Academics sections


Quick links

E-mail and search functions

Degree Programs

The Department of Astronomy offers graduate programs leading to the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. The goal of the graduate program in astronomy is to provide broadly based training in modern astrophysics and astronomy for a small and carefully selected student body. Individually designed programs involving close contact with faculty members are encouraged, and an understanding of fundamental principles and techniques and their applications to research problems of current interest is emphasized. Students are expected to acquire a solid knowledge of modern physics as well as of general astronomy. A major objective is to maintain an exciting intellectual environment in which students can develop their scientific creativity and their enthusiasm for astronomy.

Master of Science

The Master of Science Degree in Astronomy is designed to give students a solid background in astronomy, skills that can be applied in astronomy-related professions and experience in research. 

Note: The degree requirements for the M.S. degree in Astronomy were recently revised, effective the Fall 2011 semester. Graduate students entering the University before the Fall 2011 semester have the option of using either the Fall 2011 degree requirements or the degree requirements in effect their first semester of enrollment.

Degree Requirements

Required Courses Required Hours
Formal Coursework:  
    • ASTR 501, ASTR 502 12
    • Additional formal coursework (excluding thesis research, non-thesis research, and independent study credit hours, e.g., ASTR 599, ASTR 590) 16
        • Of the additional coursework, the minimum number of hours in the unit (excluding thesis research, non-thesis research, and independent study credit hours) 8
        • Of the additional coursework, the minimum number of 500-level hours (excluding thesis research, non-thesis research, and independent study credit hours) 4
        • Based on Placement Exam results, students may be required to complete ASTR 404, 405, 406, and/or 414 during their first year. A maximum of 8 hours of these courses may be applied to the degree. 8 max
Research/Project/Independent Study Hours (e.g., ASTR 590; min/max applied toward degree): 4 min / 8 max
Total Hours 32
Other Requirements:  
    • Minimum GPA 3.0
    • Proficiency in Advanced Undergraduate Astronomy (see below) Yes
    • Language Requirement No
    • Thesis Required No

Demonstrated Proficiency in Advanced Undergraduate Astronomy (ASTR 404, 405, 406, and 414) 

Students must show proficiency in the four courses by one of the following options:

  • Pass the appropriate section of the placement exam (four sections aligned to the four courses), which is offered at the start of every Fall semester.  A student can petition to take the exam once more the following year.  The decision on petition approval by the graduate advisor will depend on the student’s background and proficiency plan.
  • Pass the course with a B grade or better.
  • Students who have had an equivalent course at other institutions (B grade or better) may petition for those courses to count as proficiency.

Research Project (minimum 4 hours)

The student will complete a research project with an Astronomy Department faculty member (i.e., ASTR 590).  A paper reporting the results is required, which must be prepared in scientific journal style and approved by the faculty member.

For additional details and requirements refer to the Graduate College Handbook.

Approved by the University Senate, May 2011

Doctor of Philosophy

The Ph.D. degree is for students who wish to pursue a career in academic research in astronomy or related fields.  Candidates for the Ph.D. degree undertake research programs that explore new horizons in astronomy, astrophysics, astrochemistry, and cosmology.  Average completion time is ~6 years for students entering with a bachelor’s degree. 

Note: The degree requirements for the Ph.D. degree in Astronomy were recently revised, effective the Fall 2011 semester. Graduate students entering the University before the Fall 2011 semester have the option of using either the Fall 2011 degree requirements or the degree requirements in effect their first semester of enrollment.

Degree Requirements

Required Courses Required Hours-Entering with approved M.A./M.S. degree Required Hours-Entering with approved B.A./B.S. degree
Formal Coursework:    
    • ASTR 501, ASTR 502 81 8
    • Additional formal coursework (excluding thesis research, non-thesis research, and independent study credit hours, e.g., ASTR 599, ASTR 590) 0 24
        • Of the additional coursework, the minimum number of hours in the unit (excluding thesis research, non-thesis research, and independent study credit hours) N/A 8
        • Of the additional coursework, the minimum number of 500-level hours (excluding thesis research, non-thesis research, and independent study credit hours) N/A 8 (4 in the unit)
        • Based on Placement Exam results, students may be required to complete ASTR 404, 405, 406, and/or 414 during their first year. A maximum of 8 hours of these courses may be applied to the degree. 8 max 8 max
Research/Project/Independent Study Hours (e.g., ASTR 590; min/max applied toward degree): 4 min / 24 max 4 min / 32 max
Total Hours 64 96
Other Requirements:    
    • Minimum GPA 3.0 3.0
    • Masters Degree Required Before Admission to PhD? N/A No
    • Proficiency in Advanced Undergraduate Astronomy (see below) Yes Yes
    • Qualifying Exam Required No No
    • Preliminary Exam Required Yes Yes
    • Final Exam/Dissertation Defense Required Yes Yes
    • Dissertation Deposit Required Yes Yes

1. Students entering with an approved M.A. or M.S. degree may proficiency out of ASTR 502, 503, and/or 504 with departmental approval.  Other ASTR graduate courses must be taken for substitute credit hours.

Demonstrated Proficiency in Advanced Undergraduate Astronomy (ASTR 404, 405, 406, and 414) 

Students must show proficiency in the four courses by one of the following options:

  • Pass the appropriate section of the placement exam (four sections aligned to the four courses), which is offered at the start of every Fall semester.  A student can petition to take the exam once more the following year.  The decision on petition approval by the graduate advisor will depend on the student’s background and proficiency plan.
  • Pass the course with a B grade or better.
  • Students who have had an equivalent course at other institutions (B grade or better) may petition for those courses to count as proficiency.

First Summer Research Project (4 hours)

During the first summer in residence, each student will enroll in ASTR 590 (Independent Study) and will complete a research project with an Astronomy Department faculty member.  A paper reporting the results is required, which must be prepared in scientific journal style and approved by the faculty member.

Preliminary Examination 

Ph.D. Preliminary Examination consists of a written preliminary paper on the Ph.D. research topic and an oral examination. It must be passed by the end of the third year of study.

Dissertation/Final Examination

Completion of an original research project culminating in a dissertation publishable in whole or in part is required. The final examination is a defense of the doctoral dissertation.

Residence

Students must satisfy all general University residence requirements. In addition, students must satisfy all Graduate College requirements. Students should pay particular attention to the Graduate College policies on the composition of preliminary and final examination committees.

For additional details and requirements refer to the Graduate College Handbook.

Approved by the University Senate, May 2011