Graduate Program

Department of Astronomy

The Department of Astronomy at the University of Texas is one of the largest in the United States, with 20 active teaching faculty, 30 research scientists and research associates, approximately 15 postdoctoral fellows, and about 40 graduate students. The research activities of the faculty and staff span virtually all of modern astronomy.

Prospective Graduate
Student Information

Information for Current
Graduate Students

In recent years the faculty have won five of the major awards of the American Astronomical Society, as well as numerous other honors and fellowships, placing the Department among the top few American astronomical institutions. The low student-teacher ratio allows students to work closely with experts in their field of interest.

The association between the Department of Astronomy and McDonald Observatory provides excellent opportunities in optical astronomy.

We offer strong programs in millimeter and submillimeter astronomy, infrared astronomy, radio astronomy, space astronomy, and theoretical astrophysics.

Collaborations with groups in physics, aerospace engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, and geological science are also common.

Visiting scientists from around the world join our astronomers in research; astronomers and graduate students, in turn, frequently use national radio and optical observatories and facilities elsewhere.

mcdonald observatory facilities
See: McDonald

McDonald Observatory

The Observatory complex is located 450 miles west of Austin in the Davis Mountains, one of the darkest sky areas in the continental United States. At present, there are four operating telescopes: 9.2-m Hobby*Eberly Telescope (HET), 2.7-m Harlan J. Smith Telescope, 2.1-m Otto Struve Telescope, and the 0.8-m Telescope. The HET is an innovative departure from classical telescope design and is dedicated primarily to the spectroscopic analysis of light.

The Observatory is equipped with a wide range of state-of-the-art instrumentation for optical and infrared imaging and spectroscopy, as well as operating one of the first and most productive lunar ranging stations. In addition to its own facilities, McDonald Observatory has a share in a submillimeter wave telescope on Mauna Kea. Our astronomers and students also make frequent use of national and international facilities, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the NASA Infared Telescope Facility. The Whole Earth Telescope project, led by Texas astronomers, involves simultaneous observations on telescopes worldwide.

Graduate students typically receive about 25% of the nights on the two largest telescopes at McDonald, with additional time being granted to their advisors for joint projects. Students doing dissertation research receive high priority on all telescopes.

Austin Facilities

The University of Texas at Austin is a leading institution of higher education and research, the largest state-supported university, and the oldest and largest of the University of Texas System. It is second only to Harvard in the number of endowed faculty positions and many of the faculty are members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as Pulitzer or Nobel Prize winners.

The University offers many excellent facilities and resources to graduate astronomy students. ut tower at dusk The University of Texas at Austin has the sixth largest academic library system in North America, the fifth largest in the United States, with more than eight million volumes. Robert Lee Moore Hall is home to a large Physics-Math-Astronomy Library and the Astronomy Department itself houses a wealth of astronomical reference materials in the Péridier Library. A 16-inch telescope on the roof of Robert Lee Moore Hall and a 9-inch telescope in nearby T.S. Painter Hall offer students and the public an introduction to the night sky. The Astronomy Department and the Observatory also offer up-to-date computer facilities, including sophisticated networks of workstations and personal computers. Machine and electronic shops, as well as specialized equipment, are also available.

Graduate Astronomy Program

The Graduate Program includes courses which will introduce students to the basic ideas of modern astronomy and astrophysics, as well as more advanced material including:

AST 380E
Radiative Processes and Radiative Transfer
AST 381
Theoretical Astrophysics
AST 381C
Gravitational Dynamics
AST 382C
Astrophysical Gas Dynamics
AST 383
Stellar Astronomy
AST 383C
Stellar Atmospheres
AST 383D
Stellar Structure and Evolution
AST 386
Extragalactic Astronomy
AST 386C
Properties of Galaxies
AST 389
Dynamical Astronomy
AST 392D
Mathematical Techniques in Astronomy
AST 392E
Optical Techniques in Astronomy
AST 392G
Observing Techniques in Astronomy
AST 392J
Astronomical Instrumentation
AST 393F
Survey of the Interstellar Medium
AST 396C
Elements of Cosmology
AST 398T
Supervised Teaching in Astronomy

Additional course information is available in the Graduate Catalog.

Students select seven courses from a list of ten core courses and two elective courses from the list above. Attendance at the Seminar for First-Year Astronomy Graduate Students is required during the first Fall Semester. We offer a number of advanced courses, as well as five seminar series, which allow faculty, research staff, students, and visiting scientists to present their current research.

