TechnologyObserving FacilitiesEducation and OutreachAbout Haystack

Research Experiences for Teachers

Summer 2015
Westford, MA

MIT Haystack Observatory in Westford, MA, will host two local area high school science teachers during the Summer of 2015, under the sponsorship of the National Science Foundation. These teachers will work with staff scientists on a project using observational instruments and will receive hands-on experience in the field of radio astronomy and atmospheric science. Participants will also have the opportunity to attend weekly seminars focusing on various areas of research conducted at Haystack. The goal of the program is for the teachers to develop a unit of inquiry-based lesson plans for a particular high school level, based on their summer research internship.

Project for 2015:The Cryosphere is white, but not all is frozen water

Mentors: Pedro Elosegui and Michael Hecht

The word “Cryosphere” describes Earth’s snow and glaciers, ice on lakes and on the sea, ice shelves and icebergs, our massive continental ice sheets and vast expanses of permafrost. By reflecting sunlight from the Earth, this white, delicate component of the Earth’s ecosystem helps keep our global climate cool.

But imagine a world where winters are so cold that the air itself freezes to the ground? That world is Mars, where 30% of the atmospheric CO2 becomes “dry ice” during her chilling polar winters, only to sublime back to the atmosphere when the sun returns.

Scientists at the MIT Haystack Observatory use precision techniques to learn about motions, deformations, and changes in the Earth's cryosphere, particularly in Arctic sea ice, as well as in Mars.

High school students will have heard and read that polar ice is melting and that the climate is changing, but will probably not know how sea ice forms, what is the energy exchange associated with freezing and melting, how we measure ice mass, how sea ice affects ocean circulation or impacts the incoming solar radiation. High school students will know many facts about Mars but they will likely not know how can we study the martian polar water and dry ice caps. This RET has as its main objective to generate education material on the Earth and Mars cryosphere that can teach science students how to be critical thinkers about cryospheric news and climate studies.



We plan to host two high school science teachers for seven to eight weeks during the Summer of 2015 who will work at the research facilities of the MIT Haystack Observatory. Studying with MIT scientists at Haystack Observatory, the teachers will acquire sufficient background information to develop lesson plans at the requisite grade level for students in the classroom. The teachers will interact with staff and students, and learn about special research projects as they attend the summer seminar series and activities planned for students and teachers. As they begin their project, scientists will guide them in their studies of the subject.

The goal of the program is for the teachers to develop introductory lesson plans for a particular K-12 level based on their summer research internships. These plans can then be followed by other teachers interested in using these units or by students pursuing independent study. The lesson plans will be placed on the Haystack Web site and will be linked to a rich base of other research and educational materials located there. Links will also be provided to other sites associated with Haystack's research disciplines and to educational materials relevant to the effort. This will simplify access to the materials by all teachers and students in the future. Haystack will encourage all interested teachers to take advantage of these materials and to apply them to their class activities prior to visits or interactions with our group.

During the summer, stipends of $1,000.00 per week will be paid to the participating teachers. Scheduling of time is somewhat flexible, but requires a joint starting date. While the project is in progress teachers will have the use of working space equipped with a personal computer connected to our network. Opportunities are also available for the participants to report on their projects at selected professional meetings. Participation in this program requires a commitment from each teacher to integrate some part of this experience into his or her classroom activities. Participants are usually invited to return to Haystack for two to four weeks the following summer to refine their materials.

A meeting will be held at Haystack Observatory on Friday, March 27, 2015, at 4:00 PM to provide more information and answer any questions related to this program. Attendance is encouraged but not required for participation in this program. Directions to the Observatory can be found on the Haystack Web site. In the event of severe weather, please check this page to learn whether the meeting has been postponed. Questions about the program can be e-mailed to or addressed to Michael Hecht or Arthur Niell at 781-981-5400.

Application deadline is April 8, 2015. All applications must include the following items:

The application should be addressed to:

RET Program

MIT Haystack Observatory

Off Rte. 40

Westford, MA 01886

Application may also be submitted via email at:

The decision on teacher selection is expected to be made in mid April.


The results will be a series of inquiry-based lesson plans to be used as an introduction to the research discipline described above not only by the participating teacher but also by other teachers. These lesson plans will also be made available through the Web to all teachers as part of our expanding education program. Teachers are also encouraged to present the results of their experiences at professional forums such as the AAS, AAPT, NSTA or AGU meetings.


The primary staff mentors and coordinators of the RET program at Haystack Observatory include the following key personnel. Summaries of their vitae with emphasis on their educational experience and interests are outlined briefly.

Pedro Elosegui, Ph.D., 1991, Spanish National Research Council/Granada University. Research Scientist, specializing in geodesy, with emphasis on applications of space geodesy to studies in geosciences.

Michael Hecht, Ph.D., 1983, Stanford University. Associate Director, specializing in planetary sciences, with emphasis on precision techniques  for remote and in situ measurement of geophysical properties.