National and International Non-Traditional Exchange (NINE) Program
NINE Program Manager: Lory Wingate
In the United States (and across the planet), the 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. South Africa and China, two developing countries are building a slew of observatories (MeerKAT, African VLBI, SKA, QTT, FAST, etc.). At the same time countries like Chile, Brazil and India have or recently acquired access to unique radio facilities (e.g., ALMA, GMRT, etc.).
Generally, the radio astronomy expertise in these countries is limited and these nations are interested in developing the human capacity that will be essential to build, innovate, and operate these 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 groups. By partnering with these nations the NINE program will foster astrophysics research and an exchange students and staff to not only train a new generation of scientists and engineers, who will be our long term international partners, but also to pave a path for access to the next generation of radio facilities for the US community.
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. It is geared towards building the next generation of scientists and engineers in STEM fields through 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.
 We define under-represented groups to mean all of the following but not limited to people of color, women, economically disadvantaged and first-generation college students.
Be a world-leader in providing assumable learning opportunities in Radio Astronomy for the under-represented. What this means is that the NRAO NINE program will initially provide opportunities for underrepresented professionals and students to come to NRAO and follow a short program designed to teach sustainable skills in any STEM functional area that the individual can assume as part of their own home organization program, and to form a long-term mentor/mentee relationship with staff at NRAO.
The NINE is a program to train and mentor participants in the full STEM spectrum of Radio Astronomy using bi-lateral partnerships led by NRAO. What this means is that the NRAO NINE program has a vested interest in building a pipeline of talent within the Radio Astronomy field, and within the under-represented community. The anticipated outcome of this program will be worldwide partnerships with fast growing radio astronomy communities designed to facilitate the exchange of faculty and the co-mentoring of under-represented groups of students.
The NINE’s objectives are to increase diversity and improve the environment for diversity for the purpose of human capacity development. The skills and experience learned will be structured in a way so that the participant, upon returning to their home location, will take on the role of trainer in the field of experience. They will also be responsible for developing an exchange program hub with the tool 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 students and faculty/professionals, coordinate the local logistics, and for communicating up to date information on the program to the NRAO NINE Program Manager.
Partnering agreements are currently being developed with organizations in U.S. underserved areas, and in international underserved areas such as South Africa, Chile, and Australia. The program will be extended in to China, India, as well as in other locations that have begun to express a desire to be engaged in the NINE mission.
Framework and Essential Components of NINE
Elements of the NINE program are as follows:
1. Exchange of students and postdocs
2. Exchange of faculty/instructors and other professionals in line with our mission of broadening participation for under-represented populations
3. Workshops to foster collaboration, professional development and networking
4. Virtual classrooms and continuous distance learning environments
5. Fostering of long-term mentoring relationships
The NINE Program provides learning opportunities throughout all disciplines affecting the full spectrum of activities associated with designing, constructing, and operating, radio astronomy observatories (Human Resources, Education and Public Outreach, Electronics, Engineering, Technicians, Operators, Project Management, Systems Engineering, and many others.)
NINE Program Description
The NINE Program is geared towards building the next generation of scientists and engineers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields through enticing the best and brightest from typically underrepresented organizations, 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’s primary objectives are to 1) provide supported short programs (up to three month’s duration) designed to teach sustainable skills in any STEM functional area associated with radio astronomy that can ultimately be applied in the home location, 2) to form long-term mentor/mentee relationships with staff at NRAO, and 3) position the participant to successfully develop a NINE Hub, capable of providing training in the STEM field of experience.
The NINE Program consists of the following steps:
Step 1: Process Learning
Prepare for and complete the international certification exam for the Program Management Institute Program Management Professional (PMI PMP) or International Council on Systems Engineering Associate Systems Engineering Professional (INCOSE ASEP). These certifications demonstrate an proficiency in industry standard processes used to achieve successful project outcomes and optimize science results.
