Astronomy Graduate Program
(Revised August 2012)
Printable A-Z (pdf)
Additional information is contained in sections indicated in parentheses, e.g. (E).
- These instructions and regulations combine material given in the Graduate School Catalogue, the Graduate School Policy Manual, and issued as departmental and Graduate School memoranda, announcements, or instruction sheets. It is your responsibility to inform yourself of pertinent instructions and regulations, both of the Graduate School and of the astronomy program. Towards this end, these instructions and regulations are presented in a reference format.
- Although the Astronomy Student Office will assist you in matters of registration and other required procedures, it is doing so as your agent. It is your responsibility to see that you are properly registered for the proper courses each semester.
- Whereas these instructions and regulations should contain most of the information you will need while pursuing your graduate degrees, they do not include all details given in the catalogues, Graduate School Policy Manual, memoranda, announcements, and instructions from which they are extracted. Sections B, C and D constitute summaries of the MA and PhD degree programs. Sections F through V provide more complete information about specific aspects of these programs. In particular, section M provides valuable orientation to the main thrust of these programs.
- The regulations are current regulations as of August 2012 and subject to subsequent changes made by the Graduate School or the astronomy faculty. Students entering before this date may elect to abide by regulations for the astronomy program in effect at the time they entered the program or by any subsequent set of astronomy program regulations, but they must declare which set they are choosing. If no declaration is made, they will be assumed to be using the most recent regulations. Written notice should be given to the Graduate Coordinator to be place in your permanent file if you choose to use an earlier version of the A-Z.
- Degree time limits imposed by the department are for full-time graduate students, who may have a half-time assistantship but carry a normal load of courses. For the occasional part-time student, appropriate deadlines will be set by the Graduate Studies Committee or by the student's supervisory committee.
- Incoming students should study sections A through O and W, X, Y and Z. Other sections should be studied at the appropriate times in the graduate student program.
- Definition of terms used in the A-Z:
GSC : Graduate Studies Committee - This committee is made up of all assistant, associate, and full professors who are active participants in the Astronomy Graduate Program. Research Scientists co-supervising students attend GSC meetings but are not members of the GSC and do not have voting privileges. The GSC decides departmental policy regarding the graduate program.
GSC Executive Committee: This committee consists of the GSC Chairperson, Graduate Advisor, Assistant Graduate Advisor, and usually one other person.
Graduate Advisor: The Graduate Advisor is the faculty member who officially represents the Graduate Dean. He or she monitors student progress and advises students. The Graduate Advisor petitions the Graduate School for any exemptions to university regulations. He or she may consult with either the GSC Executive Committee or the whole GSC in regard to petitions for any exemptions to department regulations. The signature of the Graduate Advisor is needed on many official forms.
Graduate Coordinator: This staff person assists the Graduate Advisor, maintains student records, can clarify rules and regulations set by the Graduate School, and is a general source of information relating to the program. Copies of all paperwork submitted to the Graduate School should be given to the Graduate Coordinator to be placed in your departmental file.
99 Hour Rule: Effective Fall 1999, a student who has earned more than 99 semester hours of credit at the doctoral level will be subject to the nonresident tuition rate without regard to your residency status or any work appointment that would normally entitle the you to pay resident tuition. (L)
Doctoral Hours: Any coursework undertaken by you if you are seeking a doctoral degree after the completion of thirty semester hours of graduate credit. All hours undertaken once you meet this definition are considered doctoral hours EXCEPT undergraduate courses and Masters thesis/report/project courses (AST 697A,B; AST 698A,B; AST 398R,T).
Formula Funding: The State of Texas gives the University a set amount of money for each credit hour for which a student is enrolled on the 12th day of class. The amount varies for undergraduate, masters, and doctoral hours. The State cuts off formula funding to the University after a certain number of hours has been accumulated in each category of hours.
Research Project: This term describes the research you do up to the point of the Qualifying Exam, taken in the spring of your second year. You may continue this same research, in which case it becomes your Dissertation Project.
Research Advisor: Supervises your research until you pass the Qualifying Exam and apply for candidacy.
Research Committee: With your Research Advisor, checks your progress on research until you pass the Qualifying Exam and apply for candidacy.
Dissertation Project: The research you do before you pass the Qualifying Exam and, if you pass the Qualifying Exam and continue to a PhD, the research after you pass the Qualifying Exam.
Dissertation Advisor: Supervises your research after you pass the Qualifying Exam and enter PhD candidacy. Usually the Research Advisor will continue in this capacity but you are allowed to switch Advisors after the Qualifying Exam if needed. The Dissertation Advisor (and Committee) receive official approval from the Graduate School when you are admitted into candidacy
Dissertation Committee: With your Dissertation Advisor, checks your progress on research after you pass the Qualifying Exam and are admitted to candidacy. The Dissertation Committee must include three members of the GSC and is approved by the Graduate School when you are admitted into candidacy.
B. Representative Degree Program Time-Table
- First Year
Take courses that count towards meeting the required course minimum (unless exempted); each of these courses must be passed with a grade of B or better. (I)
Attend the Seminar for First-Year Astronomy Graduate Students during the Fall Semester. (I)
Take additional elective courses and seminars to complete at least 9 semester hours registration per semester (10 hours in the first fall semester, 3 semester hours during summer if employed). (I)
Choose an advisor for the Research Project by the first day of March in the Spring semester. (M)
Form a Research Committee. Develop a written proposal (5 pages or less) of research to be carried out during the Research Project and have it approved by the committee. Then submit the proposal to the Graduate Advisor by the end of the first week of May. Submit completed Committee Agreement Form to Graduate Coordinator. (M,R,S)
Begin research by the beginning of summer. (M)
Performance in courses, research and (if relevant) teaching assistant duties will be evaluated. (G)
Pass English Proficiency exam by beginning of second year (non-native English speakers). (Z)
Schedule meetings with Research Committee each long semester and have research supervisor submit Report on Progress (found on forms page) to Graduate Coordinator. (M)
Receive promotion at the start of second year if all the above things are completed. (W)
- Second Year
Have a one-on-one conversation with the Graduate Advisor during the first two weeks of the semester to make sure the student is comfortable with the chosen Research Advisor, and that the Research Project is progressing.
Take courses that count towards meeting the required course minimum (unless exempted); each of these courses must be passed with a grade of B or better. (I)
Take additional elective courses and seminars to complete at least 9 semester hours registration per semester (3 semester hours during summer if employed). (I)
Schedule meetings with Research Committee each long semester and have research supervisor submit Report on Progress to Graduate Coordinator. (M)
Prepare a written report of research carried out during the Research Project, and have it approved by the Research Committee. Then submit the report to the Graduate Advisor no later than a week before the scheduled qualifying exam. Instead of the written report, the students can hand in a peer-reviewed paper that is in print, in press, submitted, or a draft. This latter option is strongly favored. (M,R,S)
Present seminar on your research and pass oral qualifying exam by the end of May. (G, M, O)
Apply for MA candidacy and degree (optional for PhD students). If the MA degree is sought, the student will prepare a Masters thesis. (P,Q)
Begin submitting papers for publication (at least one paper per year is desirable for a career in research).
