The department offers a broad program emphasizing theoretical astrophysics, observational astronomy of radio, millimeter, infrared, optical, UV, and X-ray wavelengths, and optical, IR and radio instrumentation. Courses in physics and mathematics are also required to complement a student’s studies. Most students take three or four courses per semester during the first two years and perhaps one in the third year.
Students should become involved in research as early as possible and are expected to work closely with members of the faculty on research topics in an apprenticeship-like arrangement. This allows the student to gain competence and independence in a relatively short period of time. Most student research projects produce published papers. First- and second-year students ordinarily take three credits of research each semester under ASTR 995.
For the M.S. degree, students are required to successfully complete 30 graduate course credits, including six credits of ASTR 995 (Directed Research); pass the qualifying examination for the M.S. degree, given in January of the first year; and submit a written description their research. This last requirement is waived if the student’s research is accepted for publication by a referred journal and the student is a principal author. Normally, the M.S. degree is awarded at the end of the first full year of studies.
The Doctor of Philosophy degree requires successful completion of 72 graduate credits, at least 54 of which should be in courses other than non-topical research. The qualifying examination for the Ph.D. is given in January of the second year. The student’s entire record, including the qualifying examinations, course work, and indications of research potential, is considered by the graduate faculty when recommendations for Ph.D. degree candidacy are made in February of the second year. There is no language requirement for either the M.S. or Ph.D. degree. Ph.D. students are expected to complete their dissertations no later than the end of their sixth year, and financial aid is generally not continued beyond the sixth year.
The University is part of the Large Binocular Telescope Consortium which operates the double 8.4m telescope at Mt. Graham, Arizona, and through the Steward Observatory has guaranteed access to some of the largest telescopes in the world including the 6.5m MTT, the 6.5m Magellan, and the 2.3 Bok telescopes. Local observing facilities include a 100-cm Schmidt-Cassegrain reflecting telescope and a conventional 75-cm reflector, and a robotically controlled 60cm telescope at Fan Mountain, 25 km to the southwest of Charlottesville. These are equipped for optical and near-infrared imaging, photometry and spectroscopy. On the University Grounds is the Leander McCormick Observatory 66-cm refractor, which began operations in 1885, and its collection of 140,000 astrometric photographic plates, which represents a major astronomical resource. A computer-controlled PDS microdensitometer for analysis of photographic plates is available.
The department operates an advanced astronomical instrumentation laboratory that provides training in instrument design and fabrication while devleoping advanced instrumentation for current and future and telescopes.
The department provides excellent computing and image processing facilities based on a local network of Sun UNIX workstations, a Beowulf cluster, and the University’s IBM UNIX workstations. Supercomputer access at national laboratories is readily available via faculty sponsorship.
The offices of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory are located on the University Grounds, and it is possible for students to be jointly supervised by University and NRAO scientific staff members. Faculty and students often collaborate with astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute, NASA-Goddard, the Naval Observatory, and other conveniently accessible research centers in the Washington-Baltimore area.
For further information, please write Astronomy Graduate Admissions, University of Virginia, P.O. Box 400325, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4325; www.astro.virginia.edu; or firstname.lastname@example.org.