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Director's Office > Office of Diversity and Inclusion > Broader Impact > National and International Non-Traditional Exchange (NINE) Program

National and International Non-Traditional Exchange (NINE) Program

SUMMER 2021 Program

June-July, 2021 - Charlottesville, Virginia

Focus: Using Radio Astronomy-related Software


NINE Program

In the United States, and across the planet, NRAO has been the leader in enabling cutting-edge scientific research with its world leading radio facilities. Part of NRAO’s core mission goals are to train the next generation of scientists and engineers and provide the US science community with cutting-edge radio facilities. The radio astronomy landscape across the globe is quickly changing, with a number of developing countries showing a keen interest in further developing the human capacity that will be essential to build, innovate, and operate their radio astronomy facilities.

In the U.S. there is also a strong desire to develop further our human capacity in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields, especially within traditionally under-represented[1] and under-served groups.

The challenges and obstacles faced by under-represented groups in the U.S. and overseas are similar. Increasing diversity and improving the environment for diversity are essential ingredients for human capacity development. The National and International Exchange Program (NINE) is part of the NRAO Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The program is geared towards enticing the best and brightest, both nationally and internationally, into high quality programs designed to benefit the participant, each partnering location, and the radio astronomy community as a whole.

The NINE program is not a 'science visit.' Due to the intensive NINE program schedule, opportunities to interact with scientists and engineers at NRAO are limited.

For information about NRAO science research opportunities for students, see https://science.nrao.edu/opportunities/student-programs

For information about science visits, see https://science.nrao.edu/opportunities/visitorsprogram

[1] We define under-represented and under-served groups to mean all of the following but not limited to people of color, women, economically disadvantaged and first-generation college students.



NINE Organization

The NINE program is part of the NRAO's Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

NINE Vision

Be a world-leader in providing practical learning opportunities in radio astronomy for the underrepresented. This means that the NRAO NINE program will initially provide opportunities for underrepresented professionals, technicians, administrators and, in some cases, students to come to NRAO and complete a short, intense training program (“NINE Training”) designed to teach sustainable skills in using radio astronomy-related software that the individual can replicate in their home organization’s NINE Hub program.

NINE Mission

The NRAO NINE program has a vested interest in building a pipeline of talent within the radio astronomy field, and within under-represented communities. The anticipated outcome of this program will be worldwide partnerships with fast growing radio astronomy communities designed to facilitate the exchange of NINE trainers and the co-mentoring of under-represented groups of learners.

NINE Objectives

The NINE’s objectives are to increase diversity and improve the environment for diversity for the purpose of human capacity development. To that end, the NINE Program uses NINE Training sessions to provide the necessary skills and experience so that the participant, upon returning to their home location, is prepared to take on the role of a NINE trainer in using radio astronomy-related software. The participant will also be responsible for developing an exchange program hub with the tools and processes provided by the NINE Program. These hubs will provide exchange opportunities: 1) for NRAO employees to deploy for short periods of study, 2) as training grounds for development at each home location, and 3) as a facilitator for additional NINE participation within NRAO.

Each participant, upon returning to their home organization, will be responsible for establishing the program at their site, providing the pipeline of interested learners (including technicians, students, administrators, and faculty/professionals), coordinating local logistics, and for communicating up-to-date information on the program to the NRAO NINE Program Manager.


Selection for participation in the NINE Program involves a highly competitive process. Participants must have approval from their home institution to participate, and must demonstrate commitment from the home institution to develop a hub. Applications are reviewed by a panel that assesses fitness for the Program through application review, discussions with references, and mentor and budget availability.

Applicants may come from a variety of careers and positions within the field of radio astronomy. All applicants must have demonstrated the ability, as determined by their supervisor, to develop and supervise a NINE hub.

Critical applicant qualities include:

  • an ability to work comfortably and professionally within a team that may be composed of participants from a variety of cultural and educational backgrounds
  • willingness to invest in long days of learning and working on projects
  • high tolerance for ambiguity and change
  • an ability to collaborate effectively and kindly
  • willingness to participate in group activities

NINE Training Program Description

The NINE Training program’s primary objectives are to:

1) provide training through short programs (up to three month’s duration, depending upon session) designed to teach the use of radio astronomy-related software that can ultimately be applied in the home location;

2) provide project management (PM) training and mentoring so that the participant leaves the training program with a fully-developed NINE Hub Plan for the participant's home institution.

