The Keck Visiting Scholars Program aims to inspire and develop the next generation of scientists and instrumentalists by providing hands-on experience in observational astronomy, hardware, and software involving active instrument operations and real-time problem solving. In our Keck Visiting Scholars Program, funds are provided for early career scientists (graduate students and postdoctoral students) to reside at W. M. Keck Observatory, working with our resident astronomers and instrumentalists for periods of one to three months.

Today’s early career astronomers often have less experience than previous generations with the telescope, the scientific instruments, nighttime observing, or the data reduction via which their scientific data is obtained. Because queue mode observing is commonly used on many ground-based telescopes, and space-based telescopes come with fully developed data pipelines, visiting observers assume Keck Observatory resident astronomers will conduct all the observing for them, a situation that would have been unheard of 10 years ago.

Keck Observatory saw an opportunity to help early career scientists gain some of the basic knowledge behind the collection of data through direct observing. As such, we have created an innovative, multi-year program through which we can provide observing opportunities of benefit to both early career scientists and their Keck Observatory mentors. 

In turn, the Keck Visiting Scholars Program brings to our workplace the unique talents of graduate students and postdocs in astronomy performing their own observations on site at Keck Observatory, working directly with our resident astronomers, while also helping visiting scientists perform their astronomical research. Each visiting scholar is afforded the uncommon opportunity to accelerate their scientific career by working with some of astronomy’s most highly regarded researchers at the world’s premier Observatory.


  • Early career scientists will be better prepared in their profession by developing their intuition about telescope and instrument operations, data collection, real-time problem solving, and the observational astronomy experience.
  • Early career scientists, who are specializing in areas of adaptive optics, planetary science, astronomical instrumentation, and data collection will further their knowledge with hands-on experience alongside experts in these fields.
  • Keck Observatory will benefit from the student’s professional collaboration as well as the student’s assistance in progressing Observatory projects to improve operations and astronomical performance.
  • Early career scientists will provide a talk to Keck Observatory staff about what they learned from their visit and a final report which in the best case scenario would be a submission to an astronomical or technical journal.

Keck Observatory will host six to eight graduate students / postdoctoral scholars per year. If you are interested in supporting the Keck Visiting Scholar Program, please contact Ed Harris at eharris@keck.hawaii.edu, or Joan Campbell at jcampbell@keck.hawaii.edu or (808) 885-7887.

About W. M. Keck Observatory

The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes on Maunakea on the Island of Hawaii feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectrometers, and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems. The Observatory is a private 501(c)3 non-profit organization and a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, and NASA.