Astrophysical Sciences and Technology Ph.D.

Graduate Admissions Counselor

Laura Watts, PhD

Department Contact

Joel Kastner, Program Director

Admission Deadlines & Requirements

Program Available Online? No
Application Deadline Priority deadline January 15, rolling thereafter
Admit Term Fall
Entrance Exam GRE
English Language Exams:
TOEFL (Internet) 79
PTE Academic 58


Priority deadline - COMPLETE applications that are received by this date are given priority consideration for admission and financial aid (if applicable). Applications received after the priority deadline will be considered on a space-available basis.

Rolling - There is no specific deadline for applications; applications will be accepted and reviewed throughout the year until the program reaches capacity.

Program overview

There has never been a more exciting time to study the universe beyond the confines of the Earth. A new generation of advanced ground-based and space-borne telescopes and enormous increases in computing power are enabling a golden age of astrophysics. The doctorate program in astrophysical sciences and technology focuses on the underlying physics of phenomena beyond the Earth and on the development of the technologies, instruments, data analysis, and modeling techniques that will enable the next major strides in the field. The program's multidisciplinary emphasis sets it apart from conventional astrophysics graduate programs at traditional research universities.

Plan of study

Students complete a minimum of 60 credit hours of study, consisting of at least 27 credit hours of course work and at least 24 credit hours of research. Students may choose to follow one of three tracks: astrophysics, astro-informatics and computational astrophysics (with the option of a concentration in general relativity), or astronomical instrumentation. All students must complete four core courses and two semesters of graduate seminar. The remaining course credits are made up from specialty track courses and electives. Students must successfully complete a master's-level research project and pass a written qualifying examination prior to embarking on the dissertation research project.


Electives include additional courses in astrophysics and a wide selection of courses offered in other RIT graduate programs (e.g. imaging science, computer science, engineering), including detector development, digital image processing, computational techniques, optics, and entrepreneurship, among others.

Master's level research project

Typically following the first year, but sometimes initiated during the first year for well prepared students, candidates begin a master's level research project under the guidance of a faculty member who will not necessarily be the dissertation research adviser. The topic may be different from the dissertation topic. Assessment is based on a combination of a written project report and an oral presentation.

Admission to candidacy

Students must pass a qualifying examination after completing the core curriculum and prior to embarking on the doctoral dissertation project. The purpose of the examination is to ensure the student has the necessary background knowledge and intellectual skills to carry out doctoral-level research in the subject areas of astrophysical sciences and technology. The examination consists of two parts: a written examination based on the program's core courses and an oral examination based on a research portfolio consisting of a written report on a master's-level research project and a record of graduate research seminar activities.

A committee, appointed by the program director and including the student's research adviser and two additional faculty members, will assess the student's overall qualifications. Students must pass the qualification examination by the beginning of the third year of full-time study or its equivalent, to continue in the program. Students are permitted two attempts to pass each part of the exam.

Dissertation research adviser

After passing the qualifying examination, students are guided by a dissertation research adviser who is approved by the program director. The choice of adviser is based on the student's research interests, faculty research interests, and available research funding.

Research committee

After passing the qualifying examination, a dissertation committee is appointed for the duration of the student's tenure in the program. The committee chair is appointed by the dean of graduate studies and must be a faculty member in a program other than astrophysical sciences and technology. The committee chair acts as the institutional representative in the final dissertation examination. The committee comprises at least four members and in addition to the chair, must also include the student's dissertation research adviser and at least one other member of the program's faculty. The fourth member may be an RIT faculty member, a professional affiliated in industry, or a representative from another institution. The program director must approve committee members who are not RIT faculty.

Ph.D. proposal review

Within six months of the appointment of the dissertation committee, students must prepare a Ph.D. research project proposal and present it to the committee for review. The student will provide a written research proposal and give an oral presentation to the Committee, who will provide constructive feedback on the project plan. The review must take place at least six months prior to the dissertation defense.

Annual review

Each fall, students provide an annual report in the form of an oral presentation, which summarizes progress made during the preceding year. The program director also monitors student's progress toward meeting the requirements for either the qualifying examination (during the first two years), or the Ph.D. (after passing the qualifying examination). Students may be interviewed, as necessary, to explore any concerns that emerge during the review and to discuss remedial actions.

