Due to the uncertain times of the Coronavirus Pandemic, the 2020 Summer Institute has been cancelled. Please contact Julia Masterman at jmasterman@cuahsi.org with questions.



The National Water Center Innovators Program Summer Institute is a seven-week experiential learning program that brings graduate students together with academic researchers, other professionals, and National Water Center staff. Since the first Summer Institute in 2015, over 150 students have participated in the program, which continues to play an important role in advancing the National Water Model. 


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

  • About the Summer Institute

    The Summer Institute is a partnership between CUAHSI and the National Weather Service to engage the academic community in research to advance the mission of the National Water Center. Summer Institute participants work on projects related to water prediction and flood forecasting. Students work in small teams and are mentored by university faculty and other professionals. Student applications are accepted in the fall of each year. Selected applicants reside in Tuscaloosa for the seven-week program from June through July. 

    Although there may be some overlap between a Summer Institute project and an individual student's academic research, Summer Institute projects generally are self-contained. The Summer Institute culminates in a capstone event to which student's academic advisors are invited, as well as a final project report. Most project teams have published their work in a scientific journal after the completion of the program. 

    Review the following resources to learn more about the Summer Institute: 

    • Learn more about the program from Summer Institute alumni and instructors via this recorded presentation
    • Learn more about the National; Water model from Trey Flowers, Director of the Analysis and Prediction Division, NOAA/NWC/OWP here
    • View the Technical Reports highlighting student projects from the 2017, 2018, and 2019 Summer Institutes below: 
  • Program Eligibility and Student Award


    • M.S. and Ph.D. students enrolled in U.S. universities, in hydrology or a related field are eligible to apply to the Summer Institute. 
    • Because the National Water Center is a U.S. federal facility, accepted applicants must be approved through NOAA's security processes to participate in the program: 
      • Applicants who are not U.S. citizens will need to report their visa status, and if accepted, must be approved through NOAA's foreign national visitor approval process. 
      • Upon acceptance into the program all participants will need to provide additional security clearance documents and fingerprints. 
    • Students must be able to reside on site as the University of Alabama for the entire program. 


    Students selected to participate in the Summer Institute will receive: 

    • Reimbursement of travel expenses to and from Tuscaloosa. 
    • A meal stipend while attending the program
    • An honorarium 
    • Dorm-style lodging at the University of Alabama. Students will have their own bedrooms but will share a living suite. 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 will support travel expenses for advisors to attend the SI Capstone event. 
  • Program Dates

    The 2020 Summer Institute was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    General Program Timeline: 

    • Fall - Winter: Student application period; applications typically close in early January. 
    • Winter - Spring: Fellows accepted and security clearance process begins. 
    • June - July: Students on-site in Tuscaloosa for the seven week program, culminating in a capstone presentation. 
  • How to Apply

    The Summer Institute is not accepting applications at this time. Please contact Julia Masterman at jmasterman@cuahsi.org with questions about the applications process. 

    Sign up to receive the CUAHSI e-newsletter for updates on CUAHSI news and events, including announcements regarding the application process! 

    The application includes the submission of a statement of interest, letter of recommendation from the student's advisor, and a CV. 

  • Summer Institute Program History and Highlights

    The first Summer Institute, originally called the National; Flood Interoperability Experiment (NFIE), was held in 2015, and focused on the formation of a prototype National Water Model running in the Texas Advances Computing Center of the University of Texas at Austin. The prototype model demonstrated that the discharge on 2.7 million stream reaches of the U.S. could be simulated and forecast in near real-time using input precipitations and weather information produced by NOAA and a computational framework called WRF-Hydro developed at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). 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 demonstrated that the continental stream network could be treated as a single flow continuum, from atmosphere to oceans and from coast to coast. 

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

    2016 - The HAND (Height Above Nearest Drainage) method was coupled with the newly operational; National Water Model to establish, for the first time, the foundation for continuous near 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 are 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. View the 2017 technical report

    2018 - The fourth Summer The focused on the underlying science of the National Water Model through investigation of National Water Model hydrologic process algorithms, particularly related to the representation of groundwater and river channel processes, as well as modeling at very fine scales. View the 2018 technical report

    2019 - The fifth Summer Institute focused on the themes of Coupled Inland-Coastal Hydraulics, Scaling of Hydrologic Processes, and Hydroinformatics. View the 2019 technical report

    2020 - The 2020 SI was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    Participant Feedback 

    The Summer Institute has been described by participants as a transformative experience. 

    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 

    • Take a look at the Story Map describing the experiences of the 2016 Summer Institute Fellows. 
    • Watch the short video created by the 2016 Summer Institute Fellows
  • Contact Us

    Please contact Julia Masterman at jmasterman@cuahsi.org with questions.

    We encourage you to sign up for CUAHSI's mailing list to receive important annoucements regarding events and deadlines.

Photo Credits: Emily Clark (CUAHSI), Andy Ernest, Liu Zhu, 2019 Summer Institute Cohort