Performance in courses, research and (if relevant) teaching assistant duties will be evaluated. (G)
Form a Dissertation Committee, either by modifying the original Research Committee or by starting a new one. (M, R)
Develop a written Dissertation Project proposal (five pages or less) of research to be carried out during PhD research, and have it approved by the Dissertation Committee. Then submit the proposal to the Graduate Advisor before applying for PhD Candidacy. (M,R)
Submit PhD Candidacy Sign-Off Sheet to Graduate Coordinator and apply for PhD candidacy during the summer semester. Receive salary promotion in September (beginning of third year) if PhD candidacy is complete and at least one paper has been submitted for publication. (T,W)
- Third and Subsequent Years (for students going on for PhD)
Have a one-on-one conversation with the Graduate Advisor during the first two weeks of the semester to make sure the student is comfortable with the chosen PhD Advisor, and that the Dissertation Research Project is progressing.
Take dissertation classes (AST x99R, then x99W, where x may be 3, 6, or 9 depending on the situation). If x<9, the remaining hours will be seminar, organized courses and/or AST 385. (H, I, J, K)
At some time before defense, give at least two 50-minute presentations in seminars. Generally, you will give a presentation of some kind each semester. Submit Seminar Form to Graduate Coordinator. (J, U)
Continue to submit papers for publication.
Schedule meetings with Dissertation Committee each long semester have supervisor submit Report on Progress to Graduate Coordinator. (M)
- Upon Completion of Dissertation Research
The Graduate Studies Committee will review your program if you have not completed your PhD by the end of three years from admission to PhD candidacy. (T)
Furthermore, tuition will increase dramatically after 99 doctoral hours ( The Graduate Coordinator can give you information on how many doctoral hours you have accumulated). (A, L)
Submit to Dissertation Committee a complete draft of dissertation (V), having completed
a) 7 courses from the required categories (D, I)
b) 2 elective courses (which may also be chosen from the required courses). (D, I)
Oral Examination: Defense of Dissertation. (V)
Submit final draft of dissertation, approved by Dissertation Committee, to Graduate Dean. (D, I, V)
C. Degree Requirements for the MA
- Spend at least two semesters, or the equivalent, in residence as a full-time student and must complete the major portion of the degree program at the University of Texas at Austin. (H, I)
- Complete the seven courses from the required course categories plus two electives. (I)
- Finish either research leading to a report (AST 398R) or to a thesis (AST 698a, b), or complete the first two years of research without a master's degree (AST 697 a, b). A master's thesis must be on completed research results.
Submit written report of research completed during first two years as a report (AST 398R) or a thesis (AST 698a, b). (M, O)
- Take additional courses, which may include AST 398T, to bring the total to at least 33 semester hours for an MA with report, or 30 semester hours for MA with thesis. No more than nine semester hours can be upper division (junior-senior level) of which no more than six can be in astronomy or in the minor. At least 18 semester hours must be in astronomy. No more than 20 percent of the courses counted towards the degree may be taken credit- noncredit (CR/NC). (H, I, J, K, P, Q)
- You must maintain a 3.0 (B or higher) or better Grade Point Average for all on-campus graduate-level or upper-division courses taken while a graduate student, excluding thesis or report courses. Credit-noncredit (CR/NC) courses are not counted in determining the grade average. In addition, a 3.0 average (B or higher) or better must be maintained for courses counted towards the degree; both in astronomy (excluding thesis or report course) and in the minor. (I)
- The degree must be obtained within three calendar years. (P, Q)
- You may elect to turn your early research into a thesis project. In this case, you must register for AST 698 a, b - Thesis, obtain an MA with thesis degree. You may take longer than 12 months to finish the thesis but deadlines for the Qualifying Exam and promotions are unchanged. You may also elect a project leading to a report, in which case you will register for AST 398R - Report, and normally obtain an MA with report. The principal difference between a thesis or report (other than the credit hours required) is that in the latter case, there is a time limit of 12 months to complete the research and turn in the approved report. If the thesis or report is not completed by the end of the second semester, either additional AST 698b registrations are made until the thesis is completed, or an incomplete (X) is given for AST 398R, which is removed when the report is completed. You should be aware that this incomplete, if not removed by the start of the third year, will cause appointments as a TA or RA to be rejected by the administration and will change into a permanent grade of F on your transcript. Thus the report option should be chosen only if you plan to finish before the September that begins your third year. (P, Q)
If you enter the program with a Master's degree or do not wish to earn a Master's degree you will register for AST 697a,b - Graduate Research Project.
- The format for thesis or report submitted to the Graduate School for
the MA degree is the same, and is explained in instructions provided on
their webpage: http://www.utexas.edu/ogs/pdn/. Your committee's approval
will be needed to certify both that the report is acceptable, and that
you have acquired adequate background knowledge for the research. (Q)
D. Degree Requirements for the PhD
- Spend at least two semesters, or the equivalent, in residence as a full-time student and must complete the major portion of the degree program at the University of Texas at Austin. (H, I)
- Complete at least seven courses from the required course categories and AST 185C with grade of B or better. When necessary, a second and final chance to pass these courses is allowed. (H, I)
Take a total of 9 courses in astronomy; with permission, courses from other departments may be used to satisfy this requirement. Courses in other departments (e.g. physics) taken on a CR/NC basis can be counted as electives, but astronomy courses must be taken for a grade. (H, I, J, K, T) Special permission must be obtained from the Graduate Advisor if you want to take any astronomy classes on a CR/NC basis. (F)
- Complete the Qualifying Exam with a full pass. (O)
- Maintain a 3.0 or better for all on-campus graduate- level or upper-division courses taken as a graduate student excluding dissertation, thesis or report courses. Credit-noncredit (CR/NC) courses are not counted in determining a grade average. (I)
- Submit a research proposal approved by your committee by two weeks before the last day of classes of the spring semester of your first year. Failure to meet this deadline will be grounds for being told to leave the program. (M, R, S)
Prior to such application, you must have done the following:
a) Selected a Research Advisor, and in consultation with your Research Advisor, have chosen a research topic and other possible members of your Research Committee. (M, R, S)
b) Prepared a proposal ≥5 pages which has been approved by your committee members. (M, R, S)
- Apply for PhD candidacy by the end of summer of the second year. Requirements 2 and 3 above must be satisfied prior to candidacy application. Upon becoming a candidate, you will register for the dissertation course (AST 399R, W, 699R, W, or 999R, W, with R being the first registration and W all subsequent registrations). (T)
- Present the equivalent of two 50-minute scientific talks as colloquia or seminars. The faculty member in charge of each colloquium or seminar will discuss the presentation with you, making suggestions for improvement. (U)
- Place in the hands of your Dissertation Committee a complete draft of the dissertation not less than two weeks before the scheduling of your final oral examination (defense of dissertation) by his or her supervising professor. The final complete draft must be submitted to each committee member not less than four weeks prior to the date on which you intend to defend the dissertation. (V)
- Pass the final oral examination. (V)
- Submit to the Graduate School office a final draft of the dissertation incorporating any revisions required by the committee and bearing the approval signatures of committee members. (V)
- The Graduate Dean suggests that all PhD students obtain their degree within three calendar years of becoming a candidate. Additional time will be allowed only if the Graduate Studies Committee recommends with justification such an extension. This process may be repeated annually, but each time the committee must address the questions of possible termination of candidacy or conditions for continuation. (T)
Recent legislation has resulted in the University requiring all graduate students to pay out-of-state tuition rates after they have accumulated 99 doctoral hours (see definition of 99 hour rule and doctoral hours in section A). You can check with the Graduate Coordinator to track the number of doctoral hours you have accumulated. (A, L)
E. Advising and Supervising of a Graduate Student's Program
- Until you become a candidate for the PhD degree, you are under the supervision of the Graduate Studies Committee and are advised by the Graduate Advisor. There are two important delegations of this responsibility:
a) All aspects of the MA thesis (AST 698a, b) are under the supervision of your Research Committee, chaired by your Research Advisor. The application for MA degree candidacy, however, will be carried out with the assistance of the Graduate Coordinator. (P, Q)
b) When you have decided on an area of specialization, you will select as a course registration advisor (the "course advisor"), a faculty member whose research interests (listed in the astronomy graduate program brochure) include the specialization. Normally, this will be your Research Advisor and then your Dissertation Advisor. You should register the choice of faculty advisor with the Graduate Coordinator by the beginning of the second semester. This faculty member should become acquainted with your research interests and all previous research activities. The faculty member will assist you in planning an effective graduate program within that specialization, in particular, the selection of courses most useful to your program. Once this selection has been made and has been approved by your course registration advisor, you will then complete registration with the Graduate Coordinator. You may change the area of specialization and formal course registration advisor, but the Graduate Advisor should be informed of such a change.
