Graduate Program

Department of Astronomy

Graduate Brochure

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

Brochure (pdf)

The Department of Astronomy at the University of Texas is one of the largest in the United States, with twenty-four active teaching faculty, twelve research scientists, more than twenty-four research associates and postdoctoral fellows, approximately forty-five graduate students, and ninety undergraduate students. The research activities of the faculty and staff span virtually all of modern astronomy, from cosmology, first stars, galaxy formation and evolution, supernovae, black holes, and gamma-ray bursts, to our solar system, extrasolar planetary systems, star and planet formation and evolution, and the interstellar medium.

A low student-teacher ratio ensures close work with faculty and researchers in the student's area of interest. Many faculty members maintain active international collaborations, and frequently use the world's premier ground and space based observatories. Collaborations are also common with groups in physics, aerospace engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, and geological science.

The association between the Department of Astronomy and McDonald Observatory offers many benefits. 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.

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 primary research telescopes: the 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 gathers an enormous amount of light, primarily for spectroscopy.

The Observatory is equipped with a wide range of state-of-the-art instrumentation for optical and infrared spectroscopy and imaging, including VIRUS-P, the integral-field spectrograph prototype of the HETDEX project, and the innovative, high-resolution, near-infrared IGRINS. Our astronomers and students also make frequent use of national and international facilities, including Hubble Space Telescope, and are founding partners in the next generation Giant Magellan Telescope under construction at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.

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. 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 networks of workstations and personal computers. The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) supports computational modeling with some of the world's most powerful supercomputers. 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:

Course Title
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

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

smith telescope tour

Opportunities to the Public

Volunteer opportunities for graduate students and others

Public Outreach Volunteer Opportunities

Graduate Student Officers

Graduate Representative

Jeremy Ritter

GSA Representative

Raquel Martinez

Recruiting Officer

Matthew Stevans

Computer Officer

Aaron Smith

Lunch Organizer

Tsz Ho (Benny) Tsang

T-Shirt Czar

Keaton Bell

CNS Dean's Council

Mo (Emma) Yu

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

polishing a gmt mirror

Steward Observatory Mirror Lab, Arizona

In the News

Wenbin Lu Wins Board of Visitors Graduate Student Second Year Defense Award

Wenbin Lu has won this year's Board of Visitors Graduate Student Second Year Research Defense Award for his project entitled "External Inverse-Compton Emission from Jetted Tidal Disruption Events". Wenbin has been working with Dr. Pawan Kumar on theoretical high energy astrophysics, specifically on gamma-ray bursts and tidal disruption events. He is particularly interested in the radiative processes in relativistic jets and the properties of the radiation field surrounding the jets.

Hyunbae Park Wins University Outstanding Masters Thesis Award

Hyunbae Park (Supervised by Paul Shapiro) has been selected as a recipient of the Graduate School / University Co-op Award for Outstanding masters thesis. Only 3 awards were given in this University-wide competition. Hyunbae's thesis, entitled The Kinetic Sunyaev-Zel'Dovich Effect as a Probe of the Physics of Cosmic Reionization: the Effect of Self-Regulated Reionization, is about the imprint of the first generation of galaxies formed during the first billion years after the Big Bang on the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). more..

...more news

25 November 2015
Astronomy Program · The University of Texas at Austin
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