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2020-21 UCSC General Catalog
2019-20 UCSC General Catalog

The Astronomy and Astrophysics graduate program is intended for those with a deep interest in the subject. Students are trained in the latest techniques in computation, data analysis, and instrumentation, which have wide utility in academia and in industry. The interests of the faculty embrace a wide range of both theoretical, observational, and instrumentation aspects of astronomy. Current research and course offerings include our stellar structure and evolution, solar system and other planetary systems, stellar spectroscopy, the interstellar medium, galactic structure, cosmology, general relativity, gravitational radiation, the origin of the elements, optical and infrared astronomy, high-energy astrophysics, and advanced astronomical instrumentation.

Graduate students have access to state-of-the-art instrument development and data reduction technology, the UCO/Lick Observatory computer network, and an on-campus supercomputer dedicated to astrophysical computation. Graduate students may conduct supervised research using selected telescopic facilities of the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton, 55 miles from Santa Cruz. The 10-meter Keck Telescope in Hawaii, the world’s largest, is administered from the UCSC campus and is used for frontier research by UC astronomers.

The UC Santa Cruz graduate program in astronomy and astrophysics is predominantly designed for Ph.D. students seeking a professional career in research and teaching, but with flexibility for students to prepare for careers outside of academia. In view of the thorough preparation in mathematics and physics required for graduate study, most entering astronomy graduate students major in physics or astrophysics as undergraduates.

The suggested minimum requirements for admission to graduate standing at UC Santa Cruz include the following undergraduate courses:

Mechanics, wave motion, sound, light, electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics, atomic physics, and quantum mechanics.

PHYS 5A | Introduction to Physics I | 5 |

PHYS 5B | Introduction to Physics II | 5 |

PHYS 5C | Introduction to Physics III | 5 |

PHYS 5D | Introduction to Physics IV | 5 |

MATH 19A | Calculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics | 5 |

MATH 19B | Calculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics | 5 |

MATH 23A | Vector Calculus | 5 |

MATH 23B | Vector Calculus | 5 |

or equivalent.

STAT 5 | Statistics | 5 |

PHYS 105 | Mechanics | 5 |

PHYS 110A | Electricity, Magnetism, and Optics | 5 |

PHYS 110B | Electricity, Magnetism, and Optics | 5 |

PHYS 116A | Mathematical Methods in Physics | 5 |

PHYS 116B | Mathematical Methods in Physics | 5 |

PHYS 116C | Mathematical Methods in Physics | 5 |

PHYS 129 | Particle Physics and Astrophysics | 5 |

PHYS 139A | Quantum Mechanics I | 5 |

PHYS 139B | Quantum Mechanics II | 5 |

MATH 21 | Linear Algebra | 5 |

MATH 103A | Complex Analysis | 5 |

MATH 106 | Systems of Ordinary Differential Equations | 5 |

MATH 107 | Partial Differential Equations | 5 |

The graduate curriculum consists of eight astronomy and astrophysics courses, including six required core courses and a choice of two elective courses. Students must additionally satisfy three equivalent educational requirements in the form of additional elective courses, research projects, independent study, or reading seminars. These requirements are detailed below.

ASTR 202 | Astrophysics I | 5 |

ASTR 204 | Astrophysics II | 5 |

ASTR 205 | Introduction to Astronomical Research and Teaching | 5 |

ASTR 220A | Stars and Planets I | 5 |

ASTR 233 | Galaxies and Cosmology I | 5 |

ASTR 257 | Observational Astronomy | 5 |

Choose two over the first two years

ASTR 222 | Stars and Planets II | 5 |

ASTR 225 | High-Energy Astrophysics | 5 |

ASTR 230 | Diffuse Matter in Space | 5 |

ASTR 234 | Statistical Techniques in Astronomy | 5 |

ASTR 240A | Galaxies and Cosmology II | 5 |

ASTR 260 | Instrumentation for Astronomy | 5 |

ASTR 289 | Adaptive Optics and Its Application | 5 |

Choose three over the first two years

Equivalent educational requirements (EER) may take one of several forms, and three pre-approved options are listed below. Other EERs may be approved by the department. Students must complete three EERs during their first two years.

PHYS 224
/ASTR 224
| Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology | 5 |

PHYS 226
/ASTR 226
| General Relativity | 5 |

EART 262 | Planetary Interiors | 5 |

EART 265 | Order of Magnitude Estimation | 5 |

EART 264 | Planetary Atmospheres | 5 |

AM 275
/EART 275
| Magnetohydrodynamics | 5 |

STAT 206 | Applied Bayesian Statistics | 5 |

AM 212A | Applied Partial Differential Equations | 5 |

AM 214 | Applied Dynamical Systems | 5 |

AM 217 | Introduction to Fluid Dynamics | 5 |

PHYS 210 | Classical Mechanics and Thermal Physics | 5 |

PHYS 215 | Introduction to Non-Relativistic Quantum Mechanics | 5 |

PHYS 216 | Advanced Topics in Non-Relativistic Quantum Mechanics | 5 |

PHYS 217 | Quantum Field Theory I | 5 |

PHYS 218 | Quantum Field Theory II | 5 |

One quarter equals one EER.