Thus, in practice, the Graduate Advisor advises students on courses only during their first semester (for first semester courses and for pre-registration for the second semester).
- A PhD candidate's program is under the supervision of the Dissertation Committee, chaired by the Dissertation Advisor. Arrange for this committee to meet each long semester. A summary of the meeting, written by the supervising professor, will be sent to the Graduate Advisor after each meeting. A copy of the summary should be sent to the outside committee member. (R)
- In exceptional cases, you may wish to pursue an interdisciplinary PhD program. This must be approved by the Graduate Dean, and will be supervised and administered by an interdisciplinary faculty committee appointed by the Dean. Until such a committee is appointed, you will be supervised by the Graduate Studies Committee and advised by the Graduate Advisor.
F. Flexibility in a Graduate Student's Program
- You may petition for an exception to or modification of any departmental regulation. In particular, you may petition to replace an organized course with a course taken at another institution or in another department. You may also petition to take a class by examination. The petition is presented to the Graduate Advisor for consideration and decision by the department faculty. You should discuss the matter first with the Graduate Advisor. A similar procedure exists for petitions to the Graduate Dean concerning Graduate School regulations (which are routed through the Graduate Advisor).
- The Graduate Dean will approve an interdisciplinary PhD program only if strong and compelling reasons are presented for such a program, as distinct from a program in an established graduate studies area. The Graduate Advisor will assist you if you wish to pursue such a program with the mechanics of obtaining the Dean's approval. Guidelines and an application for such programs may be obtained from the Graduate School.
G. Graduate Student Evaluation
- To remain in the Graduate School and continue for a PhD, you must maintain at least a 3.0 Grade Point Average for all on-campus graduate-level or upper-division courses taken as a graduate student, excluding dissertation, thesis or report courses. This means that each C must be compensated by an A. Credit-noncredit (CR/NC) courses are not counted in determining a grade average. If for any semester or session you do not maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average, the Graduate Dean will warn you that your status in the Graduate School is in jeopardy. Failure to achieve an overall average of 3.0 by the following semester or session (with the restriction that you are not allowed to drop a course or to withdraw from the university during that semester or session) will lead to dismissal by the Graduate Dean. A reprieve may be granted if the Graduate Studies Committee recommends continuation. (H, I)
- Your performance is reviewed by the department faculty for both long-session semesters of the first two years, to evaluate your level of performance and to recommend whether you should continue for a PhD. Progress in research will be monitored by the Dissertation Committee, which will report assessment of progress to the GSC. Committee members should attend meetings already familiar with the general Research Project: i.e. some faculty “homework” is required in order for the meetings to contribute to the pace and quality of your research. Research advisors should prepare written reports of the meetings, to be discussed with you and distributed to committee members. (O, R)
- The evaluation of first-year students is comprehensive (course work, assistantship, etc.); the evaluation of second-year students normally concentrates on the research to date and is directed towards determining potential for independent research or teaching. Second-year students whose first-year performance was considered marginal are evaluated comprehensively.
- When you have been evaluated, the written evaluations will be placed in your file. In addition, the Graduate Advisor will provide for the file a written summary of any discussion of you at the meeting. After the summaries are in the files, you will be notified that you can look at these evaluations and summaries.
- At the time that you look at the evaluations, you must designate a faculty member with whom you wish to discuss your progress. The Graduate Coordinator will supply copies of the evaluations and summaries to that faculty member. The designated faculty member will then set up a meeting with you. You may place in your file a response to the evaluations that you wish the Graduate Studies Committee to consider.
- To proceed to the PhD, you must receive a full pass from the Oral Qualifying Exam committee. (D, O, T)
H. General Explanation of Course Terms
There are three general kinds of courses referred to herein: organized courses, seminar courses, and individual instruction courses.
- Organized courses meet in a classroom, cover specific subject matter, have regular assignments, and generally consist of lectures or other class activities. Organized courses have two sub-species - Required Courses and Electives. In fact, you need not take all required courses; instead any 7 of these courses may be taken. In addition to the 7 required courses, two more courses must be taken as electives. Electives may come from the elective category or from the list of required courses. (I)
- Seminars meet weekly, need not have regular assignments, and often consist of lectures by faculty, research scientists, visiting experts, and students. Students must give some presentation during the semester but it need not fill a full session. (J)
- Individual Instruction courses have no regular meeting times. These include supervision during the MA (AST 698A/B) and PhD (x99R/W) period. The teacher of these courses will explain the time and manner of interaction. (K)
I. Organized Courses (includes Required Courses and Elective Courses)
- Required courses fall under two categories: Fundamental Astrophysics and Astronomy Subfield Surveys. You must take at least 7 required courses. You should work with your advisor to determine which courses will best fit your research interests. Some Category A courses provide useful background for a number of the other graduate courses offered. All students are advised to take Radiative Processes and Radiative Transfer in their first semester. Other Category A courses, which are offered less frequently, such as Astrophysical Gas Dynamics, are sometimes recommended to be taken as background for or concurrently with one or more of the Category B and elective courses. Your advisor and the instructors of each Category B course and elective courses can help you determine this. (E)
- Supervised Teaching in Astronomy (AST 398T) is not required for the PhD but is highly recommended if you are planning a career that includes teaching.
