Major/Minor Requirements

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.

Astronomy Major

For students interested to pursue graduate study in planetary science or careers in education, journalism, computing, or public outreach in museums, we offer a major in Astronomy. Majors in Astronomy will have a broad understanding of the varied phenomena in the heavens, from the solar system and stars to the realm of galaxies and the large-scale structure and evolution of the universe. They will understand the motions of the night sky, be familiar with modern observational techniques and computational tools, and have carried out an independent project using our 24-inch telescope. They will have the problem-solving and critical-thinking skills necessary to understand astronomical research, and the ability to communicate these results with clarity and precision, both orally and in writing.

Course requirements

  • Astronomy: Any 100-level ASTR course with lab (ASTR 107 is required for students beginning in Fall of 2018 and after); ASTR 206; two 300-level courses in ASTR and any additional 200-level course in ASTR.  
  • Physics: PHYS 107, 108, 202, and 207.
  • Mathematics: MATH 215

Students should consult with faculty about choosing electives and research opportunities appropriate for their fields of study. For example, students interested in planetary science should elect ASTR 203/303/GEOS 213/313 (Planetary Geology & Geophysics) and ASTR 223/GEOS 223 (Planetary Atmospheres & Climates), PHYS 216, and additional courses in geosciences and chemistry. Students working toward teacher certification might add courses in other sciences and in education, and might coordinate their fieldwork with ASTR 350, while those planning to enter the technical workforce might elect additional courses in computer science. Students planning to pursue graduate study in astronomy should instead elect an interdepartmental major in Astrophysics.


Astronomy Minor

If you liked your introductory astronomy course, you might want to consider an Astronomy Minor. This program is offered to meet the needs of students in other fields who don't necessarily want to take physics, but who love astronomy.

Course requirements

  • Any 100-level course in ASTR (must be ASTR 107 for students starting in Fall 2018 and thereafter), ASTR 202 or 206, any ASTR 3xx, and two additional units in astronomy.