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 available to complement a student’s studies. Most students will take two 3-credit courses per semester during the first two years, as well as a 1-credit seminar on topics including pedagogy, presentation, proposal writing, research ethics, and current research topics. Elective courses on diverse subjects can be taken throughout a student’s graduate tenure.
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 five to eight credits of research each semester under ASTR 9995, culminating in oral and written research presentations.
For the M.S. degree, students are required to successfully complete the first three semesters of the PhD program, including 18 graduate course credits and 18 graded credits of ASTR 9995 (Directed Research); pass the qualifying examination for the M.S. degree, given in January of the first year; and submit a written description of their research. This last requirement is waived if the student’s research is accepted for publication by a refereed journal and the student is a principal author.
The Doctor of Philosophy degree requires successful completion of 72 graduate credits, at least 24 of which must be in graded 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. Students are expected to complete all pre-dissertation reqruiements, including coursework and qualifying examinations, by the conclusion of their fourth term of study. Ph.D. students are strongly encouraged to complete their dissertations by the end of their fifth year. Becuase financial aid is contingent upon a student’s academic standing, it 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 MMT, the 6.5m Magellan, and the 2.3m Bok telescopes. The Department is a member of the Astrophysical Research Consortium, the Apache Point Observatory, and the Sloan Sky Survey III and IV project. 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 Observatory, 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 historic 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.
The department operates an advanced astronomical instrumentation laboratory that provides training in instrument design and fabrication while developing advanced instrumentation for current and future telescopes.
The department provides excellent computing and image processing facilities including a local network of Linux workstations, a 384 processor Linux cluster, and the University’s research computing clusters. Supercomputer access at national centers is readily available via faculty sponsorship.
The offices of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory are located on the University Grounds, as is the North American ALMA Science Center. 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.