The Astronomy Department at the University of Washington offers a full curriculum of courses in various fields, including planetary astronomy, stellar structure and evolution, interstellar matter, galactic structure, extragalactic astronomy, observational and theoretical cosmology, and a summer observing course using a 30-inch telescope with modern instrumentation.
The Bachelor of Science degree emphasizes the necessary background in physics and mathematics, plus 18 credits of upper level astronomy. It is designed for students who plan to attend graduate school or work at astronomical facilities. The small size and informal atmosphere of the department encourages close working relationships between faculty and students. The above picture shows some of our current and past astronomy majors. The undergrad students have created an Undergraduate Astronomy Institute, which is active in outreach activities, operating the Campus Observatory, organizing an on-campus astronomy club, doing photometry and spectroscopy using instrumentation on their 12 inch telescope (provided by Student Technology Fees), and putting together a radio telescope facility on campus.
Further information about professional careers in astronomy can be obtained by writing to the:
American Astronomical Society
2000 Florida Ave. NW, Suite 400
Washington, D.C. 20009
|Undergraduate Learning Goals|
- Understand the principle findings, common application, and current problems within Astronomy as a scientific discipline.
- Be versed in the computational methods and software resources utilized by professional Astronomers.
- Have experience operating modern Astronomical instrumentation and analyzing a range of experimental data;=.
- Be able to assess, communicate and reflect their understanding of Astronomy and the results of Astrophysical experiments in both oral and written formats.
- Learn in a diverse environment with a variety of individuals, thoughts and ideas.
|General Department Resources|
The Astronomy Department, in partnership with five other universities, operates a 3.5-meter telescope equipped with sophisticated instrumentation at Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico, and is a founding partner in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey , a unique project to create the first digital atlas of a substantial fraction of the sky. The Department also operates a 30-inch (0.76-meter) telescope at the Manastash Ridge Observatory in Eastern Washington equipped with a good CCD camera. Here is a picture of our undergrad majors at the MRO telescope.
On-campus research facilities include CCD's on rooftop small telescopes, a clean room, electron microscopes and desktops for on-campus operation of the 3.5-meter telescope. Data reduction, analysis, and theoretical research are performed on an extensive computer network within the Department. Easy access to supercomputers elsewhere is routinely provided. The Department moved to a new building in 1994.
|Undergraduate Degree Requirements|
Admissions Requirements (Effective Autumn 2013): PHYS 121, 122, 123 (or full transfer equivalent) with a 2.0 cumulative GPA for the three courses.
The two major career paths in astronomy are professional research (generally requiring a Ph.D.) and scientific and technical support positions at observatories or in private industry. Our program prepares graduates for entrance into a graduate program or an immediate astronomy-related career. The undergraduate program also emphasizes the development of communication skills and the use of computers for data analysis in addition to formal training in astronomy and physics.
In addition to the Proficiency (Basic Skills) and Areas of Knowledge (General Education) requirements of the College of Arts and Sciences, the following curriculum (91 credits) is required for those students who wish to graduate with a major in Astronomy.
Physics Credits 121 Mechanics 5 122 Electromagnetism and Oscillatory Motion 5 123 Waves 5 224 Thermal Physics 3 225 Quantum I 3 226 Particles & Symmetries 3 227 Elementary Mathematical Physics I 4 228 Elementary Mathematical Physics II 4 321 Electromagnetism 4 322 Electromagnetism 4 334 Electric Circuits Laboratory 4 TOTAL 44 Mathematics: Credits 124/134 Calculus with Analytic Geometry 5 125/135 Calculus for Math Science 5 126/136 Calculus for Math Science 5
Plus 6 credits chosen from:
307 Differential Equations 3 308 Matrix Algebra 3 309 Linear Analysis 3 324 Advanced Calculus I 3 326 Advanced Calculus II 3 AMATH 352 Linear Algebra 3 AMATH 353 Fourier Analysis 3 TOTAL 21 Astronomy Credits 300 Astronomy Computing 2 321 The Solar System 3 322 The Contents of Our Galaxy 3 323 Extragalactic Astronomy & Cosmology 3
Plus 9 graded credits chosen from (at least 3 must be in 480 or 499):
421 Stellar Observations & Theory 3 423 High Energy Astrophysics 3 425 Cosmology 3 480 Introduction to Astronomical Data Analysis 5 481 Introduction to Astronomical Observation 5 482 Scientific Writing 2 497 Topics in Current Astronomy (max 9) 1-3 499 Undergraduate Research or 500-level Astronomy courses (with permission) max.15 TOTAL 20 Related Courses -- 6 credits chosen from: Credits Physics 323 Electromagnetism 4 324 Quantum Mechanics 4 325 Quantum Mechanics 4 328 Statistical Physics 3 331 Optics Laboratory 3 335 Electric Circuits Laboratory 3 421 Atomic & Molecular Physics 3 422 Nuclear & Elementary Particle Physics 3 423 Solid State Physics 3 424 Mathematical Physics 3 431 Modern Physics Lab 3 432 Modern Physics Lab 3 433 Modern Physics Lab 3 434 Application of Computers to Physical Measurement 3
As a capstone sequence of hands-on research and dissemination of results, the following is highly recommended: ASTR480, followed by either ASTR481 or ASTR499 or an REU project, and ending with ASTR482.
The minimum grade point to fulfill the above requirements is 2.00 in every course. Note that some of the advanced physics courses required have prerequisites which are not included in the minimum requirements for an astronomy degree. In addition to the formal degree requirements, it is strongly recommended that every student gain a knowledge of computer programming (Astr 300: Introduction to Programming for Astronomical Applications - 2 cr- is highly recommended to be taken prior to astronomy 400 level courses and UNIX knowledge is required for Astr 480). Some engineering courses may be allowed to substitute for some of the physics above (as approved by advisor).
To graduate with Department Honors in Astronomy, a mean 3.7 GPA in astronomy courses is required as well as at least 6 credits of 499 research. See advisor if you want to be considered.
Astronomy graduate admissions are always highly competitive, and often those students with the strongest backgrounds in physics, math, and research experience have the best chances of admission, other considerations being equal. Hence a strong preparation in physics is extremely important for students who plan to enter a graduate program. Most of our students major in physics as well as astronomy, especially since the additional requirements are modest.
It is highly beneficial for gaining admission to graduate school to have completed several credits of independent research (Astronomy 499) with a faculty member.A full descriptive list of Undergraduate Courses in Astronomy For additional information/questions, contact the Undergraduate Advisor Christine Edgar or Undergraduate Faculty Advisor Paula Szkody.
|Useful Links for Majors|
- Page O'Announcements
- Undergraduate Wiki
- Useful Web Sites for Astronomy and Physics Majors
- Research projects awaiting interested undergrads
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U.W. Astronomy homepage