The required courses are listed below:
Category A: Fundamental Astrophysics
1. Radiative Processes and Radiative Transfer
2. Astrophysical Gas Dynamics
3. Gravitational Dynamics
4. Electronics, Optics and Solid State Physics for Instrumentation
5. Mathematical and Numerical Methods for Astronomy
Category B: Astronomy Subfield Surveys
6. The Interstellar Medium
7. Stellar Atmospheres
8. Stellar Structure and Evolution
- First-year students are required to attend the Seminar for First-Year Astronomy Graduate Students in the fall semester, although this is not a formal course taken for credit and a grade.
- You must pass each required course and required conference course with a grade of B or better to become a PhD candidate. You may petition to replace a required course with a course taken at another institution or in another department, or to take a course by examination. See F.1 for more information.
- An elective course is a organized, graduate-level course (not an individual instruction, or seminar course, or AST 398T) which can be in either Astronomy or a related area (e.g. physics) or, with faculty approval, has been taken elsewhere (see the Graduate Advisor for the procedure to follow to obtain approval). You should choose elective courses that are most helpful to your area of research.
- If you are working towards the MA or the PhD degree, you must take two elective courses in addition to the seven required courses. Courses from the list of required courses can also be used as electives. They should be taken during their first two or three years, but registration for courses of special interest can be delayed until they are offered, provided the requirement is satisfied before the final oral examination is scheduled. Note that many elective courses are offered only every second or third year. (D, T)
- Courses taken in other departments (e.g., physics) on a CR/NC basis can be counted as elective courses, but required and elective astronomy courses must be taken for a grade.
- 398T: Supervised Teaching is an elective course which may not be counted towards the nine courses required towards the PhD. Since it is offered infrequently within the Astronomy Dept, you may take 398T for credit in another dept. 398T is required before you may apply for an Assistant Instructor position.
- As part of your initial registration, you should examine your background in physics and in astronomy in some detail to determine the degree of preparation for the required courses. If such background seems to be deficient, you are advised to remove such deficiencies by self-study or by taking undergraduate courses.
- AST 391 is an organized course that covers individual Research Projects or assistantships but involves regular meetings with a faculty member who may not be your research supervisor. Such courses are credit-noncredit (CR/NC) and are not counted in computing grade averages. AST 391 does not count towards the required or elective course requirement.
- If you wish to take courses outside of the department that are unrelated to your degree, you may do so with the permission of your advisor.
J. Seminar Courses
- Students must attend one of the following seminars: Extragalactic, Theoretical Astrophysics, Stellar, or Planets/Life/ISM. Students are required to give two presentations before their PhD defense, though this need not be a full session presentation. Students are also required to attend the weekly Seminar for First-Year Astronomy Graduate Students in the Fall semester of their first year.
- All seminar courses are credit- noncredit (CR/NC) and are not counted in computing grade averages. Meeting times and places are arranged for the convenience of participating students, faculty and staff.
K. Individual Instruction Courses
- These courses include dissertation (AST 399R, W, 699R, W, or 999R, W, with R being the first registration and W all subsequent registrations), thesis (AST 698 a, b, with a being the first registration and b all subsequent registrations), report (AST 398R), masters Research Project (AST 697 a, b, with only one b registration allowed), and conference course (AST 385). In all these courses except AST 385, letter grades are given. AST 385 is a CR/NC course unless the student has made arrangements for a special project on a letter grade basis. AST 385 is generally taken once you have obtained an MA but have not yet been admitted to PhD candidacy. Except when AST 385 is taken for a letter grade, these courses are not counted in computing grade averages, and when more than one registration is involved, the grade "in progress" is recorded until the last registration, when a letter grade is given for the last 398R, the 698A and the last 698B, the -99R and the last -99W. Beginning in Fall 2001, these courses will receive a CR/NC instead of a letter grade.
- Detailed instructions for registration are given in the course schedule. The Graduate Coordinator will assist you with registration. A few of the general features of these procedures are worth noting.
- Full-time students in residence and classified as paying state resident tuition must register for 9 semester hours for the fall and spring semesters of the first two years (10 hours for the first year, fall semester). You must register for 9 semester hours thereafter and for three or six semester hours for the summer session (the rules governing whether you register for three or six are complicated and depend on your situation; see the Graduate Coordinator for details). Full-time students in residence and classified as paying state nonresident tuition or part-time students in or not in residence may, with the Graduate Advisor's permission, register for fewer semester hours, but not less than three. Students registered for less than 9 hours are considered part-time and may not work for the department as a Teaching or Graduate Research Assistant. Students working twenty or more hours a week for the university (assistantships) are classified as residents until they have accumulated 99 doctoral hours. Effective Fall 1999, after 99 doctoral hours, students are subject to non-resident classification for tuition purposes, even if employed by the department. (A) The other, complex, legal criteria for a resident status and procedures for changing a nonresident status to resident are discussed in Appendix A of the University Catalogue: General Information.
- The Graduate School requires that MA or PhD candidates register each semester until they have obtained their degree. In particular, you must be registered the semester or session in which you receive your degree. (P, T)
- Graduate-level courses (other than individual instruction) with enrollments less than five require special permission. Since last-minute cancellation of a course involves great inconvenience to students and faculty, you must pre-register, which involves selecting your courses. Consult the Graduate Coordinator for details about pre-registration and registration.
- See your course registration advisor or the Graduate Advisor concerning selection of elective courses. (E)
- General guidelines for scheduling course registration in a student's program are
a) Removal of deficiencies - first year; (I)
b) Required courses - first two years or as soon as possible; (I)
c) Required conference course - first year; (I)
d) Elective courses - first and second years, as soon as possible; (I)
e) Seminar courses(J)
- Astronomy graduate-course descriptions listed in the Graduate School Catalogue or in the course schedule are brief and, in some cases, out of date. More complete course descriptions are kept by the Graduate Coordinator.
M. Starting Research
- Research is an essential part of the graduate education. You should begin research as soon as possible, consistent with your course work. Work on a Research Project should begin no later than the spring of the first year. It is often desirable to begin sooner, perhaps in the first semester, but the research must be balanced against the need to achieve excellence in course work.
