Astronomy is the quest to make the Universe comprehensible; an adventure into the beginning of time and through the vast distances of space. We ask how stars and planetary systems form and evolve, how galaxies form, how the elements arose, and probe the origin, fate, and structure of the Universe. Along the way we challenge and enrich physics with our discoveries.
The Astronomy Department at the University of Washington offers a full curriculum of courses in various fields, including planetary astronomy, stellar structure and evolution, interstellar matter, galactic structure, extragalactic astronomy, observational and theoretical cosmology, and a summer observing course using a 30-inch telescope with modern instrumentation.
This program of study leads to the following credential:
Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Astronomy
Suggested First-Year Courses: MATH 124, MATH 125, MATH 126, MATH 208, MATH 224; 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.
Minimum requirements for consideration: PHYS 121, PHYS 122, PHYS 123 (or transfer equivalent; may be presently enrolled in PHYS 123). Minimum 2.00 cumulative GPA for physics courses. Either MATH 124, MATH 125, MATH 126 or MATH 134, MATH 135 (or full transfer equivalent; may be presently enrolled in MATH 126 or MATH 135).
Standard admission is twice a year. Application deadlines: third Friday of autumn quarter and third Friday of spring quarter. Winter quarter transfer admission: Students transferring to the UW in autumn or winter quarter may also apply the third Friday of winter quarter.
Meeting minimum requirements does not guarantee admission. Admission is capacity constrained, based on holistic review of a student's record as follows:
Academic performance to include review of overall GPA and content of all courses completed; frequency of incompletes or withdrawals and number of repeated courses; and an academic record that demonstrates interest in science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics.
Personal statement, consisting of a brief (500-1,000 word) description of the student's interest and goals in the astronomy major and addresses strategies of success in the major. In cases of exceptional or extenuating circumstances, the personal statement may include a petition for waiver of one of the stated minimum requirements shown in admission requirement 1, above. A more extensive list of possible additional topics is provided on the Astronomy Department Undergraduate Admission web page.
Consult the Astronomy Department website for additional application information and sample graduation plans.
Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Astronomy
The Bachelor of Science degree emphasizes the necessary background in physics and mathematics. It is designed for students who plan to attend graduate school or work at astronomical facilities. The small size and informal atmosphere of the department encourages close working relationships between faculty and students.
ASTR 300, ASTR 322 and ASTR 323; plus one of either ASTR 321 or ASTR 324.
9 graded credits of astronomy 400-level courses. Data analysis (ASTR 480) and senior-year research (ASTR 499) are highly recommended for students planning graduate work.
Mathematics (21-25 credits) complete one of the following:
MATH 124, MATH 125, MATH 126; and 6 credits from MATH 207, MATH 208, MATH 209, MATH 224, AMATH 352, or AMATH 353
MATH 134, MATH 135, MATH 136*
An additional 6 physics credits in courses at the 300 level or above in physics (chosen from PHYS 311, PHYS 323, PHYS 324, PHYS 325, PHYS 328, PHYS 331, PHYS 335, PHYS 421, PHYS 422, PHYS 423, PHYS 424, PHYS 431, PHYS 432, PHYS 433, PHYS 434) or engineering as approved by adviser.
No grade below 2.0 is acceptable in courses fulfilling the above requirements.
Undergraduates interested in advanced work in astronomy are advised to take a double major in astronomy and physics. Undergraduates interested in immediate employment at an observatory or other scientific institution should include computing and electronics courses as part of their program. For students planning on graduate work in Astronomy, a capstone sequence of hands-on research and dissemination of results, the following is highly recommended: ASTR 480, followed by either ASTR 481 or ASTR 499 or a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) project, and ending with ASTR 482.
*May receive advanced placement (AP) credit for MATH 124 (after completing MATH 134) and MATH 125 (after completing MATH 135).
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 planning on graduate work in Astronomy 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.
Learning Objectives and Expected Outcomes: With this degree, students obtain knowledge of the components of the universe, an understanding of the physics of its structure, and the technical skills to obtain and analyze data from telescopes. Graduates go on to graduate school or work at observatories or in industrial applications (lasers, x-ray, optical imaging) or in teaching applications. Students are able to do the following:
Understand the principal findings, common application, and current problems within astronomy as a scientific discipline
Be versed in the computational methods and software resources utilized by professional astronomers
Have experience operating modern astronomical instrumentation and analyzing a range of experimental data
Assess, communicate, and reflect their understanding of astronomy and the results of astrophysical experiments in both oral and written formats
Learn in a diverse environment with a variety of individuals, thoughts, and ideas
Instructional and Research Facilities: The department operates a 30-inch telescope with modern instrumentation, primarily for students, at the Manastash Ridge Observatory near Ellensburg. The department is also part of a consortium of universities that operate a 3.5-meter optical/infrared telescope located on Sacramento Peak, New Mexico and that are partners in the innovative Sloan Digital Sky Survey and the future Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. Students also have access to a variety of national facilities, such as the Kitt Peak and Cerro Tololo observatories and the Very Large Array. A variety of research is conducted with satellite instruments such as the Hubble Space Telescope. Data analysis and theoretical research are conducted on the department's cluster of computers, and on a variety of UW and national supercomputer facilities. Undergraduate majors often assist faculty members in acquisition, reduction, and interpretation of data.
Honors Options Available: With College Honors (Completion of Honors Core Curriculum and Departmental Honors). With Honors (Completion of Departmental Honors requirements in the major). See adviser for requirements.
Research, Internships, and Service Learning: Washington State Space Grant, NSF research experiences for undergraduates. NASA internships, outreach opportunities
Department Scholarships: Baer Prize. See adviser for details.
Student Organizations/Associations: The Society of Physics Students. Undergraduate Astronomy Institute/Palen Radio Astronomy Group. League of Astronomers. See adviser for details.
Program of Study: Doctor Of Philosophy (Astronomy)
This program of study leads to the following credentials:
Doctor Of Philosophy (Astronomy)
Doctor Of Philosophy (Astronomy: Advanced Data Science)
Doctor Of Philosophy (Astronomy: Astronomy And Astrobiology)