The NINE Training program consists of the following steps:

Step 1: Hands-On Experience

In Summer 2020, the hands-on focus will be on using radio astronomy-related software. Specifically, the participants will learn to use VLASS data and Raspberry Pi units to combine and analyze astronomical images.

Step 2: Mentoring/Teaching Techniques

The NINE Program is structured in such a way that the participant, upon returning to their home location, will take on the role of mentor/trainer in their field of experience. The participant will learn the basics of how to instruct and mentor other participants.

Step 3: ‘NINE Hub Program’ Development

NINE Training participants will be responsible for developing an exchange program hub with the tools and processes provided by the NINE Program. This task is a critically important part of the NINE hub training experience, and will be accomplished through intense mentoring and training in Project Management (PM) techniques. Each participant, upon returning to their home organization, will be responsible for establishing the program at their site, for providing the pipeline of interested students and faculty/professionals, coordinating the local logistics, and communicating up-to-date information about the program to the NRAO NINE Program Manager.

Each NINE Hub must:

  • Identify and secure the tools and physical space required
  • provide the following:
    • A hub manager to ensure that the hub is able to operate
    • A trained individual to handle visa / travel / housing issues for international visitors
      • Administrative help for travel, housing, stipends, local information and transport
    • A location for NINE Hub Program (office space and meeting room or location)
    • Laptop or desktop + access to a printer + essential software
    • IT support for any problems encountered
    • Housing in walking distance or on campus if feasible
    • Access to needed tools (assistance to obtain needed tools is available from NINE)
  • Use the NINE Training program components to train others
  • Provide access to virtual classrooms and/or continuous distance learning environments (DVDs, CDs)
  • Foster long-term mentoring relationships with the HUB Trainees
  • Offer workshops to foster collaboration, professional development and networking

Step 4: NINE Hub Program Exchanges

The NINE hubs will:

  • Serve as training grounds for development at each home location
  • Serve as a facilitator for encouraging additional NINE applications
  • Offer opportunities for NRAO employees and/or other Hub Trainers to deploy for short periods of study
  • Promote the NINE Program by:
    • Developing processes to identify potential NINE Trainees

    Program Resources

    Resources for the NINE Program come from secondments (appointments paid directly by a participating organization via signed Memorandum of Understanding), and/or from funding made available through the NRAO.  These visits are hosted at one of the NRAO United States-based sites and last up to 6-9 weeks in duration. Mentors are provided during the stay, and then onward throughout the career of the participant. Upon acceptance into the program, NRAO will book the appropriate travel to and from the host site on behalf of the participant. Reimbursement of actual expenses (housing and per diem) is provided by NRAO. Interim travel back to home site is not included during the visit.  Participants are required to provide (proof of) their own health and travel insurance for the period of the short-term visit.

    International visitors must obtain a visa to travel to the U.S. before airfare can be paid. NRAO will provide a proposed itinerary, and may be able to reimburse the visa costs once the visitor arrives in the U.S.

    How to participate in the NINE

    • Before applying, please be sure that your home institution is prepared to serve as a Hub for the NINE program. It is highly recommended that you make an appointment to talk with the NINE Program Director or ODI Director. If selected for the program, your institution will be asked to sign an Agreement that affirms that the institution is prepared to participate as outlined in Step 4.
    • Applications should follow this format. In general, applications are accepted throughout the year, but assignments are dependent upon successfully completion of the review process, and availability of funding, staff, and facilities.
    • Applications must be received by February 1, 2019.

    NINE Program Presentations

    All NINE Presentations: https://info.nrao.edu/do/odi/broader-impact-programs/2018nine

    NINE Visitor Instructions

    Selected NINE participants can find more information about their visit here: https://info.nrao.edu/do/odi/broader-impact-programs/nine-instructions

    Internal NRAO Documents

    Documents related to the NINE program can be found here (accessible only by NRAO staff).

    NINE Events

    A listing of NINE Hub events can be found here: