C319 Physics-Astronomy Building
Modern research in astronomy and astrophysics encompasses a large number of disciplines and specialties. Research areas include planetary systems and astrobiology, stellar structure and evolution, interstellar matter, binaries and compact objects, galactic structure and dynamics, galaxies and quasars, and large scale structure and cosmology.
The Department of Astronomy offers the following undergraduate program:
Bachelor of Science
Suggested First-Year Courses: MATH 124, MATH 125, MATH 126; MATH 308, MATH 324; PHYS 121, PHYS 122, PHYS 123. At community colleges it is better to take courses in physics, chemistry, mathematics, and computer science rather than the usual introductory astronomy courses.
Department Admission Requirements
PHYS 121, PHYS 122, PHYS 123 (or full transfer equivalent) with a 2.00 cumulative GPA for the three courses.
89 credits as follows:
Student Outcomes and Opportunities
Of Special Note: The first required astronomy course, ASTR 321, must be preceded by at least one year of college physics and mathematics. Any lower-division astronomy courses count as electives and not as part of the major. To finish in four years, the student must have completed PHYS 123 before winter quarter of the sophomore year. Students are encouraged to take the capstone sequence: spring: ASTR 480; summer: ASTR 481 or ASTR 499 or an REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) program; autumn: ASTR 482.
Graduate Program Coordinator
A series of graduate courses in solar system, stellar, galactic, and extragalactic astrophysics is offered. The heart of the graduate program is the collaboration of students and faculty members in research at the frontiers of astronomy. Students work collaboratively with members of the faculty to develop the techniques and insight necessary for successful research and, subsequently, to define a thesis topic. The student's thesis research may use theoretical, computational, or observational material (obtained through the facilities of the UW or one of the national ground- or space-based observatories, or a combination). Active research programs in observations and theory are being carried out in a variety of areas, including astrobiology and extrasolar planets, interplanetary dust and comets, stellar atmospheres and interiors, stellar evolution and populations, interacting binary stars and compact objects, interstellar matter and nebulae, computational astrophysics and data mining, galaxies and quasars, large scale structure and cosmology, and dark matter and energy.
Doctor of Philosophy
Most, though not all, entering students have a bachelor's degree in physics. Entering students are not required to have a background in astronomy, although some knowledge of general astronomy is expected of those to whom a teaching assistantship is offered. Undergraduates interested in a graduate program in astronomy are urged to concentrate on preparation in physics and mathematics before entering.
Visit www.astro.washington.edu/grad for details on admission requirements. Most application material is submitted through the Graduate School online application.
90 credits minimum, to include the following:
Typically PhD students take formal courses during their first two years at the UW while at the same time sampling research projects with various faculty. The department offers a full set of graduate astronomy courses covering every major research area in astrophysics. Areas covered include planetary astronomy, stellar interiors and atmospheres, interstellar medium, galaxies, dynamics, cosmology, physical processes, observational astronomy, and a variety of special topics. Even in their first year, students are encouraged to embark on faculty-supervised research programs so they can make informed decisions about a thesis topic and a professional research career.
Core Curriculum: Each quarter of their first two years, students usually take at least two graduate-level core courses in astronomy, along with a third course emphasizing additional physical or mathematical science study or astronomical research. Typical core courses include ASTR 507, ASTR 519, ASTR 521, ASTR 531, ASTR 557, ASTR 561 in one year, and ASTR 508, ASTR 509, ASTR 511, ASTR 512, ASTR 513, ASTR 541 in the alternate year, along with ASTR 500 and ASTR 581 (latter two often offered annually).
Students must pass two examinations, the qualifying examination and the general examination, before being admitted to PhD candidacy. The qualifying examination, a written examination covering general knowledge, must be passed by the end of the third year of matriculation. The general examination is an oral examination on a topic related to a student's proposed PhD research topic. Students embark on their PhD research program after passing the general examination, typically in their third or fourth year at UW. Most students complete their PhD thesis and defense two to three years later.
A Master of Science degree is offered but the department is not currently accepting students for a master's-only program. Students typically earn the master's degree as part of the PhD program. The departmental requirements for a master's degree are either (1) adequate performance on the qualifying exam or (2) an approved and supervised master's thesis.
Normally all students making satisfactory academic progress receive financial support. More than three-quarters of the department's graduate students hold fellowships or research assistantships. A number of teaching assistantships are available, primarily in the elementary astronomy courses.