The undergraduate major has two tracks—one in general astronomy and one in astrophysics/physics (see the website at aps.colorado.edu).
The track in general astronomy is designed to meet student needs for basic, undergraduate training in space sciences (astronomy, astrophysics, planetary sciences, and space physics). Undergraduates are prepared for both academic research assistant careers and the industrial market (aerospace, computer software, instrumentation, and other technical areas) as well as for science education, science journalism, and space policy. This track provides a liberal arts degree in the science of astronomy, observations, and technology as well as core training in astronomical sciences and mathematics, applied physics, and computational and instrumental technology for professions in the space sciences. The track can focus on observations (ground-based telescopes, rocket probes, space-borne observatories) or on K–12 science education, for which astronomy provides excellent science content for motivating young students. It also offers broad training for careers in science policy and science writing.
The bachelor’s degree track in astrophysics/physics is directed toward students interested in pursuing graduate studies in astrophysics by focusing on multidisciplinary work in physics and mathematics together with astronomy. Graduates are provided with scientific and technological training in the space sciences, including mathematical, physical, computational, and instrumental expertise. An honors thesis or other research work is encouraged.
Specific goals for both programs are to provide:
Course code for this program is ASTR.
This is appropriate for someone aiming for a career in K–12 education, science journalism, science policy, information technology, science management, or technical work that does not require a graduate degree.
Required Courses and Semester Credit Hours
A minor is available that may be satisfied by taking various combinations of courses among the diverse possibilities offered by the department (see below).
For students aiming for a graduate program in astronomy or planetary sciences. Similar to Physics Plan 2 (Astrophysics), with additional astrophysics instrumentation labs and different electives.
Required Courses and Semester Credit Hours
Declaration of a minor in astrophysical and planetary sciences is open to any student enrolled at CU-Boulder, regardless of college or school. For more information see aps.colorado.edu/undergrad_APSMinor_courserequirements.html.
Declaration of a minor in astrophysical and planetary sciences is open to any student enrolled at CU-Boulder. Course work applied to the minor may be applied to another major or toward core curriculum requirements. Minimum requirements for a minor include:
Course Requirements (six courses required)
Elementary (maximum of three courses)
Advanced (minimum of three courses)
Two courses from an upper-level course sequence:
Plus one course from the following:
Additional information is available from any faculty mentor. See http://aps.colorado.edu/undergrad_main.html
The curriculum and research in the department emphasizes three major areas: astrophysics, planetary sciences, and space physics.
Departmental Requirements. Those wishing to pursue graduate work in APS leading to candidacy for an advanced degree should carefully read requirements for advanced degrees in the Graduate School section. The following are special departmental requirements.
The Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences does not normally admit students for a terminal master's degree program.
Prerequisites. A thorough undergraduate preparation in physics and mathematics is necessary for graduate study. Courses should include thermodynamics, mechanics, electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics, atomic physics, and mathematics at least through complex variables and differential equations.
Qualifying Examination. The Graduate Record Examination aptitude tests and advanced test in physics are used in place of a qualifying examination, and this examination should be taken before the time of application to the department.
Preliminary Interview. Students in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences are given an oral interview prior to the beginning of the fall semester of their first year. This oral interview examines fundamental knowledge in undergraduate physics and mathematics. Students are required to overcome any academic deficiencies within a year in order to remain in the program.
Course Requirements. Under Plan I, a student must present a thesis for 6 credit hours plus 24 credit hours of course work, at least 12 of which must be APS courses numbered 5000 or above. Under Plan II, additional hours of approved graduate courses must be presented for a total of 30 credit hours, of which at least 16 must be APS courses numbered 5000 or above. The master’s
examination under Plan I covers the thesis and related topics. The examination under Plan II is more comprehensive and may be either written or oral or both. Master’s examinations are given after other degree requirements have been completed, but may be given during the last semester of residence if the student is making satisfactory progress on required courses.
In addition to the master’s degree requirements above, PhD students must complete the following:
Course Requirements. A minimum of 39 semester hours of work (including 4 hours of graduate seminars) in courses numbered 5000 or above is required; however, the overall emphasis is on independent study and research. A minimum of 30 semester hours of PhD dissertion credits are required.
Language Requirement. None.
Examinations. Students in the PhD program are required to remove any deficiencies identified at the preliminary interview, to pass a two-part comprehensive examination composed of a written test on graduate course material and an oral exam on a research paper based on a semi-independent research project, and satisfactorily defend the thesis before a faculty committee.The department offers the PhD degree. During the first year of graduate study, students generally obtain a broad background in courses regarded as basic to all three areas in addition to more specialized studies. Many students take graduate-level courses in other departments (e.g., Departments of Physics, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Geological Sciences, Applied Mathematics, or Aerospace Engineering), depending upon their particular interests or participation in interdisciplinary programs (see below). The departmental core courses in the three areas are:
Descriptions of more specialized courses follow. Students interested in applying to this department are invited to write to Graduate Program Assistant, Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, 391 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309-0391.
The department offers a broad range of courses and research in this area, leading to the PhD degree. Graduate-level courses are offered in the following subjects:
Research in observational and theoretical astrophysics is conducted in the following areas:
Departmental Equipment and Research. Research is carried out with the ARC 3.5m Apache Point telescope and with national telescopes and laboratories and international collaborators: High Altitude Observatory (HAO) in Boulder (solar physics), National Optical Astronomical Observatories in Tucson and Chile (optical astronomy), Caltech Sub-Millimeter Observatory, National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), the Very Large Array (VLA), the Green Bank Telescope (GBT), the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), the Chandra, SWIFT, and XMM X-ray telescopes, and the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope. CU-Boulder also is involved with the Messenger (Mercury), MAVEN (Mars), JUNO (Jupiter), Cassini (Saturn), and New Horizons (Pluto) missions, and the HST Cosmic Origins Spectrograph.
Locally, APS operates a 24-inch Cassegrain-Coude and 16- and 18-inch Cassegrain telescopes, available for photographic, photometric, and spectrographic observations, as well as for instrument and detector development. Opportunities for graduate research also are found with the university’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), the Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy (CASA), and JILA. See Graduate School for more information.
As planetary sciences is an interdisciplinary field, students can obtain degrees from the Departments of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Geological Sciences, Physics, or Aerospace Engineering. Boulder is also home to a division of the Southwest Research Institute, with over 25 planetary scientists, many of whom work with CU students. Research and courses related to the physics and dynamics of the atmospheres of other planets, planetary surfaces and interiors, and other solar system studies are available in programs leading to the MS and PhD degrees. Courses related to the physics and dynamics of the Earth’s atmosphere are offered through PAOS under the ATOC acronym. Graduate-level courses in these areas are:
Research in theoretical, observational, and laboratory atmospheric and planetary science is conducted in the following areas:
Graduate research opportunities exist with individual faculty members, as well as jointly with academic and research units such as the Departments of Geological Sciences, Physics, and Aerospace Engineering, as well as the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (ATOC), the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP). The latter is involved in space investigations of the Earth, Sun, and planets. Financial support is available in connection with all of the above research activities.
This interdisciplinary program provides an educational and research environment to examine the dynamical, physical, and chemical structures of the atmosphere, ocean, and land surface, and the manner in which they interact. For further information, see the ATOC listing. APS participates in the master’s degree program in computational science (under applied math).
The department participates in the interdepartmental PhD program in geophysics. For further information, refer to the discussion of the geophysics program in the Graduate School section.