Astrophysical Sciences and Technology Master of science degree

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Overview

Explore the depths of the universe through multidisciplinary research as you dive into an area that most interests you, whether it be general relativity, theoretical astrophysics, observational or instrumentation development, or another area related to astrophysics.


Students may tailor their programs of study to emphasize Astrophysics (including Observational and Theoretical Astrophysics), Computational and Gravitational Astrophysics (including Numerical Relativity, Gravitational Wave Astronomy), and Astronomical Technology (including detector and instrumentation research and development). Students can pursue research interests in a wide range of topics, including design and development of novel detectors, multiwavelength studies of proto-stars, active galactic nuclei and galaxy clusters, gravitational wave data analysis, and theoretical and computational modeling of astrophysical systems including galaxies and compact objects such as binary black holes. Depending on research interests, students may participate in one of three research centers: the Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation (Video), the Center for Detectors or the Laboratory for Multi-wavelength Astrophysics.

The astrophysics degree 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.

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 MS 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

The MS program comprises a minimum of 30 credit hours of study. The curriculum consists of four core courses, two to four elective courses, two semesters of graduate seminar, and a research project culminating in a thesis.

Master's thesis

During the first year, most students begin a research project under the guidance of a faculty research adviser. Focus on the project becomes more significant during the second year after the core courses have been completed. A thesis committee is appointed by the program director and oversees the final defense of the thesis, which consists of a public oral presentation by the student, followed by a closed-door examination by the committee.

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Curriculum

Astrophysical Sciences and Technology, MS degree, typical course sequence

Course Sem. Cr. Hrs.
First Year
ASTP-601
Graduate Seminar I
This course is the first in a two-semester sequence intended to familiarize students with research activities, practices, and ethics in the university research environment and to introduce students to commonly used research tools. As part of the course, students are expected to attend research seminars sponsored by the Astrophysical Sciences and Technology Program and participate in a weekly journal club. The course also provides training in scientific writing and presentation skills. Credits earned in this course apply to research requirements.
1
ASTP-602
Graduate Seminar II
This course is the second in a two-semester sequence intended to familiarize students with research activities, practices, and ethics in the university research environment and to introduce students to commonly used research tools. As part of the course, students are expected to attend research seminars sponsored by the Astrophysical Sciences and Technology Program and participate in a weekly journal club. The course also provides training in scientific writing and presentation skills. Credits earned in this course apply to research requirements.
1
ASTP-608
Fundamental Astrophysics I
This course will provide a basic introduction to modern astrophysics, including the topics of radiation fields and matter, star formation and evolution, and stellar structure. This course will provide the physical background needed to interpret both observations and theoretical models in stellar astrophysics and prepare students for more advanced topics and research in astrophysics.
3
ASTP-609
Fundamental Astrophysics II
This course will provide a basic introduction to modern astrophysics, following on from Fundamental Astrophysics I. Topics will include basic celestial mechanics and galactic dynamics, the Milky Way and other galaxies, the interstellar medium, active galactic nuclei, galaxy formation and evolution, and an introduction to cosmology. This course will provide the physical background needed to interpret both observations and theoretical models in galactic and extragalactic astrophysics and cosmology and prepare students for more advanced topics and research in astrophysics.
3
Choose one of the following:
3
  ASTP-613
   Astronomical Obervational Techniques and Instrumentation
This course will survey multi-wavelength astronomical observing techniques and instrumentation. The design characteristics and function of telescopes, detectors, and instrumentation in use at the major ground based and space based observatories will be discussed as will common observing techniques such as imaging, photometry and spectroscopy. The principles of cosmic ray, neutrino, and gravitational wave astronomy will also be briefly reviewed.
 
 
   Elective
 
Choose one of the following:
3
  ASTP-610
   Mathematical Methods for the Astrophysical Sciences
This course is a stand-alone course on mathematical methods for astrophysics covering tensor algebra, group theory, complex analysis, differential equations, special functions, integral transforms, the calculus of variations, and chaos.
 
  
   Elective
 
ASTP-790
Research & Thesis
Masters-level research by the candidate on an appropriate topic as arranged between the candidate and the research advisor.
4
Second Year
Choose one of the following:
3
  ASTP-613
   Astronomical Obervational Techniques and Instrumentation
This course will survey multi-wavelength astronomical observing techniques and instrumentation. The design characteristics and function of telescopes, detectors, and instrumentation in use at the major ground based and space based observatories will be discussed as will common observing techniques such as imaging, photometry and spectroscopy. The principles of cosmic ray, neutrino, and gravitational wave astronomy will also be briefly reviewed.
 
 
   Elective
 
Choose one of the following:
3
  ASTP-610
   Mathematical Methods for the Astrophysical Sciences
This course is a stand-alone course on mathematical methods for astrophysics covering tensor algebra, group theory, complex analysis, differential equations, special functions, integral transforms, the calculus of variations, and chaos.
 
