Skip to main content
Educational Programs and Outreach

Application Instructions: National School on Neutron & X-ray Scattering

Please review these instructions before applying to the NX School. The process is highly competitive, and students who do not follow the procedures or do not meet the required criteria are unlikely to be accepted.

Qualifications to Apply

The School is only open to graduate students meeting the following criteria:

  • Who are enrolled in North American colleges and universities.
  • Who are pursuing experimental degrees.
  • Where knowledge of neutron and/or synchrotron experimental techniques are expected to be part of their thesis research.

Citizenship is not considered, but due to lab entry requirements, non-U.S. citizen students must have a valid visa. Students who have citizenship from, a birthplace of, or sponsorship/employment by a country that is a state sponsor of terrorism” (as defined by the U. S. Department of State) cannot be accepted due to the lead-time needed for site authorization.


Preference is given to students meeting the following criteria:

  • Who have at least one year of graduate research ahead of them after the school completes.
  • Who are in their 2nd or 3rd year of graduate study (unless in their 1st year after completing a Masters).
  • Who will need multiple neutron and/or x-ray techniques for their graduate work; students needing only a single technique, such as powder diffraction, small-angle scattering, XPCS, TAS, etc… are better served applying to a specialized workshop in that area.
  • Who have completed their academic course work.

Applications from students who have applied and were not accepted in previous years will be given extra attention in the review process; 1st year graduate students are encouraged to apply even though few are selected. Repeated application demonstrates a persistent interest in the School.

A priority for the School is to have as many departments, colleges, and universities as possible represented, so the School rarely accepts more than a single student from a research group. Graduate advisors are expected to rank their preference when they have multiple applicants within their group. The School does not always follow this ranking when proposals are not seen as of equal quality. Please note that applications from students who previously applied unsuccessfully are given more close review, so all interested applicants, particularly in their first years in grad school, are encouraged to apply.


Applicants are required to provide three individuals as references in support of their application. One must be the student’s thesis advisor. The application system will ask for the referrers information and automatically send out requests. Students are responsible for ensuring these evaluations are submitted before the application deadline.

The additional two referrers may come from outside your current department. Students sometimes request evaluations from previous research supervisors, beamline scientists, or graduate and undergraduate coursework instructors. The best choices are people most familiar with your work, interests, motivation, and knowledge.

Information Needed

To apply, you will need to supply some information about yourself, including: your department, major (field of study), coursework/qualifier status, graduate school GPA, information about any previous DOE appointments (which helps us with security paperwork), and citation info on any publications you have. If you have an ORCID ID (and you should get one), please give us that as well. We will additionally need the names of the people you will ask to be references.

There are also three longer entries (2500 character max), where you will need to write about:

  1.  Your professional experience and training (detailed list).
  2. Your previous experience with synchrotron or neutron beamlines.
  3. How you expect to use neutrons and/or x-rays in your thesis work and career.


Apply if you think the NX School can help you with the research you are doing, or expect to do for your thesis. If your thesis research is nearly complete, it is probably too late for you to apply. If you are in your first year and will not have completed your course work, you are less likely to be accepted, but you are encouraged to apply anyway, as it may help you be accepted in subsequent years.

While most applicants come from physical & biological science or engineering programs, the School has also accepted students studying anthropology, art history, and many other topics. Explain in your application (see #3 above) what you hope to learn about. The strongest applicants are those who wish to evaluate how a variety of both neutron and synchrotron x-ray techniques will pertain to their work and can explain this well, though a significant fraction of those who have been accepted expect to use only x-rays or neutrons. Students who document a need for only a single technique are seldom accepted. It may be helpful to look at the 2023 experiment resources and 2023 experiment descriptions to help guide you in your writing.

The most important aspect of what you will supply in the application is the Describe how you plan to utilize neutrons and/or x-rays in your thesis research and beyond.” Please put attention into this and explain how the knowledge you expect to gain from the School will benefit you in your graduate work. Please note that the reviewers (who are the School organizers) may not have much familiarity with your subject area, so you may need to clarify on details that might confuse them.

Note that this school does not cover macromolecular crystallography. Also, it is very much a hands-on experience, and thus is not appropriate for students doing theory, who want to better understand experimental techniques.

Following submission you will receive a confirmation email with your Student ID number, please refer to this number if there are any additional questions.