Astronomy and Astrophysics

Admission Requirements

Applicants apply for admission to the program via the Graduate School application for admission. Requirements listed here are in addition to Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-300 Admissions Policies.

Scores from the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), including the Physics test, are required for admission. [The requirement to submit GRE scores is temporarily suspended for Fall 2021 applicants.]

Normally, students admitted to the program are required to have a bachelor's degree in physics and/or astronomy with a grade-point average of at least 3.0 in their junior/senior courses in physics, astronomy, math, and related subjects. Typical GRE scores for entering students are 720 or more on the general test, and 680 or more on the Physics test.

The language of instruction at Penn State is English. English proficiency test scores (TOEFL/IELTS) may be required for international applicants. See GCAC-305 Admission Requirements for International Students for more information.

Applicants to the Astronomy and Astrophysics program must have a minimum TOEFL score of 590 on the paper-based test, or a total score of 96 with a 23 on the speaking section for the Internet-based test (iBT).

Degree Requirements

Master of Science (M.S.)

Requirements listed here are in addition to Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-600 Research Degree Policies.

The Master of Science degree requires completion of the Ph.D. course requirements (except the 3 credits of ASTRO 589) with 3.00 grade point average, passage of the qualifying exam, and submission of an acceptable scholarly paper, completed while enrolled in ASTRO 596.

Required Courses
10 3-credit courses, including:
ASTRO 501Fundamental Astronomy3
ASTRO 502Fundamental Astrophysics3
at least 4 additional ASTRO 500-level courses12
4 additional 3-credit courses 112
In addition, the following courses are required:
ASTRO 590Colloquium1
ASTRO 602Supervised Experience in College Teaching 21
Culminating Experience
ASTRO 596Individual Studies 33
Total Credits34

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Requirements listed here are in addition to Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-600 Research Degree Policies.

A minimum of 37 credits is required for the Ph.D., including:

Required Courses
A GPA of 3.2 in the followng ten 3-credit courses is required:
ASTRO 501Fundamental Astronomy3
ASTRO 502Fundamental Astrophysics3
at least 4 additional ASTRO 500-level courses12
4 additional 3-credit courses 112
In addition, the following courses are required:
ASTRO 589Seminar in Current Astronomical Research3
ASTRO 590Colloquium1
ASTRO 596Individual Studies 23
ASTRO 602Supervised Experience in College Teaching 31
Total Credits37

The qualifying examination is an oral examination covering any area of astronomy. Students who fail the examination may make a second attempt. At the Comprehensive Examination, the student presents a significant body of original research conducted at Penn State. This Examination tests the student's mastery of the chosen field of research. The student prepares an extended written report and oral presentation, and answers questions on the research and closely related areas. Graduation requires the completion of a dissertation of original research and a final oral examination (the dissertation defense). To earn the Ph.D. degree, doctoral candidates must write a dissertation that is accepted by the Ph.D. committee, the head of the graduate program, and the Graduate School.

Dual-Titles

Dual-Title Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics and Astrobiology

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements listed in GCAC-208 Dual-Title Graduate Degree Programs.

Admissions Requirements

Students must apply and be admitted to the graduate program in Astronomy and Astrophysics and The Graduate School before they can apply for admission to the dual-title degree program. After admission to their primary program, students must apply for admission to and meet the admissions requirements of the Astrobiology dual-title program. Refer to the Admission Requirements section of the Astrobiology Bulletin page. Doctoral students must be admitted into the dual-title degree program in Astrobiology prior to taking the qualifying examination in their primary graduate program.

Degree Requirements

To qualify for the dual-title degree, students must satisfy the degree requirements for the Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics, listed on the Degree Requirements tab. In addition, students must complete the degree requirements for the dual-title in Astrobiology, listed on the Astrobiology Bulletin page. The qualifying examination committee for the dual-title Ph.D. degree will be composed of Graduate Faculty from Astronomy and Astrophysics and must include at least one Graduate Faculty member from the Astrobiology program. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ Graduate Faculty may serve in a combined role. There will be a single qualifying examination, containing elements of both Astronomy and Astrophysics and Astrobiology. Dual-title graduate degree students may require an additional semester to fulfill requirements for both areas of study and, therefore, the qualifying examination may be delayed one semester beyond the normal period allowable.

