A Practical Introduction to Research
- Sep 22: Course grades are now posted on Blackboard
- Texas Astronomy Undergraduate Research Symposium is on Sep 23 in RLM 15.216
- Check out the Astronomy Picture of the Day!
- Class and Office Hours: This class, Astro 376 (Unique 47640), meets Tuesday and Thursdays from 11.00 to 12.30 pm in RLM 15.216B. We will also perform in-class exercises in the newly equipped computer lab (RLM 15.202). The instructor is Professor Shardha Jogee and the teaching assistant (TA) is Michael Eskew. Please consult us during the office hours listed below if you have any questions and we will be glad to help.
Prof. Shardha Jogee
Th, 2 pm to 3 pm
or by appointment
Tue, 2 pm to 3 pm
or by appointment
Mon, 4 pm to 5 pm
or by appointment
- Course Description: Astronomy 376, "A Practical Introduction to Research" aims at equipping undergraduates with some of the skills relevant for research projects in astronomy and astrophysics, in order to facilitate their involvement in the College of Natural Science Freshman Research Initiative (FRI), as well as in more advanced individual research projects supervised by research faculty or staff during their sophomore to senior years. Many of the skills you will learn are pre-requisites for currently offered research projects in Astronomy and some wills be useful well beyond research in your undergraduate years, during graduate school in astronomy or astrophysics, or jobs in industry, national observatories, space science centers, etc. The course will involve an overview of research practices, and and a wide array of hands-on practical exercises in a computer lab. The excercises will include
- Introduction to the Linux/Mac OS operating system
- Text macro editing with Emacs
- The IRAF software for analysis of astronomical data
- Basic programming with IDL (interactive data language) including array manipulation, reading catalogs, plotting, statistical analyses
- Reduction and visualization of astronomical data (e.g., CCD images) using IRAF and IDL
- LaTeX and AASTeX package for written publications
- Training for oral presentations
This course counts as an upper division course It is designed primarily for majors in astronomy or anyone who plans to get involved in a research project in astronomy and astrophysics. While the course can be taken by advanced students, we will give first priority to undergraduate majors in Astronomy and Physics, who are in their Freshman and Sophomore years so that such students are well prepared to tackle challenging research projects during their next two to three years at UT.
Prerequisite: Mathematics 305G or the equivalent or consent of instructor; high school trigonometry and physics are recommended. Prior computing experience and an introductory astronomy course, such s AST 307, are recommended, but not required. However it is your responsibility to develop the required background knowledge for each lecture by studying the background pre-requisite reading, which we will provide.
There is no single textbook that covers the wide variety of topics, which this course will span. We strongly recommend that you get "Practical IDL programming" by Liam E. Gumley (available at the Co-op bookshop): this will be a key reference guide for you on IDL exercises during this class and well beyond. In addition, we will provide our own tailor-made tutorials and online background reading material, which will be posted on this website under "Selected Material from Lectures & Assignments "
- Textbook and Reading
The course calendar provides an approximate sequencing of topics to be covered in class. The online calendar will be regularly updated, as needed. Note that as outlined in the Memo to Undergraduate Astronomy Students regarding Astronomy Courses , the professor is a professional astronomer who has research responsibilities and may be occasionally on travel in order to conduct research, present colloquia, and attend scientific meetings. In such cases, there may be a schedule change and an appropriate replacement lecture or other assignment will be scheduled.
- Course Calendar
It is essential that you attend class as there will be a large number of in-class assignments. Course grades are posted on Blackboard The final grade will consist of
- Course Grade
70% Homeworks and ProjectsThere will be no exams. When converting your final numerical scores to letter grades, I will use the scheme below or one that is slightly more lenient.
30% In-class activities
96% to 100%
91% to 95%
86% to 90%
81% to 85%
76% to 80%
71% to 75%
66% to 70%
61% to 65%
56% to 60%
51% to 55%
46% to 50%
0% to 45%
1) You will be given access to the computer lab on the 15th floor for this class. Due to previous crime-related incidents in the RLM building the doors to the lab should remain closed when you are working in them. Under no circumstances, should the door be left open, even if someone is "just running out for a moment."
- Class Policies
2) You will be given after hours access to the RLM building for this class. However, due to previous crime-related incidents in the RLM building, we strongly recommend that you try to use RLM only during the official open hours (6:30 am to 11:00 pm on Monday to Thursday; 6:00 am to 10:00 pm on Friday; 6:30 am to 5:00 pm on Saturday; 2:00 pm to 11:00 pm on Sunday). If you have to use RLM after hours, please make sure to be in a group of two or more.
