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Astro 376R (Unique 46795)/ Fall 2015

A Practical Introduction to Research

Current Announcements

Course Overview


Prof. Shardha Jogee
Th 11.00 to 12.00
or by appointment
RLM 15.214
(512) 471-3302
Emma Yu
Mon 1.00 to 2.00 pm
or by appointment
RLM 15.310E
(512) 471-3387
  • 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, such as

    • What is scientific research and the scientific method?
    • Different ways to communicate scientific results (posters, unrefereed conference papers, refereed papers, oral presentstions). Tips for effective posters and oral presentations.
    • What is a Research University? How is research funded and how does it impact you? Ethical concerns and responsibilities of research.
    • Why Participate in Undergraduate Research at UT? How to Get Involved in UG Research at UT?
    • Introduction to the UT Career Design Center

    and a wide array of hands-on practical exercises in a computer lab, including,

    • Introduction to the Linux/Mac OSX 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

    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.

  • Pre-Requisites 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 as 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.
  • Course Calendar 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.
  • Class and University Policies
    • 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."
    • Please turn off all cell phones before the start of class.
    • Late homeworks will be accepted for partial credit only if you have been granted an extension prior to the due date.
    • Requests for correction or re-grade of an assignment (homework, exam or quiz) will be accepted at latest two weeks after it is handed back to you.
    • There will be no final comprehensive exam.
    • 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.
    • By UT Austin policy, you must notify the professor of a pending absence at least fourteen days prior to the date of observance of a religious holy day. If you must miss a class, an examination, a work assignment, or a project in order to observe a religious holy day, you will be given an opportunity to complete the missed work within a reasonable time after the absence.

    • Academic Integrity and the University Code of Conduct: A fundamental principle for any educational institution, academic integrity is highly valued and seriously regarded at The University of Texas at Austin. More specifically, you and other students are expected to maintain absolute integrity and a high standard of individual honor in scholastic work undertaken at the University.
      The University Honor Code states: "The core values of the University of Texas at Austin are learning, discovery, freedom, leadership, individual opportunity, and responsibility. Each member of the University is expected to uphold these values through integrity, honesty, trust, fairness, and respect toward peers and community."
      Academic dishonesty includes: cheating, plagiarism, unauthorized collaboration, falsifying academic records, misrepresenting facts, multiple submissions, and any other acts or attempted acts that violate the basic standard of academic integrity. Consequences of academic dishonesty can be severe. Grade-related penalties are routinely assessed but students can also be suspended or even permanently expelled from the University for scholastic dishonesty. Other potential consequences can be particularly far-reaching, such as the creation of a disciplinary record that may very well impact future opportunities. Furthermore, incidents of scholastic dishonesty diminish the overall value of scholastic achievements on this campus and reflect poorly on the University. Helpful resources:

    • Emergency Procedures: In the event of an evacuation, follow the instruction of faculty or class instructors. Occupants of buildings on The University of Texas at Austin campus are required to evacuate buildings when a fire alarm is activated. Students requiring assistance in evacuation should inform their instructor in writing during the first week of class. Familiarize yourself with all exit doors of each classroom and building you may occupy and remember that the nearest exit door may not be the one you used when entering the building. Do not re-enter a building unless given instructions by the following: Austin Fire Department, The University of Texas at Austin Police Department, or Fire Prevention Services office.

    • Behavior Concerns Advice Line (BCAL): The Behavior Concerns Advice Line is a service that provides The University of Texas at Austin’s faculty, students and staff an opportunity to discuss their concerns about another individual’s behavior. This service is a partnership among the Office of the Dean of Students, the Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC), the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and The University of Texas Police Department (UTPD). An individual can either call the line 512-232-5050 or report online

Selected Material from Lectures/Assignments
    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.

Extra Class Resources

Contact information and Classes
  • Directory for the UT Astronomy Program
    To secure RLM access after-hours, please contact Suzy Graves (RLM 15.204). To contact the computer helpdesk, please send email to helpdesk@astro.as.utexas.edu with the subject heading "AST 376" or/and walk to RLM 15.320A or 15.320B.

Undergraduate Research

Meetings/Conferences in Astronomy/Astrophysics where undergrads can participate

  • Bash symposium (Oct 18-20, 2015). Undergrads can attend and often present posters!

Internet Articles

Astronomy softwares, IDL library, Data Archives, etc

  • 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.