- During the first semester, you will make a choice of a field of research and begin research. By the first day of March in your second semester of the first year, you must choose an advisor for research (the Research Advisor). A written proposal (5 pages or less) from you and the advisor will be developed, focusing on how the work will be completed. This must be approved by your Research Committee and submitted to the Graduate Advisor by the end of the first week of May of the first year. It is seen more as a contract between you, the advisor, and the committee about what will be acceptable accomplishments and a reasonable schedule rather than as a detailed description of the science. (R, S)
- Written documentation and an oral presentation of progress will be made by the end of the spring semester of the second year in connection with the Qualifying Exam. The specific form and content of these written and oral presentations will be worked out with your research advisor and committee members. This documentation need not consist of definitive conclusions or publishable results (although that is desirable). The goal is to demonstrate the ability to assimilate relevant literature, to identify and explain a specific line of work that should advance knowledge in that field, and to exhibit familiarity with the tools of data acquisition and reduction or theoretical modeling that are required to carry out such a program, including some preliminary results. The Qualifying at the end of the spring semester of the 2nd year provides a checkpoint at which you will be evaluated to decide whether you should proceed with your PhD research. (O)
If you wish to continue your research with the same advisor, you may do so. If you decide to change your field of study and/or advisor, the Qualifying Exam provides the point at which that would take place. Other variations are possible. For example, you may, because of the evolution of your research goals or other reasons, decide at this point to change the composition of your committee, while retaining the same research advisor. Generally, an outside member will be added at this time. The revised committee must approve your Dissertation Project Proposal for the rest of your research. Then you apply to the Graduate School for PhD candidacy. Once approved, your Committee will be called the Dissertation Committee (R). Students following career paths toward teaching in small colleges might be expected to demonstrate more of an emphasis on breadth of background research and presentation skills. (R)
- Research is normally accomplished under the supervision of a member of the faculty. In some cases, research scientists also supervise research, but a member of the graduate studies committee is always required to be the formal advisor of such research with the Research Scientist serving as co-advisor. The choice of advisor for these projects is of paramount importance to your career. You will need strong letters of recommendation from the advisor to obtain employment. It is common for advisors to be asked for letters of recommendation many times through the course of an ex-student’s career. In addition to the field of research of the advisor, you should consider factors that may affect your ability to work with the advisor in a productive way. (E, R)
- The choice of research is coupled to, but not identical to, the issue of support. Some advisors will be able to support their students with research assistantships. In other cases, you will have to be a teaching assistant or a research assistant for someone other than your advisor. The latter case provides an opportunity to broaden the student’s research background and potential employment options, but it may also be more demanding of time. Such arrangements should be discussed with your research advisor. (W)
- The PhD dissertation is explicitly recognized to be the sum total of research done by you at UT. Given the need for published papers in the job market, the dissertation should be organized as a series of papers that are published at a rate of about one/year and then bundled into the dissertation format. Much of the time spent turning the traditional dissertation into papers, which often occurs after the student graduates, can be eliminated if this approach is taken seriously by all students and advisors. We recognize that there will be variability in the degree to which Research Projects can be modularized into several paper-length portions, but we still recommend that all advisors and committees devote effort to organizing the research so that such a goal can be met. (D, R, S, V)
- Observational research usually requires that the student obtain telescope time. Learning how to write successful observing proposals is an important part of an observational astronomer’s education. Students in our program obtain their observations on a wide variety of telescopes, including space-based and airborne telescopes and national and international telescopes. Many students obtain time at telescopes that guarantee time to members of the University of Texas department. These include the optical telescopes at Mt. Locke, Texas and the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Proposals for time on these telescopes are usually developed in concert with the advisor, but students may apply for time on their own. Information about observing at Mt. Locke can be obtained from Tom Barnes; for observing at the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, contact Neal Evans.
- The Department and McDonald Observatory have formed five research groups, with the following areas of interest: Theory, Solar System, Stars, Interstellar Medium, and Extragalactic. Each student should affiliate with whichever of these groups most closely matches his or her research interests. Each group has a weekly seminar, for which the student is expected to attend, and a small amount of funds. These funds often support research or travel needs of students that cannot be supported by their advisors. There are very small amounts of money for travel available through the graduate school; the graduate advisor should be contacted about the latter. Also, the Graduate Advisor is able to provide funds out of the Cox Graduate Excellence Funds. (J)
- Research during the first two years is supervised by the Research Committee consisting of a supervising professor and about 4-6 others, selected by you and the supervising professor. At least three members of your Research Committee must be GSC members. Other committee members need not be faculty, but the reasons for their selection should be given to the Graduate Advisor.
- Research in the first two years may be used for a Master’s thesis but it may also be considered part of the total research for a PhD.
N. Teaching Opportunities
- You may be appointed as a Teaching Assistant (TA) or an Assistant Instructor (AI). The primary functional difference between a TA and an AI is that, with GSC and UGSCOM approval, AIs may conduct regular classroom instruction. Appointment to the AI job title does not guarantee that you will be assigned to teach a class. Two other steps are required: a) On behalf of the GSC, the Graduate Advisor must certify that you are formally qualified for AI status; b) the UGSCOM must determine that you are qualified to teach and then select you to teach a particular class. The course taught by an AI would typically be a freshman level course such as AST 301 or 103L taught under the close supervision of a faculty member. Class size for courses taught be AIs shall be limited to 50 students in the absence of special permission by UGSCOM.
- Eligibility Criteria to Become a Teaching AI:
- Obtain the certification of the Graduate Advisor that you:
- Satisfy the formal University criteria to be an AI:
- Have a Master's Degree or equivalent
- Have credit for 398T
- Have one semester as a TA or have one year of teaching experience at an accredited institution
- Have the support of your academic advisor to become a teaching AI
- Be in "good standing" in the sense of meeting deadlines for progress through the astronomy program.
- Obtain the certification of UGSCOM that you have appropriate teaching credentials. Among the prerequisites to teach are:
- Excellent 398T and TA evaluations
- Excellent spoken and written English
- Broad TA experience (i.e. have worked for more than just one instructor; duties broader than only having graded papers/exams)
- Strong general record of performance at UT (academic coursework and research progress)
- Good knowledge of astronomy
- Application process to become a Teaching AI:
- Send a formal request to the Graduate Advisor by submitting the AI application (available from the Student Office) and a brief statement of purpose. The statement of purpose should include a course description and preliminary syllabus as well as the name of a faculty supervisor and a supervision plan. This statement should be submitted at the beginning of the long semester that precedes the semester in which you want to be a teaching AI (beginning of fall for the spring semester, beginning of spring for the fall semester).
- The Graduate Advisor (consulting if necessary with other members of the GSC) will approve those requests that seem appropriate as part of the student's graduate school endeavors and pass these on to the UGSCOM.
- The UGSCOM Executive Committee will evaluate the qualifications of the candidate using the criteria presented in Section 2 and other standards which seem appropriate and will decide how many and which AIs to recommend to teach classes on the basis of departmental and undergraduate student needs each semester.
- These recommendations will be given to the Department Chair who will make the final decision.
- A student satisfying the MA degree requirements may prepare for teaching college-level astronomy rather than for astronomical research. This teaching MA program would differ from the usual research MA program in the following respects:
a) Significant involvement in preparing and presenting an astronomy class (rather than simply assisting) is required.
b) The Research Project and Second Year Qualifying Exam would have an emphasis on astronomy education.
c) In completing the 33 semester hours requirement, select upper-division or graduate-level courses for a strong minor in related science fields (geology, mathematics, physics, etc.) which would prepare one for teaching college level courses in these areas as well as in astronomy.
O. Second-year Qualifying Exam
- The second-year qualifying exam is required of all students. It consists of three parts: a written report, a public oral presentation, and an oral exam. Satisfying these requirements will normally lead to an MA degree. (C, P, Q) Performance in research, including obtaining the background knowledge necessary for the research, is an important part of your evaluation.
- The completed written report or thesis must be given to the examining committee at least 2 weeks before the public presentation. At the time the report or thesis is given to the committee, the research need not be a finished project. (However, if you choose to submit a master’s thesis, it must be on completed research results(c)) You should report on progress and present plans for completion or indicate that you are pursuing future research in another area. Once it is approved by your committee, the report should be submitted to the Graduate Advisor no later than a week before your scheduled qualifying exam.