Final examination of the dissertation

Once the dissertation is written, distributed to the dissertation committee, and the committee agrees to administer the final examination, the doctoral candidate can schedule the final examination. The candidate must distribute a copy of the dissertation to the committee and make the dissertation available to interested faculty at least four weeks prior to the dissertation defense.

The final examination of the dissertation is open to the public and is primarily a defense of the dissertation research. The examination consists of an oral presentation by the student, followed by questions from the audience. The dissertation committee privately questions the candidate following the presentation. The dissertation committee caucuses immediately following the examination and thereafter notifies the candidate and the program director of the results.


Astrophysical sciences and technology, Ph.D. degree, typical course sequence

Course Sem. Cr. Hrs.
First Year
ASTP-613 Astronomical Observational Techniques and Instrumentation 3
ASTP-617 Astrophysical Dynamics 3
  Elective or Specialty Track Course 3
ASTP-601, 602 Graduate Seminar I, II 2
ASTP-615 Radiative Processes for Astrophysical Sciences 3
Choose one of the following: 3
   ASTP-610    Mathematical Methods for the Astrophysical Sciences  
   ASTP-611    Statistical Methods for Astrophysics  
  Specialty Track Course 3
Second Year
  Specialty Track Courses 6
  Elective 3
  Elective or Specialty track course 3
ASTP-890 Research and Thesis 8
Third Year
ASTP-890 Research and Thesis 10
Fourth Year
ASTP-890 Research and Thesis 10
Total Semester Credit Hours 60


Course Sem. Cr. Hrs.
ASTP-730 Stellar Structure and Atmospheres 3
ASTP-740 Galactic Astrophysics 3
ASTP-750 Extragalactic Astrophysics 3
Astro-informatics and computational astrophysics
Course Sem. Cr. Hrs.
ASTP-611 Statistical Methods for Astrophysics 3
ASTP-720 Computational Methods for Astrophysics 3
Astro-informatics and computational astrophysics—general relativity concentration
Course Sem. Cr. Hrs.
Choose one of the following: 3
   ASTP-611    Statistical Methods for Astrophysics  
   ASTP-720    Computational Methods for Astrophysics  
ASTP-760 Introduction to Relativity and Gravitation 3
ASTP-861 Advanced Relativity and Gravitation 3
PHYS-611 Classical Electrodynamics I 3
PHYS-612 Classical Electrodynamics II 3
Astronomical instrumentation
Course Sem. Cr. Hrs.
IMGS-639 Principles of Solid State Imaging 3
IMGS-642 Testing of Focal Plane Arrays 3
IMGS-628 Design and Fabrication of Solid State Camera 3


Admission requirements

To be considered for admission to the Ph.D. program in astrophysical sciences and technology, candidates must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Complete a graduate application.
  • Hold a baccalaureate degree (or equivalent) from an accredited university or college in the physical sciences, mathematics, computer science, or engineering.
  • Submit official transcripts (in English) of all previously completed undergraduate and graduate course work.
  • Have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.2 (or equivalent) in course work in mathematical, science, engineering, and computing subject areas.
  • Submit scores from the GRE.
  • Submit a personal statement of educational objectives.
  • Submit a current resume or curriculum vitae.
  • Submit two letters of recommendation from academic or professional sources directly to RIT. These must be confidential.
  • International applicants whose native language is not English must submit scores from the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE. A minimum TOEFL score of 79 (internet-based) is required. A minimum IELTS score of 6.5 is required. The English language test score requirement is waived for native speakers of English or for those submitting transcripts from degrees earned at American institutions.

Additional information


All students in the program must spend at least one year (summer term excluded) in residence as full-time students to be eligible to receive the doctorate degree.

Time limitations

All doctoral candidates must maintain continuous enrollment during the research phase of the program. Normally, full-time students complete the course of study in approximately four to five years. A total of seven years is allowed to complete the requirements after first attempting the qualifying examination.

MS to Ph.D. transfer

Depending on each student's progress in their course work and the research project, students enrolled in the astrophysical sciences and technology MS program may seek program approval to attempt the Ph.D. qualifying examination. Upon successfully passing the exam, students may choose to proceed to Ph.D. candidacy rather than accepting a terminal master of science degree. This is contingent on the availability of an adviser and research funding.

Career Outcomes

The RIT Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education website provides information pertaining to student skills and capabilities, salary data, career information, job outcomes, and contact information for the Career Services Coordinator by program.

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