Throughout their graduate career, students carry out research projects designed to introduce them to the frontiers of modern astronomy. At the end of their second year, students defend their research to date. Students have the option of taking a Masters Degree at this time, and then continuing with the doctoral program or going directly into the doctoral program without applying for a Masters Degree. We have lists of current graduate students and their research projects, as well as the research interests of our faculty and research scientists.

For more information:

Graduate Admissions
Department of Astronomy
2515 Speedway, Stop C1400
Austin, TX 78712-1205

email: Grad Coordinator

kvrx logo

Podcast Interviews

Astronomy graduate student Michael Gully-Santiago interviews astronomers Dr. Jefferey Silverman and Dr. J.J. Hermes on the KVRX science radio program 'They Blinded me with Science' at the University of Texas at Austin.


DJ Superdupernova
Dr. Jeffrey Silverman discusses supernovae

White Dwarf Stellar Pulsations
Dr. J.J. Hermes talks about white dwarf stars

Graduate Brochure

graduate brochure

Overview of research and personnel at The University of Texas at Austin Astronomy Program

Brochure (pdf)

Why choose UT Astronomy?

Consider these reasons...

Useful links

University of Texas Graduate School

UT Graduate Admissions Office

Graduate Catalog

Graduate Catalog: Astronomy

UT International Office

Graduate Student Assembly

Graduate Outreach Program

Fellowship Information

Astronomy Weekly Seminar Schedule

Tips for Applying to Graduate School in Astronomy

Outreach Opportunities to the Public

telescope tour

Volunteer opportunities for graduate students and others

Public Outreach Volunteer Opportunities

Graduate Student Officers

Graduate Representative

Kevin Gullikson

Asst. Graduate Representative

Emma Yu

Computer Liaison

Marshall Johnson

Colloquium Lunch Hosts

Keaton Bell
Yi-Kuan Chiang

PhD T-Shirt Czar

Jeremy Ritter

Giant Magellan Telescope

UT Astronomy is a partner in the international consortium building the 24.5 meter Giant Magellan Telescope. Ground was broken in Las Campanas, Chile in 2012. Many opportunities are available to UT Astronomy graduate students as a GMT partner.

Giant Magellan Telescope

giant magellan telescope

Steward Observatory Mirror Lab, Arizona

Aaron Smith Wins NSF Fellowship

Aaron Smith

Second-year graduate student Aaron Smith has been awarded a full NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Aaron works with Volker Bromm on The Lyman-alpha signature of the first galaxies. His project focuses on different aspects of propagation of Lyman-alpha emission in early galaxies. The main tool is the Cosmic Lyman-alpha Transfer Code (COLT), developed by Aaron to connect with cosmological galaxy formation simulations.

Tune In and Be 'Blinded With Science'

radio booth

Astronomy graduate student Michael Gully-Santiago hosts 'They Blinded Me with Science' on KVRX 91.7 Mondays at 8:30pm, discussing active research at the College of Natural Sciences and around the world. Find an archive at podcast, and enjoy this CNS news feature on the program.

223rd AAS Meeting

Graduate student Matt Stevans presents a poster on the NEWFIRM HETDEX Survey plan at the 223rd semiannual AAS meeting in Washington, D.C., which will gather extinction-corrected star-formation rates (SFRs) for ~400,000 galaxies at 2 < z < 3.5.

Erik Brugamyer Wins 2014 Fred T. Goetting, Jr. Memorial Endowed Presidential Fellowship

Erik Brugamyer

Erik Brugamyer has been awarded the 2014 Fred T. Goetting, Jr. Memorial Endowed Presidential Fellowship. The Goetting Fellowship is granted by faculty vote, recognizing a student for outstanding service to the Department, usually for excellence in teaching. Erik was elected Graduate Student Representative his 3rd year, and was instrumental in one of the most successful recruiting efforts in recent years. Erik's Ph.D. research is focused on chemical compositions of stars that host planets. He is working with Chris Sneden.

Michael Gully-Santiago Wins David Benfield Memorial Fellowship


The 2014 David Benfield Memorial Fellowship in Astronomy has been awarded to Michael Gully-Santiago. The fellowship recognizes outstanding research by a senior graduate student. Michael has developed techniques using electron beam lithography to create nanoscale silicon diffractive optics, used for high-resolution spectroscopy at infrared wavelengths. He has also uncovered an unexpected population of Brown Dwarfs, rare sub-stellar objects, some diskless some with extreme disks, in a collaboration using Chile's Magellan Telescope. Michael works with Professor Dan Jaffe.

For more on the research of the recipients, see 'In the News: 2013'.

...more at In the News