In addition to the general Graduate Council requirements for Ph.D. committees, the Ph.D. committee of an Astronomy and Astrophysics and Astrobiology dual-title Ph.D. student must include at least one member of the Astrobiology Graduate Faculty. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ Graduate Faculty may serve in a combined role. If the chair of the Ph.D. committee is not also a member of the Graduate Faculty in Astrobiology, the member of the committee representing Astrobiology must be appointed as co-chair. The Astrobiology representative on the student’s Ph.D. committee will develop questions for and participate in the evaluation of the comprehensive examination.

Students in the dual-title program are required to write and orally defend a dissertation on a topic that is approved in advance by their Ph.D. committee and reflects their original research and education in Astronomy and Astrophysics and Astrobiology. Upon completion of the doctoral dissertation, the candidate must pass a final oral examination (the dissertation defense) to earn the Ph.D. degree. The dissertation must be accepted by the Ph.D. committee, the head of the graduate program, and the Graduate School.

Student Aid

Graduate assistantships available to students in this program and other forms of student aid are described in the Tuition & Funding section of The Graduate School’s website. Students on graduate assistantships must adhere to the course load limits set by The Graduate School.

Graduate Teaching Assistantships, externally funded graduate Research Assistantships, and/or University fellowships are typically provided to student admitted and continuing in good standing. Many students also apply for externally funded fellowships.

Courses

Graduate courses carry numbers from 500 to 699 and 800 to 899. Advanced undergraduate courses numbered between 400 and 499 may be used to meet some graduate degree requirements when taken by graduate students. Courses below the 400 level may not. A graduate student may register for or audit these courses in order to make up deficiencies or to fill in gaps in previous education but not to meet requirements for an advanced degree.

Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASTRO) Course List

Learning Outcomes

Master of Science (M.S.)

  1. Know/Think/Apply: Graduates will have demonstrated command of basic observational astronomy and astrophysics, including observing techniques, methods of data analysis, and common theoretical frameworks and techniques. This will include the ability to apply physics and mathematics knowledge to standard problems in astrophysics, as well as application of statistical principles to data analysis.
  2. Communicate: Graduates will be able to clearly and cogently describe the background and motivation of their work, describe their methodology, and present and defend their arguments and conclusions in oral presentations, written papers and reports.
  3. Ethical Professional Conduct: Graduates will demonstrate working knowledge of the standards for ethical conduct in research through their professional behavior and work.

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

  1. Know/Think: Graduates will have demonstrated command of basic observational astronomy and astrophysics, including observing techniques, methods of data analysis, and common theoretical frame works and techniques. This will include the ability to apply physics and mathematics knowledge to standard problems in astrophysics, as well as application of statistical principles to data analysis.
  2. Apply/Think/Create: Graduates will be able to carry out original research in theoretical astrophysics, observational astronomy, or laboratory astrophysics (including but not limited to instrumentation development). This entails identifying and evaluating the status of outstanding questions, developing strategies to answer them, and formulating hypotheses and testing them through one or more of the following means: calculations or simulations, model development, analysis of existing data, acquisition and analysis of new data, and design and/or construction of new instruments.
  3. Communicate: Graduates will be able to clearly and cogently describe the background and motivation of their research, describe their research methodology, and present and defend their arguments and conclusions in oral presentations, written papers and reports, and, where applicable, proposals.
  4. Ethical Professional Conduct: Graduates will demonstrate working knowledge of the standards for ethical conduct in research through their professional behavior and work.

Contact

Campus University Park
Graduate Program Head Randall Lee McEntaffer
Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) or Professor-in-Charge (PIC) Donald P Schneider
Program Contact

Jessica Flynn
525 Davey Laboratory
University Park PA 16802
jml58@psu.edu
(814) 865-0419

Program Website View