Department of Astronomy

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Graduate Program Requirements

Requirements for the Ph.D. degree include coursework, a Ph.D. qualifying examination, and a written doctoral thesis.

In consultation with the departmental faculty, students build an individualized curriculum of courses in Astronomy and other related fields. The University requires a total of 36 hours of course work for students entering with a bachelors degree, or 18 hours of coursework for students entering with a masters degree. These requirements can be met by a variety of lecture courses and supervised research.

Required courses for the degree consist of:

  1. ASTR 406 Astronomical Techniques
  2. ASTR 411 Stellar Physics
  3. ASTR 423 The Local Universe
  4. ASTR 428 Cosmology and the Structure of the Universe

These required courses may be waived if a student has earned a B or better in equivalent coursework elsewhere).

Aside from the required courses, students may choose from a variety of elective courses, depending on their specific interests Possibilities include:

  1. ASTR 433 Dark Matter
  2. ASTR 497 Special Topics in Astronomy
  3. MATH 444 Mathematics of Data Mining and Pattern Recognition
  4. MATH 439 Integrated Numerical and Statistical Computation
  5. PHYS 413 Classical and Statistical Mechanics I
  6. PHYS 414 Classical and Statistical Mechanics II
  7. PHYS 451 Empirical Foundations of the Standard Model I
  8. PHYS 465 General Relativity
  9. PHYS 481 Quantum Mechanics I
  10. PHYS 566 Cosmology

Note that Graduate Studies requires a PhD student to have a grade point average of 3.0 or above to remain in good standing.

Ph.D. Qualifying Exam
During the summer that follows the end of their second year of classes (usually in Mid-June), students take a combined written and oral qualifying exam based on the material in the required Astronomy coursework. The exam also includes a presentation on the student’s research. Admission to PhD candidacy is contingent on the student passing this qualifying exam, and on demonstrated competence in individual research. Such competence may be evaluated by the student’s research adviser(s), by the student’s performance in presentations during the academic year (ie journal club talks) and on the qualifying exam research presentation.

If a student fails the qualifying exam, he or she will be allowed to re-take the exam one more time before separation from the University, as described in the Graduate Student Handbook.

The Doctoral Thesis
Students must complete a doctoral thesis consisting of original research in Astronomy, supervised by a faculty member. This thesis will be reviewed by the student’s thesis committee; award of the Ph.D. is contingent on the approval of the thesis by the thesis committee.

Page last modified: May 29, 2015