- If you have obtained an MA in Astronomy at another institution, you may petition the Graduate Studies Committee to substitute your MA thesis for the research leading up to the Qualifying Exam. If the MA from the other institution is approved as a substitute, you will still have to make a public presentation and pass the oral qualifying exam.
- On a designated date in April or May of the second year, or on an earlier date agreed upon by you and your committee, you must give a public presentation of your research to date followed by a closed oral examination. The oral exam is the qualifying exam for admission to candidacy for the PhD. (T) Consequently; you will be expected to demonstrate knowledge outside the narrow confines of the specific research project you have undertaken.
The oral exam begins with a general knowledge test. For this part, you will pick three graduate courses you have taken from a list of courses maintained by the GSCEC. Questions on the general knowledge section will be focused on these three courses and you will be expected to be thoroughly knowledgeable. When possible, one of the three courses should be in your research area. The course choices should be communicated to the committee members at least 6 weeks ahead of time. A copy of the syllabus for each course should be provided to each of your committee members at this time.
The general knowledge section is followed by the research-related section of your exam. For this part, you and your Research Advisor will identify three areas of increasing breadth in which you will be expected to be knowledgeable. These areas will be communicated to the committee at the time that the completed written report is given to them. The committee need not be constrained to asking questions only in these areas, but can expect a higher level of understanding. More specifically, you will designate the “research area pyramid,” which covers your specialization and tests your understanding of your research field from the narrow focus of your own research topic, to the more general aspects of your research subfield, to the “big picture” basic knowledge of your field.
Each student must fill out a 2nd Year Presentation/Exam Registration Form with the above information ((3 courses for general knowledge and 3 areas for research related part) and submit it to the Graduate Coordinator two weeks prior to the presentation/oral exam date. (At the same time your research paper is due to your exam committee.)
In deciding the outcome of the exam, the committee will consider the following: the written report or thesis, the public performance, the closed oral exam, and the record of your graduate coursework.
The result of the examination will be one of the four recommendations listed below.
a) Pass. The student is deemed eligible for the Masters Degree and is allowed to pursue admission to candidacy. (T)
b) Pass with a terminal Masters Degree. The student cannot pursue admission to candidacy.
c) Re-examine at a time to be arranged by the examining committee.
d) Fail. No Masters Degree, no admission to candidacy.
The examining committee will consist of the members of your Research Committee plus two ex-officio members. The ex-officio members ensure a uniformity of standards and should be two of the following five people: the Chairperson of the Department of Astronomy and the members of the Executive Committee of the Graduate Studies Committee. A member of the GSC Executive Committee will preside over the Qualifying Examination. In the event that one or more members of the student's Research Committee are eligible to serve as ex-officio members of the examining committee, such individuals can serve in both capacities. (G, R) All committee members, including the advisor, must be present to discuss the evaluation of the student before filling out the Second Year Qualifying Exam Form. If all members are not present for the final evaluation, the committee must reconvene.
P. Application for MA Degree
- The Master’s application affords the Graduate Dean the opportunity for detailed examination of your record, for maintaining Graduate School standards, and for enforcement of Graduate School regulations. A correct and proper application will prevent delays, excessive headaches, and additional effort. The following suggestions may be helpful.
- Instructions regarding application and other procedures for obtaining a
degree may be found on the Graduate School webpage:
http://www.utexas.edu/ogs/pdn/. The Graduate Coordinator would be glad to send instructions available as well.
- Application must be made at the beginning of the semester or summer session at whose commencement you expect the degree to be awarded. The various semester or session deadlines that must be met are listed in the course schedule. Make sure you are registered for the appropriate final semester report or thesis course!
- It is worthwhile to check your application, in particular the proposed program of work, with the Graduate Coordinator before obtaining signatures. Give a copy of the completed application to the Graduate Coordinator for your departmental record before submitting it to the Graduate School.
- Only one AST 698B registration may be counted towards the major area (AST 697B cannot be repeated). AST 398R may be repeated more than once.
- Whereas it may be desirable to list courses other than astronomy for the minor, with the approval of the Graduate Advisor astronomy courses whose content is primarily in supporting subject areas, e.g., AST 392 (mathematical, optical, or electronics techniques), AST 389 (dynamical astronomy), AST 381 (theoretical astrophysics) may be counted. (I)
- Six (6) hours may be credit/no credit (CR/NC), but the remaining coursework must be for letter grades.
Q. Obtaining an MA Degree
- When your MA report or thesis is approved by your committee, you will
submit it to the Graduate School using the guidelines indicated on their
A copy must also be given to the Peridier Librarian. Normally, a copy is
given to each committee member.
- If the report or thesis is not submitted to the
graduate school degree evaluator by the semester or session deadline,
awarding of the degree will be postponed until the following commencement.
- If an MA degree is desired, it must be obtained within three calendar years of entry to the astronomy program.
R. Research and Dissertation Committees
- You must designate a chairperson for your Research Committee by the first day of March in the first year and tell the Graduate Advisor the name of the chairperson. This chairperson is the supervisor of your research during your first two years. (You may change supervisors for subsequent research after the Qualifying Exam.) After deciding on the subject of research, you and the chairperson of your Research Committee will select three to five others who agree to serve on the committee. Until the Qualifying Exam, this committee functions locally. After the exam, the committee membership may be changed and will be submitted formally to the Graduate Dean to become the Dissertation Committee. Normally, a committee member from outside the department is added at this point. After the committee has been accepted by the Graduate Dean, the Graduate School must approve any committee changes. (E, M, S)
- After the qualifying exam, develop a written Dissertation Project Proposal (five pages or less) of research to be carried out as a PhD candidate. Your dissertation committee members must approve the proposal and sign the PhD Candidacy Sign-Off Sheet. Then submit your proposal to the Graduate Advisor for approval. The Graduate Coordinator will guide you through the Graduate School’s candidacy application process upon receipt of the completed Candidacy Sign-Off Sheet.
- Committee members should be selected for the assistance and supervision they can provide you. (E, M, S)
- You must arrange for the internal members of your Research or Dissertation Committee to meet each long semester to review your progress. The supervising professor must ensure that a summary of the meeting is sent to the Graduate Advisor after each meeting. A copy of the summary should be sent to the outside committee member.
- The internal members of the Research Committee will have an initial meeting to approve the first year research proposal prior to the submission deadline. (M) The proposal must be submitted to the Graduate Advisor by the end of the first week of May of the first year. After that, the internal members will be expected to meet every semester.
The following rules only come into play when the final Dissertation Committee is chosen for presentation to the Graduate School:
- One committee member must be a recognized expert on the subject from outside U.T. and must hold a position at another institution that is equivalent to that of a member of the graduate faculty. In special circumstances, that outside member may be a faculty member at U.T. so long as he or she is a member of a Graduate Studies Committee other than astronomy. The supervising professor should be certain that travel expenses of the outside member to the final colloquium can be furnished from within the department (e.g., grant funds, colloquium fund, or Cox fund).
- At least three members of the committee must be members of the Astronomy Department Graduate Studies Committee.
