Research Experiences for Teachers (RET)

REU student

Each summer, MIT Haystack Observatory hosts two local high school teachers for 7–8 weeks. The positions are paid under the sponsorship of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Located northwest of Boston in Westford, Massachusetts, MIT Haystack Observatory is a research center engaged in geospace science, radio astronomy, computer science, and engineering.

RET program details

The goal of the Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program is for the teachers to develop introductory lesson plans based on their summer research work at Haystack. These plans can then be followed by other teachers interested in using these units or by students pursuing independent study. The lesson plans are made available on the Haystack website.

During the summer, stipends of $1,000 per week are paid to the participating teachers. Scheduling of time is somewhat flexible, but requires a joint starting date. While the project is in progress, teachers have the use of working space equipped with a personal computer connected to our network. (The RET 2021 may be held partially or completely online.) 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.

Projects for 2021

(1) Living with a Star

Teachers will explore the life and times of our closest stellar neighbor—the Sun. They will be introduced to a variety of ongoing research topics at Haystack that pertain to the Sun and other solar-type stars, such as the birth and death of Sun-like stars, space weather, and the role of the host star on determining the habitability of planets (including the Earth and recently discovered exoplanets). These topics will provide a number of avenues for developing curricula that explore fundamental concepts in physics (as well as mathematics, biology, and/or chemistry, depending on the interest of the teacher), while at the same time introducing students to the extraordinary nature of our nearest star.

(2) Expanding STEM Content Access

Teachers will work with Haystack scientists and educators to create new avenues to access STEM content created by the Observatory. Our new website will serve as a platform to provide teachers with assistance and content to teach astronomy and physics. We would like to help educators and students learn more about radio science with lesson plans, pre-made data sets, and instructional videos from scientists. The RET position(s) will help design and create content for the website, with a focus on the Small Radio Telescope.

Applying to the RET program

Questions about the program are welcome; please email

The application deadline is May 1, 2021. Please submit application materials to:

All applications must include the following items:

  • Letter of interest with information about your professional background. Please indicate which 2021 project you would like to work on.
  • Résumé or CV.
  • Brief letter of reference from the head of the science department or the school principal that includes an expression of support for the inclusion of RET-related experiences in the classroom.