Department of Astronomy
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.
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 10 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.
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:
|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:
Department of Astronomy
Austin, TX 78712-1205
Why Choose UT Astronomy?
Volunteer opportunities for graduate students and others
Graduate Student Officers
Tsz Ho (Benny) Tsang
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.
Steward Observatory Mirror Lab, Arizona
Yao-Lun Yang Wins Graduate School/University Co-Op Award for Outstanding Masters Thesis
Yao-Lun Yang has been selected as the recipient of the 2016 Graduate School/University Co-Op Award for Outstanding Masters Thesis. Yao-Lun's thesis, The Class 0 Protostar BHR71: Herschel Observations and Dust Continuum Models, is an exciting mix of future modeling and community contributions. Yao-Lun has been integral in the creation of a public standardized archive of Herschel observations and has tackled the complications of modeling active protostar systems with RADMC-3D, with some very exciting results close to submission. more..
Wenbin Lu and Emma Yu Win Graduate School Continuing Fellowships
Wenbin Lu and Emma Yu have been awarded Graduate School Continuing Fellowships for 2016.
Wenbin Lu is a 3rd year grad student working with Dr. Pawan Kumar. He developed a method for determining the property of the star cluster in which a star explodes to produce a gamma-ray burst, and has also beautifully pieced together multi-wavelength data for a spectacular TDE (Tidal Disruption Event) that was detected a few years ago.
Emma Yu is a 5th year grad student working with Dr. Neal Evans and Dr. Sally Dodson-Robinson. Emma has shown strong leadership skills while working on a technically difficult project that combines accretion disk physics, radiative transfer, and chemistry. She has led well-regarded proposals for observing time on the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA). Her work has attracted the attention of scientists nationally and internationally. more..
National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowships Awarded to Sinclaire Manning and Jessica Luna
Astronomy graduate students Sinclaire Manning and Jessica Luna are 2 of 28 University of Texas students awarded prestigious Graduate Research Fellowships from the National Science Foundation for 2016. The annual award honors students who show exceptional potential for serious contributions to the areas of science, technology, mathematics, and engineering. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship has provided funding for exceptional early career graduate students since 1951, the oldest of its kind. Sinclaire is a first year graduate student working with Caitlin Casey. Jessica is a first year student working with Dan Jaffe. more..