Undergraduate Studies

Basics of the program

We offer an Astronomy Specialization within the regular Physics BS program. Details can be found here. We also offer a minor in Astronomy; details on that can be found here.

The Undergraduate Catalog also lists all of the undergraduate courses on the Courses page. Please note that as our program has evolved, we have added some courses, redesigned others, and completely dropped (for the time being) the offering of a few more. Therefore it is quite important for students to read this webpage — and to check the official course schedule — to find out what courses are actually happening.

About the BS program

As the catalog describes, the Astronomy Specialization requires 21 credits in addition to the core requirements for every specialization in the Physics B.S. program:

  • 6 credits from AST 2002 and AST 4700
  • 3 credits from AST 4762 or AST 5765
  • 6 credits from other AST 3000- or 4000-level courses (e.g. AST 3211, AST 3110, AST 3402, AST 4142, AST 4152, etc.).
  • 6 credits from “courses at a 3000 level or higher, approved by the Physics Department.” These are courses in Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry, Computer Science, or Engineering. But they could also be more of the AST courses listed above.

All students in the Physics B.S. program should take 3 credits of PHY 4912 — Directed Independent Research — “in area of specialization.” (You can instead take PHY 3905 — Directed Independent Studies — though that isn’t preferred.) For Astronomy Specialization students, taking this as AST 4912 is fine. In practice this means doing some astronomy or planetary science research. This is an outstanding opportunity to gain valuable research experience and be part of cutting-edge astronomy. Many of the faculty members in the Planetary Sciences group have openings for interested and capable undergraduate students. The Office of Undergraduate Research and the Burnett Honors College list some resources for getting involved in research, including funding opportunities.

About courses

Some course descriptions are available on our website. But please read through the following information on undergraduate course offerings.

  • AST 2002 and AST 2002H are offered every fall and spring semester. AST 2002 is often offered in the summer semester as well.
  • AST 2002L may be offered in future fall semesters.
  • AST 2037 and AST 3114 are offered occasionally, at irregular intervals. Check the course schedule to see if they are being offered.
  • AST 3110, 3211, 3402, 4142, and 4152 are offered quite regularly, if not annually then at least every other year.
  • AST 4700 and AST 4762 are offered quite regularly, generally annually.
  • AST 5145, AST 5154, AST 5263, and AST 5765 are the graduate versions of some of our undergrad courses — in some cases, with the same instructor and meeting time! Advanced undergraduates may take these; speak with the instructor if interested.
  • AST 5334 is also a graduate level course with no explicit undergraduate version. If at least 5 students request to take it in the same semester, it might then be offered.
  • AST 6165 is a graduate-level course with no explicit undergraduate version. The course is offered regularly and sufficiently advanced undergraduates can take it after consulting with the instructor and taking AST 5151.
  • If you have questions, contact the instructor of the course you wish to take.

In addition to these AST courses, our group offers some courses in MET and GLY.

  • MET 2104 is offered occasionally, though sometimes it is offered as a section of PSC 1121.
  • GLY 2038, GLY 4730, GLY 4734 are offered regularly.


Some flexible options

These options might be available by petition.

1. Both AST 4762 and AST 4700 are lab classes.  Students may be able to petition to use one or both to substitute for PHY 4803L. However please check with all the instructors and with the department ahead of time.

2. Generally you can use any selection of AST non-lab courses at the 3000 level or above, including graduate classes, for the “Select from upper division AST courses” requirement in the Astronomy Specialization.  Directed Independent Study in astronomy may be used for this requirement if the class is set up as a lecture or independent readings on a coherent and general topic, and not, for example, as a research class.  This is decided on a case-by-case basis, so get approval before starting the class.  Directed Independent Research may not be used for the “Select from upper division AST courses” requirement.

Forthcoming course schedule

Here is the forthcoming schedule as we expect it to happen, as of July 2021. However there are several things to note: (i) We may have to change the schedule depending on student demand and on faculty availability. (ii) We may have to change the instructor for a given course. (iii) Undergrads generally take 2000-, 3000-, and 4000-level courses; they can take 5000-level courses if they have the right preparation, but cannot take 6000-level without doing a lot of extra paperwork. (iv) Graduate students generally only take 5000- and 6000-level courses.

  • Fall 2021 – an odd-numbered fall
    • AST 2002 and 2002H – Astronomy (our Introductory GEP course), taught by several faculty.
    • AST 3402 – Galaxies and Cosmology, taught by Prof. Cooney.
    • AST 4700 – Experimental Methods in Astronomy, taught by Dr. Schambeau.
    • AST 5151 – Physics of Planetary Processes, taught by Prof. Bennett.
    • AST 5263 – Advanced Observatory Astronomy, taught by Prof. Donaldson Hanna.
    • PHY 6246 – Classical Mechanics, taught by Prof. Fernandez.
  • Spring 2022 – an even-numbered spring
    • AST 2002 and 2002H – Astronomy (our Introductory GEP course), taught by several faculty.
    • AST 3110 – Solar System Astronomy, instructor TBD.
    • AST 3211 – Stellar Astrophysics, instructor TBD.
    • AST 4762 – Astronomical Data Analysis, taught by Prof. Fernandez.
    • AST 5765 – Advanced Astronomical Data Analysis, taught by Prof. Fernandez.
    • AST 6165 – Planetary Atmospheres, taught by Prof. Ramirez.
  • Academic year 2022-2023
    • We anticipate offering AST 4142, AST 4152, AST 5145, AST 5154, AST 5937, and AST 6112 during this academic year, with instructors TBD.
    • We also anticipate continuing to offer AST 4700, AST 4762, and AST 5765 on an annual basis.
    • All this is subject to change!