The Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
|The Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics
awards the Ph.D. degree, and carries on programs of research and graduate
instruction on the quadrangles of the University; at Adler Planetarium,
Chicago; at Apache Point Observatory, Sunspot, New Mexico; and at the Yerkes
Observatory, Williams Bay, Wisconsin.
Students seeking admission to the department for graduate study should have the training in physics and mathematics that is represented by the conventional bachelors degree. Candidates for admission should request an admissions packet from the director of admissions. Applicants must submit recent scores on the Graduate Record Examination Aptitude and Advanced Physics tests.
Program of Study
The program leading to the Ph.D. degree in Astronomy & Astrophysics
has four parts: a program of eighteen required and elective courses, a
research project, the candidacy examination, and research leading to a
dissertation. The program and the requirements for graduate degrees are
summarized below. A more detailed description of the program and the degree
requirements can be obtained from the Director of Admissions, 5640 South
Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637. This additional information is also available
During the first academic year, students normally take the course sequence
Astronomy 3010030700; and either Physics 33000 (Mathematical Methods
of Physics) and Physics 32200 (Advanced Electrodynamics and Optics); or
Physics 34100 and 34200 (Quantum Mechanics); or Chemistry 36100 and 36200
(Quantum Mechanics). These basic courses provide the foundation for subsequent
study. Students with unusually strong preparation may be excused from
one or more of these courses. During the summer quarter following the
first academic year students undertake a research project. This project
may be carried out on the University campus, in one of the laboratories
or observatories of the University, at a national laboratory or national
observatory, or in another suitable research facility. Students enroll
in Astronomy 30700 during spring quarter of their first year as they prepare
for this project, and in Astronomy 30900 in fall quarter of their second
year to present a seminar reporting on the project.
At the beginning of the second academic year, students take the Ph.D.
candidacy examination. After passing the examination, they begin research
leading to the doctoral dissertation under the direction of a faculty
member. During the second and subsequent years of graduate study, students
take Astronomy 30900, and at least eight elective courses. Four of the
electives must normally be chosen from among a list that includes the
upper 3x-level courses in Astronomy as well as several appropriate Physics
courses. The remaining electives typically are 3x-level or 4x-level courses
in Astronomy & Astrophysics. With the approval of the dissertation
committee, other graduate-level lecture courses in the Division of the
Physical Sciences may be substituted for some of the elective courses
described above. The selection of topics in the advanced 4x-level courses
and the times at which they are offered are governed by the interests
of the faculty and students. Participation in research is an important
part of the graduate program. In a 3x-level research course, (Astronomy
37100) students work closely with members of the faculty on problems of
current research. The research courses at the 4x-level involve independent
research, including research leading to the doctoral dissertation.
During the academic year, the department offers a weekly colloquium series dealing with current research in astronomy, astrophysics, and related fields. These colloquia are given by visiting scientists as well as members of the faculty. A number of other seminars on specialized topics in astrophysics are held each week throughout the year, including a weekly series of lectures by the faculty on their research programs.
The Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
Students who enter the department intending to proceed toward the degree
of Doctor of Philosophy are normally required to complete the 3x-level
program of lecture courses described above. With the approval of the students
dissertation committee, modifications of this requirement may be made.
Students are expected to maintain a grade point average of at least 3.0
in their course work.
At the end of the first year, after completing the basic 3x-level program,
students who wish to begin research for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
must pass both the written and oral portions of the candidacy examination,
which includes the subject matter of the basic 3x-level astronomy courses
and the required physics courses. The candidacy examination is offered
at the beginning of the autumn quarter. A student whose performance on
this examination does not merit continuation in the program may retake
the examination once. Ordinarily, students who do not proceed toward the
Ph.D. are given the opportunity to complete the masters degree.
Graduate students who are permitted to proceed toward the degree of Doctor
of Philosophy may elect to receive an incidental Master of Science degree
after having passed the candidacy exam.
The requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy include the divisional requirements. In particular, a student who is permitted to begin research for the dissertation based on a satisfactory performance on the candidacy examination must still formally establish candidacy for the degree according to divisional requirements. A degree candidate must fulfill a two-quarter teaching requirement, which is explained in detail in the departmental graduate program document. A candidate for the degree must submit a dissertation acceptable to the department and pass a final oral examination on the dissertation. The Ph.D. degree is awarded only after the dissertation or a paper based on the dissertation is submitted for publication in a recognized scientific journal. Demonstration of proficiency in a foreign language is not required.
Facilities for Research
A student may perform the research for the doctoral dissertation on the
quadrangles of the University or at the Yerkes Observatory. A student
working at either location has access to the complete facilities of the
Moreover, there exists in the other departments and in the institutes
of the Division of the Physical Sciences a variety of research programs
which bear on modern astrophysics. Contact with persons working in these
programs is possible and is encouraged. In fact, students research
programs may be carried out under the direction of faculty members in
these departments and institutes.
Computing resources for the department include a multiprocessor SUN SPARCserver,
networked printers, and a multitude of workstations and PCs, with Ethernet
and LocalTalk (AppleTalk) connections in every room. This equipment is
linked via ethernet with the computation facilities of the Division of
the Physical Sciences, which include SUN and SGI servers, and a high-speed
line links them to the supercomputer facilities of the National Center
for Supercomputer Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana
and of the Argonne National Laboratory (operated by the University of
Chicago). These resources form a powerful facility for computational astrophysics.
The principal instruments at the Yerkes Observatory are the 40-inch refracting
telescope and the 41-inch and 24-inch reflecting telescopes, all of which
are used for both instrument testing and research. The departments
adaptive optics group has actively used the 41-inch reflector in recent
years, and the astrometric program uses the refractor extensively. The
Yerkes Observatory also houses an excellent library as well as engineering
facilities and shops that are heavily used in developing instrumentation
for the departments wide-ranging activities.
The University of Chicago is a member of the Astrophysical Research Consortium,
a consortium of several universities that has built and operates a 3.5-meter
new-technology telescope on Sacramento Peak in Sunspot, New Mexico. This
remotely-operated facility was designed to permit rapid changes in instrumentation
and in observing mode.
The University is also a key partner in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey
(SDSS). The SDSS is a project for which a 2.5-meter new-technology telescope
is mapping the Northern Galactic sky cap with five-band photometry and
obtaining redshifts of approximately one million galaxies and one hundred
By arrangement, facilities of the Argonne National Laboratory may be
used by students in the department. These include unique facilities for
experimental nuclear astrophysics, and a computation center equipped with
vector and parallel processing computers.
Students also may take advantage of the resources of the Fermi National
Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia, Illinois, including the
computational facilities, through its Institute for Cosmology and Particle
Physics, funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration,
or through the program in Experimental Astrophysics.
In recent years, some students have also used national facilities such as the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, the National Optical Astronomy Observatories, and the NASA-Ames Research Center.
This text last revised on 9/02/2003.