to accommodate students from abroad.
Q: I am currently a senior undergraduate set to graduate in the spring. Am I eligible to apply?
A: Yes. We consider applications from current seniors, even if you would potentially be attending TAURUS after you graduate. This is in recognition that not everyone has obtained a transformative research experience during their undergraduate education, and TAURUS can still play a pivotal role in developing critical research skills as you prepare for the next steps of your career. We consider applications from both seniors who may or may not have concrete plans after graduation. If this applies to you as an applicant, we would appreciate you including a brief description of your immediate plans in the “other information” part of your application materials (e.g. I’ve applied to graduate schools, I want to take a year off and work, I have a job lined up at Observatory X / Research Lab Y, etc.).
Q: I’m not pursuing a degree in astronomy, despite being very interested in the subject. Am I eligible to apply?
A: Though the majority of TAURUS Scholars have been pursuing undergraduate degrees in physics and/or astronomy, we also consider applications from students in related fields like engineering if there is a clear connection to astronomy expressed. Note that it is customary for students pursuing further education in astronomy (Masters or PhD) to major in physics, with the optional additional astronomy major if it is available at your university. We have, on occasion, accepted applications from students pursuing engineering degrees who might be interested in pursuing careers working in astronomical instrumentation or at observatories.
Q: My question isn’t listed here. Who can I get in touch with for more information?
A: Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll aim to get back to you within a few days.