Our Department

Dave Brain at Tedx in Boulder

A Tradition of Excellence

The Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences (APS) at the University of Colorado (CU) has a reputation of excellence, both nationally and internationally. Consistently ranked among the top programs in the country, the Department enjoys a diversity of research interests in the areas of Astrophysics & Astronomy, Planetary Science, Fluid Dynamics, Plasma Physics, Solar Physics, and Space Physics. The APS department has 28 rostered faculty, 50 research and affiliated faculty, 53 graduate students, and over 200 undergraduate majors.

Graduate Studies

The APS department offers PhD degrees; only students planning to earn their PhD will be considered for admission. Graduate students generally specialize in the areas of astrophysics or planetary science. 

The program successfully integrates astrophysics, planetary science, solar physics and space instrumentation, with strong observational and theoretical components. These assets facilitate interaction and collaboration between the disciplines and enable students to explore a wide variety of research areas. In addition, the Sommers­-Bausch Observatory on campus provides excellent hands­ on experience with telescopes and observing, and the department supports the world­ class Fiske Planetarium, which offers a unique opportunity for public outreach. These campus resources are complemented by other affiliated research organizations in Boulder.

Research Opportunities

The APS Department is affiliated with many different research labs, both within the university (Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy, JILA, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics) and in the Boulder area (High Altitude Observatory/NCAR, National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Solar Observatory, Southwest Research Institute). These affiliations often lead to research opportunities for students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Undergraduate students may also choose to work with APS faculty on independent research projects that use the Sommers-Bausch Observatory, the 3.5m Apache Point Observatory or the Fiske Planetarium.

Undergraduate Opportunities

The BA program is designed to meet student needs for training in space sciences, including astronomy, astrophysics, planetary sciences and space physics. Students pursuing this major have the option of following one of two tracks: general astronomy, housed in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences (APS), or astrophysics/physics, jointly supervised by APS and the Department of Physics. 

The general astronomy track highlights the science of astronomy, observation and technology. As a major in this track, students receive core training in astronomical sciences, mathematics, applied physics and computational and instrumental technology needed for professions in the space sciences. 

The astrophysics/physics track is directed toward students interested in pursuing graduate studies in astrophysics. The track is multidisciplinary in focus with work in physics, mathematics and astronomy. Upon graduation, students should have solid technological training in the space sciences, including mathematical, physical, computational and instrumental expertise.