The Summer Institute is a unique program which brings together graduate students, academic researchers, and National Water Center staff to work on projects designed to improve water-related products and decision-support services.  Since the first Summer Institute in 2015, over 100 hundred students have participated in the program, which continues to play an important role in developing and refining the National Water Model. 

Information for the 2020 Summer Institute will be available later this fall. Please check back soon. 

View the report highlighting student projects from the 2018 SI: 
National Water Center Innovators Program Summer Institute Report 2018

Continue reading for additional information regarding program structure, student eligibility, and information regarding the application process.

  • About the Summer Institute

    The National Water Center Innovators Program was established as a partnership between CUAHSI and the National Weather Service to help engage the academic research community in the enhancement of the National Water Model. The main activity of the Innovators Program is a seven-week Summer Institute (SI) at the National Water Center, which brings graduate students together with faculty advisors and National Water Center staff to conduct group projects that involve rapid prototyping of new ideas. The intent is to create an innovation incubator where students from many universities can exchange ideas and advance concepts that, although they may be analyzed only for a short time and on a small study area, are illustrative of issues that affect the functioning of the National Water Model across the continental United States.

    The first Summer Institute, originally called the National Flood Interoperability Experiment (NFIE), was held June through July of 2015, and focused on the formation of a prototype National Water Model running in the Texas Advanced Computing Center of the University of Texas at Austin. The prototype model demonstrated that the discharge on 2.7 million stream reaches of the United States could be simulated and forecast in real-time using input precipitation and weather information produced by NOAA and a computational framework called WRF-Hydro developed at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The key innovation demonstrated at the first Summer Institute was a hybrid grid-catchment information framework for the National Water Model in which the land-atmosphere computations were carried out on square grid cells covering the continental U.S., and the resulting runoff was geographically transformed onto the 2.7 million catchments of the National Hydrography Dataset Plus (NHDPlus) and routed through the NHDPlus stream network. It was shown that the continental stream network could be treated in real-time as a single flow continuum, from atmosphere to oceans and from coast to coast.

    2019 will be the fifth Summer Institute. Students apply to attend the program in the fall. Selected students then plan to reside in Tuscaloosa for the seven week program from June through July. Students are grouped into teams organized around projects defined by the theme leaders and pre-selected topics. While there may be some overlap with the students' individual MS/PhD research projects, the expectation is that the work and research done during the Summer Institute will be a separate, self-contained projects.

  • Summer Institute Program Highlights

    2015 – The first Summer Institute, called the National Flood Interoperability Experiment, resulted in the development of a National Water Model prototype.

    2016 – The HAND method is coupled with the newly operational National Water Model to establish, for the first time, the foundation for continuous real-time flood inundation mapping across the United States.

    2017 – The third Summer Institute explored how the National Water Model can serve as a bridge between data generators (traditionally modelers who want to ensure the data is as accurate as possible) and data users (those who use data to communicate, plan, and respond), resulting in an unprecedented opportunity to improve the way that water information is exchanged and communicated.

    2018 – The fourth Summer Institute focused on the underlying science of the National Water Model through investigating current hydrologic process algorithms, particularly related to the representation of groundwater and river channel processes in the National Water Model, as well as modeling at very fine scales.

  • Information for Prospective Students

    The Summer Institute has been described as a transformative experience for graduate students.

    The Summer Institute is an invaluable opportunity for beginning-career hydrologists.  I cannot overstate the amount I learned, the increase of confidence in my abilities, introduction to new concepts and methods, and the relationships that I formed during the SI.  It is an experience that has made me feel like I am more posed to have an integral contribution to the hydrologic community and has given me direction in my studies and research.  I won't forget my experience at the SI for a long time to come. - 2017 Summer Institute Fellow

    If you are interested in learning more about the Summer Institute, please take a look at the following resources:

    Questions regarding the Summer Institute can be sent to


  • Program Schedule

    The schedule below is meant to be provided as an example for prosepective Summer Institute applicants:

    November Student application period opens
    Jan. 18 Last day to submit applications 
    Early February Student awards issued
    Mid-February Deadline for students to confirm attendance 
    June 14 Registration and orientation at the University of Alabama
    June 15 Summer Institute begins
    July 23 Summer Institute ends
    July 25 Summer Institute Capstone Meeting 
    July 27 Students move off campus 
  • Program Eligibility

    Applications will be accepted from current and incoming graduate students and post-docs within three years of graduating with their PhD. Applicants must be affiliated with US universities. Applicants who are not US citizens will need to report their visa status. Due to security regulations, all accepted applicant’s involvement in the SI will be contingent upon a foreign national visitor approval process. Upon acceptance into the program all participants will need to provide additional security clearance documents and fingerprints, and must be cleared by NOAA Security.

    Additionally, students must be able to reside on-site at the University of Alabama for the entire program.

  • Award

    Students selected to participate in the Summer Institute will receive reimbursement of travel expenses to and from Tuscaloosa, and a meal stipend while attending the program. Dorm-style lodging will be provided at the University of Alabama. Students will have their own bedrooms, but will share a living suite. Due to the scale of the program, CUAHSI is unable to accommodate requests for single occupancy suites or housing for spouses or children.

    We encourage involvement from the students’ advisors, and as such, CUAHSI has funds to support travel expenses for advisors to make a trip to attend the SI Capstone event.

  • How To Apply

    Students will be evaluated based on their background, knowledge, training, and experience, as well as the degree to which they have the skills and the abilities to work in a fast-paced, collaborative environment. While there may be some overlap with the students' individual MS/PhD research projects, the expectation is that the work and research done during the Summer Institute will be a separate, self-contained project.

    The application consists of: 

    • Application Form (submitted online through Proposal Space - you must create a free account to start your application)
    • Statement of interest. A brief statement which explains why you would like to participate in the SI and how the SI will contribute to your graduate studies. The Statement of Interest should be brief – one to two paragraphs is sufficient, not to exceed one page.
    • CV. A one to two page CV detailing your education and research.
    • Transcript. A recent copy of your transcript. Transcript may be unofficial (not sealed by registrar).
    • Letter of Endorsement from your faculty advisor. The letter should endorse the student's participation in the Summer Institute and explain why the student is qualified to participate in the SI and how the experience will benefit the student’s research. The letter should be signed by the student's advisor and uploaded as a pdf file. 

Photo Credits: Emily Clark (CUAHSI), Andy Ernest, Liu Zhu