A parallel research project is scientific research conducted in parallel to a student’s thesis research, with faculty other than their primary advisor and in an area outside their primary research field. These projects will be designed to broaden the knowledge and skills of the student while increasing collaborative connections within the department, and may lead to publishable results. Each quarter students may choose from a department provided list of faculty who have available research projects designed to be completed in approximately 10 weeks. The evaluation methodology of the course will be a review by the designated faculty member of the completed research project and a write-up of the results. This option may only be taken twice in satisfaction of EERs, and may only be taken once per quarter. This option may not be taken in the fall quarter of year one.

ASTR 294 | Pedagogy of Astrophysical Research | 5 |

One quarter equals one EER.

A reading seminar is an independent study of the scientific literature or related subject matter, guided by a faculty member. Each quarter students may choose from a department-provided list of faculty who will supervise the seminar and select the course material. The goal is to broaden the knowledge of the students in a field where they do not plan to conduct active research, and a reading seminar in a student’s area of research will not qualify for an EER. Students will be required to meet with the faculty member over a 10-week period to discuss the papers. The evaluation methodology for the course will be an oral exam of the material, administered by the faculty member leading the seminar.

ASTR 294 | Pedagogy of Astrophysical Research | 5 |

Students are encouraged to leverage their opportunities for taking additional courses during their P.h.D studies at UC Santa Cruz. If students desire to supplement the coursework required for the astronomy and astrophysics degree with additional domain classes in other departments or with classes likely to advance their career goals, they can take more courses throughout their graduate career. Students should consult with their Ph.D. advisor and the graduate advisor to identify appropriate additional courses.

In addition to the curriculum described above, students must fulfill the following requirements:

Students must meet at least quarterly with an assigned advisor.

Each student must also be a teaching assistant for at least two quarters. See the teaching educational requirement.

By the time of the annual board review, which occurs in July at the end of their second academic year, students must:

- Complete one quarter of master's project research with a primary UC Santa Cruz advisor and give a department talk on that work.
- Maintain a 3.0 GPA average in the six required core courses, in which students must register for an assigned grade.
- Submit one lead-author paper to a refereed journal that is based on research conducted at UC Santa Cruz. By the time of the board review, second-year students are expected to either (1) have submitted a paper for publication to a refereed journal; or (2) submit to the board review a complete first draft of such a paper and a detailed plan for completion. If the student pursues option (2), they are expected to submit the paper for publication by the first day of the fall quarter, and provide the electronic submission acknowledgement for the paper to the chair of the graduate advising committee. If the student does not complete this requirement, they will meet with their advisor, the graduate advising committee chair, and the department chair before the first faculty meeting of the fall quarter, in order to discuss the status of the paper. The faculty at that meeting will then make a recommendation whether the student should be granted an extension to the next board review, and the full faculty will then vote on whether to grant an extension.

After passing the board review based on the above-mentioned requirements and the qualifying examination, students pursue independent research leading to the doctoral dissertation.

During their Ph.D. studies, graduate students in UC Santa Cruz astronomy and astrophysics will gain formative experience teaching undergraduate students, usually through teaching assistantships (TAs) in collaboration with department faculty.

- Students will serve as an official TA for at least two academic year quarters during their Ph.D. studies. One quarter must be during the first two years of Ph.D. studies. The remainder of this teaching educational requirement must be satisfied before receiving a doctorate degree.
- The teaching education requirement applies to all students, including those with external fellowships or other forms of support.
- The department may require students to serve as a TA for more than two quarters as a condition of the student’s financial support during their Ph.D. studies.

By the end of the third year, students must complete a qualifying examination that presents and defends a proposed thesis topic.

The department has established five years as the normative time to degree. Normative time is the elapsed calendar time, in years, that, under normal circumstances and excluding department-approved leaves, will be needed to complete all requirements for the Ph.D.

We expect funding in the form of graduate student researcher positions or teaching assistantships to be available for our Ph.D. students for five years, provided the student makes sufficient progress toward a degree. A one-year extension may be granted if funding is available. Funding support will not, in general, be provided beyond six years. Exceptions for extension beyond six years will be granted only for exceptional extenuating circumstances, and will be decided upon by the department chair, associate chair, and the department graduate advising committee.

After passing the board review based on the above-mentioned requirements and the qualifying examination, students pursue independent research leading to the doctoral dissertation.

Upon completion of the Ph.D. dissertation, students must pass an oral dissertation defense. A completed draft of the thesis must be submitted to the dissertation committee at least two weeks before the date of the defense, and the defense itself must occur at least two weeks before the campus deadline for thesis submissions in that quarter. Exceptions to this policy will be granted only under exceptional circumstances and must be approved by the department chair, associate chair, and the department graduate advising committee.

The department has established five years as the normative time to degree. Normative time is the elapsed calendar time, in years, that, under normal circumstances and excluding department-approved leaves, will be needed to complete all requirements for the Ph.D.

We expect funding in the form of graduate student researcher positions or teaching assistantships to be available for our PhD students for five years, provided the student makes sufficient progress towards a degree. A one-year extension may be granted if funding is available. Funding support will not, in general, be provided beyond six years. Exceptions for extension beyond six years will be granted only for exceptional extenuating circumstances, and will be decided upon by the department chair, associate chair, and the department graduate advising committee.