Astrophysics Major

Astrophysics (modern astronomy) is the application of physics and mathematics to the study of the universe.


Astrophysics Major

For students interested in attending graduate school in astronomy, a thorough grounding in mathematics and physics is essential. To meet the needs of such students, the Astronomy and Physics departments jointly offer an Astrophysics Major consisting of the complete physics major plus four astronomy subjects. One of the upper-level astronomy subjects can be replaced by a Senior Thesis in either Physics or Astronomy.

Course requirements

  • Astronomy: ASTR 107 (or, for students who started before Fall 2018, any 100-level course in ASTR w/lab), ASTR 206, ASTR 311 and any other 200 or 300 level ASTR course.
  • Physics: PHYS 107, 108, 202, 207, 216, 302, 305, 310, 314
  • Mathematics: MATH 215

Typical schedule of courses

Students intending to major in astrophysics may consult this chart to determine the sequence of physics courses.  In addition, students are strongly encouraged to take:

  • First year: an introductory course in astronomy (ASTR 107 if started after Fall 2018; alternatively: ASTR 101 or ASTR 100 with lab if started before Fall 2018).
  • Fall of sophomore or junior year: ASTR 206 on astronomical techniques.
  • Any semester: any additional 200-level or 300-level course in ASTR,
  • Fall of junior or senior year:  ASTR 311.

The Departments of Physics and Astronomy offer an interdepartmental major in Astrophysics which combines the Physics major with a foundation of course work in astronomy. Modern astrophysics is the application of physics and mathematics to the study of the universe, and hence there is necessarily a very close connection between physics and astronomy. Although thorough preparation in physics is at the core of an astrophysicist's training, a strong astronomical background is fundamental as well. Our students who have done well in astronomy graduate school report that a solid basis in astronomy has been crucial preparation for their teaching responsibilities as graduate students. It also provides them with a broader overview of the discipline than they would have if they had studied only physics before attending graduate school.

The Director of the Astrophysics program is the Chair of the Department of Astronomy.  All students electing to major in Astrophysics have two faculty advisors - one each from the Physics and Astronomy Departments.