The participant is expected to apply what is learned during the certification study and exam process onto projects as defined and scoped by the NRAO Program Management Department during the short program. Practical application of the processes within a real project is key to the experiential learning process that NINE employs. In addition, the ability to forge collaborations and to develop the ability to form mentoring relationships with many different departments and divisions across all disciplines is important in the development of sustainable skills in both of these areas.
Step 2: Hands-On Experience
Learn about radio astronomy while using the processes during construction of radio equipment, testing, commissioning, and observations, and during stand-alone projects defined by the NRAO Program Management Department.
- Learn about basic radio astronomy theory
- Understand electronics behind radio receivers and antennas
- Build a radio receiver and antenna(s)
- Test, commission, and observe, using both a built radio receiver and antenna, and also other telescopes at NRAO facilities
- Learn to process and interpret radio astronomy data, and contribute to the archive
Step 3: Mentoring/Teaching Techniques
The NINE Program is structured in 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 on how to instruct and mentor other participants. Participants may be exposed to any of these functional disciplines depending on their desire/mentor availability:
- Project Management
- Systems Engineering
- Builds, tests, and commissioning
- Science observing
- Science data reduction
Step 4: ‘NINE Hub Program’ Development
Participants will be responsible for developing an exchange program hub with the tools and processes provided by the NINE Program. 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.
- Identifying and securing the tools, physical space, required
- At each site we need to have the following:
- A trained individual to handle visa / travel / housing issues for international visitors
- Administrative help for travel, housing, stipends, local information and transport
- A trained individual to handle visa / travel / housing issues for international visitors
- 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)
- Put the processes in place
- Access to virtual classrooms and/or continuous distance learning environments (DVDs, CDs)
- Fostering of long-term mentoring relationships
- Workshops to foster collaboration, professional development and networking
Step 5: ‘NINE Hub Program’ Exchanges
The NINE hubs will provide exchange opportunities: 1) as training grounds for development at each home location, 2) as a facilitator for encouraging additional NINE applications, 3) and for NRAO employees to deploy for short periods of study. Each participant, upon returning to their home organization, will be responsible for promoting the NINE Program and:
- Developing the processes to identify potential students and postdocs, faculty/instructors and other professionals
- Facilitating their engagement in the NINE Program
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. NRAO may funding to cover the cost of three to six short-term visits per year. These visits are hosted at one of the NRAO United States-based sites and last up to 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. A stipend to cover living expenses for the visit period, transportation, and housing expenses is provided. 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.
Participation in the NINE Program is through a highly competitive process. Participants are selected by a panel that assesses fitness for the Program through application review, discussions with references, and mentor and budget availability.
The NINE program is part of the NRAO Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The Program Manager of the NINE is Lory Wingate firstname.lastname@example.org.
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. If selected for the program, your institution will be asked to sign an official MOU that affirms that the institution is prepared to participate as outlined in Step 4.
- All others, (international and national) including graduate students, faculty, and other professional-level applicants, may submit requests for consideration at any time by sending an email to email@example.com. Applications should follow the attached 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 will be reviewed by a diversity panel and selections made on a quarterly basis, pending available staff and funding.
If you are selected for the NINE Program
NINE Training Materials
As part of the NINE Hub program, NRAO, working with other partners, will deliver a series of virtual training opportunities designed to be accessible to Hub trainees via the internet (e.g., videos, streaming) or by CD/DVD. The training opportunities include 15-90 minute lectures, delivered by NRAO scientists and professionals, on topics related to radio astronomy (e.g., MASERS, AGNs, exoplanets) and the telescope operation.
- "Electronics of Jove: Building a Radio JOVE kit" - Paul Harden
- Intro to Radio Astronomy (undergraduate course at Hampton University/Howard University/Norfolk State University)
- Radio wave detection and techniques
- Observing Sun and Jupiter with Radio Jove (Lory Wingate)
- AGN/Black Holes
- Pulsars (Scott Ransom)
- Masers (Jim Braatz)
- Data collection and analysis