(3) Late homeworks will be accepted only if you have been granted an extension prior to the due date and will receive only partial credit.
(4) We will accept requests for correction or re-grade of an assignment (homework, exam or quiz), at latest two weeks after it is handed back to you.
(5) Cheating: You are encouraged to study with other students, but you must write up your own homework, exams, and quizzes. Cheating will be severely punished: if you copy someone's homework/quiz/exam or let someone copy yours, both of you will receive zero credit, and I will consider filing a report to the Dean of Students.
(6) Plagiarism: Scholastic dishonesty, in particular any plagiarism, will be prosecuted in accordance with the university guidelines. In simplest terms, plagiarism occurs if you represent as your own work any material that was obtained from another source, regardless how or where you acquired it. Please read the description from the Dean of Students office on what constitutes plagiarism in its various forms. In particular, have a careful look at "paraphrasing".
(7) Disabilities: Students with disabilities may request appropriate academic accommodations from the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Services for Students with Disabilities (phone = 512-471-6259).
You will find below, mostly in pdf format, selected parts of the lecture, such as tutorials, figures, and plots. Many of these materials are password-protected and you will be given the id and password to access them in class. The main notes, explanations, and demos will be covered only in class where in-class quiz/activities will count toward the final grade.
- Troubleshooting guide and template of email to send to the computer helpdesk if you cannot log in. To contact the computer helpdesk, please email email@example.com with the subject heading "AST 376" or/and walk to RLM 15.320A or 15.320B.
- Please take the CURE (classroom undergraduate reseach experience) pre-survey by Sep 22. You do not need any special username or password.
- Homework 2 (IRAF-based) (Oct 4)
- IDL Tutorial: Getting Started With IDL (Oct 20/2011)
- Solution set for IRAF Exercise 2: Basic CCD Reduction & Relative Photometry: Gzipped tar file containing text file and plots (Oct 27/2011)
- Lecture on Tu Nov 1/2011: Astronomy Concepts related to Homework 3 (idl-based):
Cosmological redshift, Age of Universe
Why do we need large galaxy surveys with the Hubble Space Telescope ?
How were the GEMS galaxy survey data, which you used in homework 3 obtained?
What do we learn from using both Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer data?
- Homework 3: IDL in Action: Exploring Star Formation and Extreme Systems At Early Epochs! (Nov 1/2011)
- Slides on Communicating Research from guest lecture by Dr Julia Comerford (Th Nov 15/2011)
- Tar file of solution set for homework 3 (Th Nov 17/2011)
- Lecture on Tu Nov 17/2011: Astronomy Concepts related to Homework 4 on using IDL and the Galaxies and Cosmos Explorer Tool (GCET) to explore extreme systems at early epochs
- Homework 4: Using IDL and the Galaxies and Cosmos Explorer Tool (GCET) to Explore Extreme Systems At Early Epochs (Nov 17/2011)
- LaTeX Tutorial: Using LaTeX to Write Scientific Papers (Nov 29/2011)
Contact information and Classes
- Directory for the UT Astronomy Program
To secure RLM access after-hours, please contact Rachel Walker after you get your proximity card. To contact the computer helpdesk, please send email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject heading "AST 376" or/and walk to RLM 15.320A or 15.320B.
Meetings/Conferences in Astronomy/Astrophysics where undergrads can participate
- Annual Bash symposium is organized typically every 2 years in October by UT Astronomy department: undergrads can attend and possibly present posters! The 2011 conference is on Oct 9-11, 2011 and registration deadline is Sep 25/2011.
- American Astronomcal Society (AAS) meetings held twice a year The 2012 meeting is on 8-12 January, 2012, in the Austin Convention Center. Early Registration deadline is Sep 15/2011, regular registration deadline is Nov 17/2011, and late registration deadline is Dec 20/2011.
Astronomy softwares, IDL library, Data Archives, etc
- MAST Multimission Archive at STScI: astronomical data archives and data sets at optical, ultraviolet, and near-infrared wavelengths
- The AASTeX LaTeX-based package: This LaTeX-based package that can be used to prepare papers and tables for electronic submission to American Astronomical Society (AAS) journals, such as the Astrophysical Journal and The Astronomical Journal, as well as some non-AAS journals like the Publications of the Astronomical Society.
- NED (NASA/IPAC Extragalactic Database) (with links to images and catalogs)