Astrophysics degree becomes RIT’s fifth Ph.D.

RIT's new Doctoral Program, Astrophysics, this fall ran by David Axon, head of the Physics Department.

Breakthroughs in astrophysics could reshape our understanding of the universe in the next decade. 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.

RIT 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.

David Axon, head of the physics department, will co-direct the new program with Stefi Baum, director of the Center for Imaging Science. “Astrophysics is a discipline where learning by doing is absolutely key,” says Ian Gatley, dean of the College of Science. “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.”


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