 
   Elective
 
ASTP-790
Research & Thesis
Masters-level research by the candidate on an appropriate topic as arranged between the candidate and the research advisor.
6
Total Semester Credit Hours
30

Electives

Course
ASTP-610
Mathematical Methods for the Astrophysical Sciences
This course is a stand-alone course on mathematical methods for astrophysics covering tensor algebra, group theory, complex analysis, differential equations, special functions, integral transforms, the calculus of variations, and chaos.
ASTP=611
Statistical Methods for Astrophysics
This course provides an introduction to the statistical techniques used in astrophysics and other observational sciences, including parameter estimation, hypothesis testing, and statistical signal processing. An introduction is given to both Bayesian and frequentist approaches.
ASTP-720
Computational Methods for Astrophysics
This course surveys the different ways that scientists use computers to address problems in astrophysics. The course will choose several common problems in astrophysics; for each one, it will provide an introduction to the problem, review the literature for recent examples, and illustrate the basic mathematical technique. In each of these segments, students will write their own code in an appropriate language.
ASTP-730
Stellar Structure & Atmospheres
An overview of the physical principles governing the internal structures and energy generation mechanisms of main sequence stars, with brief introductions to pre- and post-main sequence stellar evolution. Topics covered include: observational aspects of main sequence stars, giants, and white dwarfs; stellar timescales and equations of state; static stellar structure; stellar energy generation and transport; simple stellar atmospheres.
ASTP-740
Galactic Astrophysics
This course will cover stellar and galactic dynamics with special application to the Milky Way galaxy. Topics will include the theory of orbits; Jeans theorem and equilibrium of stellar systems; the virial theorem; the Jeans equations; gravitational instabilities; structure and kinematics of the Milky Way; properties of spiral and elliptical galaxies.
ASTP-750
Extragalactic Astrophysics
This course will cover objects in the universe beyond our own Milky Way galaxy, with an emphasis on the observational evidence. Topics will include properties of ordinary and active galaxies; galaxy clusters; the extragalactic distance scale; evidence for dark matter; cosmological models with and without lambda.
ASTP-760
Introduction to Relativity and Gravitation
This course is the first in a two-course sequence that introduces Einstein's theory of General Relativity as a tool in modern astrophysics. The course will cover various aspects of both Special and General Relativity, with applications to situations in which strong gravitational fields play a critical role, such as black holes and gravitational radiation. Topics include differential geometry, curved spacetime, gravitational waves, and the Schwarzschild black hole.
ASTP-831
Stellar Evolution & Environments
A survey of contemporary topics in star formation and pre- and post-main sequence stellar evolution, with emphasis on the physical processes governing stellar accretion, mass loss, and the effects of binary companions on these processes.
ASTP-835
High-Energy Astrophysics
This course will survey violent astrophysical phenomena including supernovae, compact stellar remnants, X-ray binaries, gamma ray bursts, and supermassive black holes in active galactic nuclei. It will examine physical processes associated with the emission of high-energy radiation, production of high-energy particles, accretion discs around compact objects, and production and propagation of astrophysical jets. It will review current models for the sources of high-energy phenomena.
ASTP-841
The Interstellar Medium
This course provides a detailed overview of the physical processes and properties of the interstellar medium in our Galaxy and other galaxies. The course explores the fundamental physical basis of the observed properties of low-density astrophysical gases observed throughout the universe. Topics may include HII regions, planetary nebulae, HI clouds, molecular clouds, photodissociation regions, supernova remnants, and multi-phase models of the interstellar medium.
ASTP-851
Cosmology
This course will cover the evolution of the universe from the big bang to the present, with an emphasis on the synergy between theory and observations. Topics will fall under three general headings: classical and relativistic cosmology, the early universe, and structure formation.
ASTP-861
Advanced Relativity and Gravitation
This course is the second in a two-course sequence that introduces Einstein's theory of General Relativity as a tool in modern astrophysics. The course will cover various aspects of General Relativity, with applications to situations in which strong gravitational fields play a critical role, such as black holes and gravitational radiation. Topics include advanced differential geometry, generic black holes, energy production in black-hole physics, black-hole dynamics, introductory cosmology, and methods for solving the Einstein equations.
IMGS-628
Design and Fabrication of Solid State Cameras
The purpose of this course is to provide the student with hands-on experience in building a CCD camera. The course provides the basics of CCD operation including an overview, CCD clocking, analog output circuitry, cooling, and evaluation criteria.
IMGS-639
Principles of Solid State Imaging Arrays
This course covers the basics of solid state physics, electrical engineering, linear systems and imaging needed to understand modern focal plane array design and use. The course emphasizes knowledge of the working of CMOS and infrared arrays.
IMGS-642
Testing of Focal Plane Arrays
This course is an introduction to the techniques used for the testing of solid state imaging detectors such as CCDs, CMOS and Infrared Arrays. Focal plane array users in industry, government and university need to ensure that key operating parameters for such devices either fall within an operating range or that the limitation to the performance is understood. This is a hands-on course where the students will measure the performance parameters of a particular camera in detail.
PHYS-611
Classical Electrodynamics I
This course is a systematic treatment of electro- and magneto-statics, charges, currents, fields and potentials, dielectrics and magnetic materials, Maxwell's equations and electromagnetic waves. Field theory is treated in terms of scalar and vector potentials. Wave solutions of Maxwell's equations, the behavior of electromagnetic waves at interfaces, guided electromagnetic waves, and simple radiating systems will be covered.
PHYS-612
Classical Electrodynamics II
This course is an advanced treatment of electrodynamics and radiation. Classical scattering theory including Mie scattering, Rayleigh scattering, and the Born approximation will be covered. Relativistic electrodynamics will be applied to charged particles in electromagnetic fields and magnetohydrodynamics.

Admission Requirements

To be considered for admission to the MS program in astrophysical sciences and technology, a candidate 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.
  • 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.

 

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Additional Info

MS to Ph.D. transfer

MS students who have excelled in their course work and research project may be permitted, by program approval, to transition into the doctoral program, with the MS thesis defense serving as the Ph.D. qualifying examination. Such a transition from MS to Ph.D. is contingent on the availability of an adviser and research funding.