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Graduate Program Requirements

Master of Arts in Astronomy

  • Course Requirements:
    A minimum of 30 credit hours, including any three astronomy graduate core courses. 
  • Thesis: 
    A thesis may be required at the discretion of the department.  Students for whom the thesis requirement is waived must still complete a project that demonstrates research proficiency. 
  • Final Examination: 
    An oral examination must be passed covering general astronomy at the A450-452 level, the core courses applied toward the degree, and the thesis research.

Doctor of Philosophy in Astronomy

  • Course Requirements:
    A total of 90 credit hours.  Graduate studies are organized around 8 core courses:

    Astronomy Department
    Core Courses

    A505

    (3)

    Observational Techniques

    A520

    (3)

    Interstellar Medium

    A530

    (3)

    Galactic Astronomy

    A540

    (3)

    Stellar Atmospheres

    A550

    (3)

    Stellar Interiors

    A570

    (3)

    Galactic Dynamics

    A575

    (3)

    Structure and Evolution of Galaxies

    A580

    (3)

    Cosmology


    Normally, each of these courses is offered every other year, and they may be taken in any sequence.  The remainder of the graduate program consists of elective courses, seminars on advanced topics, research, and dissertation. 
  • Grades:
    Grades below B (3.0) in core courses may be counted toward degree requirements only at the discretion of the department. 
  • Minor:
    Most doctoral candidates in astronomy minor in physics, or scientific computing.  Other minors may be permitted at the discretion of the department. 
  • Qualifying Examination:
    In order to be advanced to candidacy, a student must pass a written examination covering the core course material plus general astronomy at the A450/A451/A452 level.  The examination may be taken no more than twice.  The examination is usually offered once a year in late May/early June.  In its current form, it consists of one 5 hour exam covering the material in the core courses and general astronomy knowledge at the undergraduate level. 
  • Candidacy Seminar:
    The candidacy seminar is an oral presentation to the research committee, usually consisting of a thesis proposal and/or a summary of past research activity. It must be completed within a year of passing the written Qualifying Examination (typically by the start of the fourth year of residence). 
  • Final Examination:
    Oral defense of the dissertation.

Doctor of Philosophy in Astrophysics

  • Admission Requirements:
    Students must first gain admission to either the Department of Astronomy or the Department of Physics and then petition the Astrophysics Committee for entrance into the program after establishing departmental residency. A student should have the combined admission requirements of doctoral students in astronomy and physics; i.e., a thorough undergraduate training in physics and mathematics plus familiarity with general astronomy. Deficiencies must be removed early, usually without graduate credit. 
  • Course Requirements:
    In addition to the dissertation, a total of 90 credit hours are required, including 4 courses or their equivalents from the following Physics courses: Physics P506, P507, P511, P512, P521, P556, P609, P637; and 4 courses or their equivalents from the following Astronomy courses: Astronomy A505, A520, A530, A540, A550, A570, A575 and A580; and one additional physics course or astronomy core course. Other physics courses may be approved by the Astrophysics Committee upong petition by the student. 
  • Minor:
    By meeting the course requirements for this degree, a student from the Department of Astronomy will automatically fulfill the requirements for a minor in physics, and a student from the Department of Physics will automatically fulfill the requirements for a minor in astronomy. 
  • Foreign Language/Research-Skill Requirement:
    A student in the Astrophysics Program must meet the foreign language/research-skill requirements (if any) of the department of residence. 
  • Grades:
    Grades below B (3.0) in astronomy and physics courses may be counted toward degree requirements only with the consent of the astrophysics committee. 
  • Qualifying Examination:
    There are three ways a student can pass the astrophysics qualifying examination.
  • i) Pass the full Physics qualifying exam

    ii) Pass the full Astronomy qualifying exam.

    iii) Pass specially designated parts of the qualifying examinations of both departments--specifically, half of the physics qualifying examination, which emphasizes classical mechanics, electromagnetism, and statistical physics--plus part of the astronomy qualifying examination.  For the astronomy qualifier, the student is required to answer one of the two general astronomy questions and 4 of the remaining questions. The examination requirements must be satisfied by the end of the student's sixth semester in residence.  The department of residence may also specify its own deadline for passage of the examination it administers. 

  • Candidacy Seminar:
    The candidacy seminar is an oral presentation to the research committee, usually consisting of a thesis proposal and/or a summary of past research activity. It must be completed within a year of passing the written Qualifying Examination (typically by the start of the fourth year of residence).  
  • Final Examination:
    Oral defense of dissertation.