- Non-faculty UT Austin astronomers (including Research Scientists, Postdoctoral Fellows and staff PhD's) may be members of the committee, but the reason and their qualifications for serving on the committee must be furnished to the Graduate Advisor for forwarding to the Graduate Dean. These scientists may not chair the committee but they may serve as co-chair. Non-faculty UT Austin astronomers may not serve as the "outside" member.
- Only astronomy faculty members (strictly, those who are members of the Graduate Faculty) can be chairperson of the committee, but if a committee member who is not a member of the astronomy faculty is performing a major part of the supervising professor's function, he or she may be appointed co-chairperson. Emeritus Professors may not serve as the chairperson of the committee but may serve as co-chair. If a Professor moves to emeritus status while serving as chair, the Graduate School will require that a co-chair be added.
- Since the Graduate Dean will normally appoint only five or six to the committee, including the supervising professor, the list of possible members should be arranged in order of student and supervising professor's preference and given to the Graduate Advisor.
- Changes to the Dissertation Committee are formally requested by the Graduate Advisor and must be approved by the Dissertation Supervisor before being sent to the Graduate Dean. (You are expected to initiate the paperwork involved.) Give a copy of the completed form to the Graduate Coordinator to be added your departmental record.
S. Research Proposal
- Under the direction of your Research Advisor, you will prepare a Research Proposal, consisting of a title, an abstract, a list showing the supervising professor and the proposed committee, and five or fewer single-spaced pages of discussion, containing the following information:
a) A description of the research problem, pointing out its importance.
b) A brief summary of the proposed investigation that will constitute the research.
c) Discussion of any needs and problems that will be encountered in carrying out the research (observing time, travel, equipment, large amounts of computing, etc.).
d) A schedule for research up to the Qualifying Exam and then on to the final dissertation defense, focusing on a plan for publishing papers. The plan must have a schedule that leads to a PhD in 5 years from the time of entry into the graduate program. The proposal must include contingency plans for dealing with issues like observing time lost to bad weather etc.
- The proposal must first be approved by the proposed members of the Research Committee and modified to incorporate their suggestions and answer their criticisms.
- The approved proposal, along with a list of proposed committee members in order of preference, is then submitted to the Graduate Advisor by the end of the first week of May of the first year. The proposal will be made available to the GSC by the Graduate Advisor.
T. Application for PhD Candidacy
- Candidacy application affords the Graduate Dean the opportunity for detailed examination of a student's record, for maintaining Graduate School standards, and for enforcement of Graduate School regulations. A correct and proper application will prevent delays, excessive headaches, and additional effort. The following suggestions may be helpful.
- When you have all of your committee signatures and the approval of the graduate advisor, turn in the completed PhD Sign Off Form to the Graduate Coordinator. He/she will guide you through the process of applying for candidacy through the Graduate School: http://www.utexas.edu/ogs/pdn/candidacy.html
- Students whose native language is not English must submit evidence to the Graduate Advisor that they have passed their University English Certification. (Z)
- When the notification of candidacy is received from the Graduate School, the student may request the PhD degree clerk in the Graduate School office to change his or her current registration to a registration for the dissertation course, AST 399R, 699R or 999R. All subsequent registrations for the dissertation course will be for AST 399W, 699W or 999W.
- If you have passed the Second Year Qualifying Exam, applied for PhD candidacy, and have submitted one paper for publication by the start of the fall semester of the third year, you will receive a promotion. (W)
- Initially candidacy is valid for three years. Thereafter, upon recommendation by the GSC, and upon approval by the Graduate Dean, candidacy may be extended on a year-to-year basis. It should be emphasized that extensions are not automatically granted. Each case is individually discussed by the Graduate Studies Committee before an extension is recommended or disallowed.
U. Seminar Presentation Requirement
- Since giving presentations is such an integral part of an astronomy career, all students are asked to give one presentation each semester in the seminar of their choice. The faculty member in charge of the colloquium or seminar will discuss your performance with you, making suggestions for improvement. The seminar coordinator may arrange these presentations as short 10-15 minute presentations in conjunction with other student presentations the same day. Two full 50-minute seminars must be given at some point before filing for PhD graduation. Please submit the Seminar Form to the Graduate Coordinator to document your presentations. (J)
- You should contact the faculty member in charge of the seminar you attend. If a different seminar more closely matches your interests, credit for a talk in a different seminar can be arranged. This contact should be made very early in the semester. (J)
- Even if you are not officially registered for a seminar, you are expected to attend the seminar for your research area on a regular basis.
V. Final Oral Examination or Defense of Dissertation
- At the beginning of the semester or summer session during which you hope to take the final oral examination and obtain your degree, a number of administrative steps must be taken, each with its own deadline. Instructions and forms may be obtained from the Graduate Program Coordinator.
- Having ascertained that the degree requirements have been met, you must submit to the Graduate School the form requesting that a final oral examination be scheduled at least two weeks before the date of the examination. You must schedule a date such that all or all but one committee member can attend, as certified by their signatures on the form (the supervising professor may sign for a member from another institution who will attend). Forms are available from the Graduate School, MAI 101 or from their webpage.
- The final oral examination cannot be held unless you have placed a complete draft of the dissertation in the hands of all committee members attending the examination at least four weeks before the scheduled date of the examination. You must have a firm understanding with your committee of what constitutes a complete draft (occasionally lists of references and certain appendices may not be required). It is strongly recommended that you have already incorporated into this draft comments and suggestions of committee members based on an earlier draft of the dissertation (or portions thereof) that you submitted to the committee for this purpose.
- The final oral examination starts with a public oral presentation of the dissertation, roughly 50 minutes in length. The Dissertation Advisor determines how the remainder of the examination is conducted. Normally, the public presentation is followed by questions from the audience. The audience is then excused, and the committee examines you on the dissertation and material related to the dissertation.
- The Graduate Dean has furnished the Dissertation Advisor with detailed instructions as to what possible actions the committee may take regarding passing the examination and revisions of the dissertation. When a decision has been made by the committee, you are informed of the decision, as is the Graduate Dean by the provided signature sheet and/or letter.
- You will make all revisions to the dissertation required by the Dissertation Committee at the final oral examination, obtain approval signatures for the final draft from your entire committee, and submit the final draft to the PhD degree clerk in the format required by the Graduate School. In case one committee member (no more and not the Dissertation Advisor) refuses to sign the approval sheet, the Dissertation Advisor may, if he or she wishes, discuss this situation with the Graduate Dean and request the Dean’s acceptance of the dissertation with one signature missing. One unbound copy of the final draft must also be given to the Peridier librarian. Normally, a copy is given to each committee member.
- If the final draft is not submitted to the PhD degree clerk by the semester or session deadline, awarding of the degree will be postponed until the commencement for which the deadline is met. You must continue to register as a graduate student until the degree is awarded.
- The Graduate School requires that if the dissertation is not completed within three years after becoming a candidate, the Dissertation Committee will review progress made at the end of the three-year period, and annually thereafter, and report to the Graduate Dean their recommendations concerning possible termination of candidacy or conditions for continuation.
