RIT Launches Doctoral Program in Astrophysical Sciences and Technology

Astrophysics becomes RIT’s fifth doctoral program

In the next decade, breakthroughs in astrophysics could reshape our understanding of the universe. Observations of gravity waves could prove Einstein’s theory of general relativity, or tip physics on its head. Other missions using ground-based telescopes and space probes will pry into dark matter and dark energy—a mysterious material and a force puzzling 21st century astrophysicists. Rochester Institute of Technology is gaining a reputation in the realm of astrophysics at this exciting time, with faculty contributing to research initiatives that blend science fiction and reality.

This fall, RIT will launch its fifth doctoral program, in Astrophysical Sciences and Technology. The program brings together scientists from different disciplines within the College of Science to explore Einstein’s theory of relativity, young and dying stars, centers of galaxies and black holes, and the technology to make new observations.

The program will depart from traditional astrophysical studies that focus mainly on theoretical and observational aspects of the discipline by adding the characteristic RIT twist of technology and applied science. An equal emphasis on theory, observational astronomy, and sensor and instrument development will set RIT’s program apart from others.

Students will have the opportunity to earn master’s and doctoral degrees in three distinct tracks: the emerging field of astro-informatics and computational astrophysics; astronomical instrumentation and the development of new technologies for application in astronomy and space science; and astrophysics.

The program will draw heavily upon faculty from the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, the Department of Physics and the School for Mathematical Sciences who are international experts in the areas of extragalactic astronomy—particularly the study of the centers of galaxies and stellar evolution—computational astronomy and numerical relativity, and instrumentation.

“The breadth of the program we have here is extremely large,” says David Axon, head of RIT’s Department of Physics. “We go all the way from the fundamentals of tackling Einstein’s field equations on supercomputers to how galaxies are assembled and how black holes work and grow through to the technology side of how we develop the detectors needed to make these investigations and those at the frontiers of cosmology possible.”

Axon will co-direct the new program with Stefi Baum, director of the Center for Imaging Science.

Adds Ian Gatley, dean of the College of Science: “Astrophysics is a discipline where learning by doing is absolutely key. It involves building technology, using technology and modeling phenomena using computers, and all of those are really very big issues indeed for RIT and its students.”

Adds Baum, “The program will stimulate cutting-edge research opportunities for students at the graduate and undergraduate level at RIT, engaging them in the development of new technologies, modeling with state-of-the-art computers, observing with international telescopes, all geared toward probing our universe, and developing a deeper understanding of the evolution of the objects, forces and energy that comprise it.”


Rochester Institute of Technology is internationally recognized for academic leadership in computing, engineering, imaging technology, and fine and applied arts, in addition to unparalleled support services for students with hearing loss. Nearly 16,000 full- and part-time students are enrolled in more than 200 career-oriented and professional programs at RIT, and its cooperative education program is one of the oldest and largest in the nation.

For nearly two decades, U.S. News & World Report has ranked RIT among the nation’s leading comprehensive universities. The Princeton Review features RIT in its 2007 Best 361 Colleges rankings and named the university one of America’s “Most Wired Campuses.” RIT is also featured in Barron’s Best Buys in Education.


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