Astrophysics Major

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. An astrophysics major consists of the courses required for the physics major (with one of the 300-level courses being ASTR/PHYS 311), along with ASTR 107, ASTR 206, and one additional upper-level astronomy course. All students who wish to consider a major in astrophysics are urged to complete the introductory physics sequence (PHYS 100, PHYS 107 and PHYS 108), as well as ASTR 107, as soon as possible. In planning the major, students should note that some of the courses have prerequisites in mathematics.

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 (where this may include an independent study or thesis: ASTR 250, 350, 360, or 370).
  • Physics: PHYS 100, 107, 108, 120, 205, 207, 208, 210, 302. (Prior to 2018-19: PHYS 107, 108, 202, 207, 216, 302, 305, 310, 314.)
  • Mathematics: MATH 205, and 215. (Note that MATH 115 and 116 are prerequisites.)

Typical schedule of courses

In addition to the physics curriclum listed above, students are strongly encouraged to take their astronomy courses in approximately this order:

  • 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 should choose as a faculty advisor either a member of the Astronomy Department or the Physics department liaison for astrophysics, Prof. James Battat.