W. Financial Aid to Graduate Students
- The forms of financial aid available to graduate students are
a) University fellowships awarded by the Graduate School after April 1 for the following academic year. Nominations are determined in March by the Admissions Committee for incoming students and by the Fellowship Committee for existing students. These nominations are forwarded to the Graduate School by the Graduate Advisor.
b) Teaching or research assistantships awarded by the department. Commitments of such aid for the following academic year are typically made during August. The chairperson of the Undergraduate Studies Committee is the coordinator for such teaching assistantships. Research assistantships are worked out between the student and the investigator.
c) Summer Session teaching and research assistantships (and occasionally university fellowships). These are awarded separately from the long-session financial aid, usually during late April, with essentially the same procedures as for long-session financial aid followed.
d) Fellowships, scholarships, or summer appointments from sources other than the University of Texas. Information concerning these sources of financial aid, including instructions for applying, is posted in a fellowship notebook in Peridier Library.
e) Small grants by the Graduate School for travel to learned society meetings or for research assistance (travel and/or equipment). These are awarded competitively two or three times a year, and notices covering deadlines, conditions of award, and application instructions are posted at appropriate times during the academic year.
f) Small travel or research grants administered by the student's research group.
g) Cox Graduate Excellence Funds. The Cox Fund is an endowment maintained by the department to promote excellence in astronomy at the University of Texas. Proposals are submitted in the Fall and Spring semesters. A portion of these funds are set aside for the Cox Graduate Excellence Fund overseen by the Graduate Advisor. You may submit a request with the Graduate Advisor for observing runs, attendance at conferences, and other purposes relating to your graduate education. Other sources of funding should be exhausted before making a request to the Graduate Advisor for Cox funds.
h) Special financial assistance. If a student has an unusual need for research assistance and there are compelling scientific reasons for such assistance, contacting the department chairperson or the Director of McDonald Observatory may be helpful.
- The assigning of department assistantships depends on the source of funds. Teaching assistantships (together with course assignments) and certain departmental research assistantships are announced by the chairperson of the UGSCOM usually in August. Other research assistantships that are paid from research grants are awarded either by or with the consent of the faculty member or research scientist who is principal investigator for the grant. These awards generally are made in accordance with department policies for the awarding of financial aid, as described above. You are free to contact directly the principal investigators of grants at any time concerning financial aid, but any arrangements made must be reported to the chairperson of the UGSCOM.
- You are eligible for a promotion at the beginning of the second year if your research proposal has been accepted by your Research Committee and delivered to the Graduate Advisor by the end of the first week of May. (M, S)
- You are eligible for a promotion in your third year if you have successfully passed the Qualifying Exam by the end of the spring semester of the second year, been admitted into PhD candidacy and submitted a paper for publication before the end of the summer of your second year. The Graduate Advisor is the arbiter of what publications meet this criteria. (M, O)
If you entered with a Masters degree from another university and that thesis is accepted as a substitute for the research portion of the Qualifying Exam, you will be eligible for the promotion in the fall semester of the following year. (O)
- It is your responsibility to see that you receive the RA or TA salary promotion when the Qualifying Exam (or equivalent) is completed. The Graduate Advisor must be given the report with the acceptance signatures of your committee. University regulations forbid promotions during the academic year, so it is important that you become eligible for a promotion before long-session appointments are forwarded late in August.
- Because the overall picture and the policies for financial aid within the department can change from year to year, you might check with the Chairperson of the Department of Astronomy or the Graduate Advisor concerning possible changes. Policy memoranda concerning financial aid and award procedures will be distributed as appropriate.
- Generally speaking, students are not appointed for more than 20 hours/week. Exceptions for special situations are sometimes made; students with valid reasons for appointments in excess of 20 hours/week should consult with the Graduate Advisor. Additional employment outside the department usually impedes progress toward the degree, but it may also provide experience valuable for future careers. For example, if your goal is to teach in a small college, you may benefit from teaching at a local community college. Any outside employment should be discussed with your research advisor and/or the Graduate Advisor.
- The Graduate School has a rule that a student shall not be appointed to assistantships for more than fourteen long-term semesters. Exceptions to the fourteen semester rule can only be made by special petition of the Graduate Advisor to the Dean of Graduate School and are granted only under exceptional circumstances.
X. Student Educational Records
- A file of educational records will be maintained by the Graduate Coordinator for each graduate student. The file will contain such items as the student’s application materials, evaluations, grades, etc., along with copies of such documents as applications for candidacy or degrees and correspondence with the Graduate School regarding the student. You will be allowed to see your own file at any time, with two exceptions: financial statements by parents and letters of recommendation to which the student has waived the right of access. You can see your file only in the presence of the Graduate Coordinator or a designated faculty member and may not remove any document from the file. You may place documents in your file to be considered when the Graduate Studies Committee is evaluating the student.
- Security of, access to, challenging of material contained in, and destruction of these files are governed by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act as described in Chapter 9, Appendix C to the University Catalogue: General Information. Only authorized persons will have access to these files.
Y. Sources of Information concerning the Graduate Program
- The Graduate School maintains a webpage with regular updates on their policies, regulations, and administrative procedures. Many Graduate School forms and their instructions can be found on their webpage at http://www.utexas.edu/ogs/.
- Additional information or answers to questions about department procedures and regulations can be obtained from the following faculty members:
a) Graduate Advisor and/or Graduate Coordinator
Matters involving the Graduate School office that cannot be handled by direct contact (petitions)
Pre-candidacy regulations and procedures, including application for candidacy (MA and PhD)
Petitions for exceptions to astronomy program regulations
Student's record file
Graduate school research and travel grants to students
b) Chairperson, Graduate Studies Committee
Graduate course offerings (scheduling and content)
Graduate Studies Committee policies
c) Chairperson, Undergraduate Studies Committee
Undergraduate course matters
TA course assignments
Teaching equipment for undergraduate courses
- The graduate students have a representative elected by themselves who attends all faculty meetings, except executive sessions, and who can bring suggestions, complaints, or other matters before the faculty as well as present student opinions on matters discussed by the faculty.
- The Department Chairperson will discuss any matter with a student.
Z. English Proficiency Requirement
The Graduate Studies Committee in the spring of 1992 adopted the following policy regarding English proficiency:
- Demonstrating proficiency in English is an academic requirement in our graduate program. If a student is not a native speaker of English, then proficiency in English must be demonstrated by passing the certification test administered by the University. This must be done whether or not the student is employed as a TA. A student will not be admitted to candidacy for the PhD until certified in English.
- The deadline for demonstrating proficiency is the beginning of the fall semester of the student's second year in Graduate School. Students who have not met this deadline must petition the Graduate Studies Committee for permission to remain in the graduate program, and must do so annually until certification has been accomplished. Permission to continue in the graduate program will be granted only in circumstances where the Graduate Studies Committee feels that reasonable progress towards a mastery of English is being made by the student. Students who are allowed to continue will be placed at the bottom of the priority list for TA positions until such time as they are certified. Moreover, students who have not yet passed their proficiency exam will not be eligible for any promotions.
- Entering graduate students whose native language is not English must take the proficiency exam preceding their first year. The Department of Astronomy will pay the exam fee. Thereafter, the student will be responsible for the fee for any subsequent exams. A student who has not yet passed the exam will be required to take it every April and November at his or her own expense until certified.