Department of Astrophysical Sciences
James M. Stone
- Associate Chair
Nathaniel J. Fisch (Plasma Physics)
Michael A. Strauss (Astronomy)
- Departmental Representative
Neta A. Bahcall
- Director of Graduate Studies
Nathaniel J. Fisch (Plasma Physics)
Anatoly Spitkovsky (Astronomy)
Neta A. Bahcall
Gáspár A. Bakos
Adam S. Burrows
Christopher F. Chyba, also Woodrow Wilson School
Bruce T. Draine
Jo Dunkley, also Physics
Jenny E. Greene
Eve C. Ostriker
David N. Spergel
James M. Stone, also Applied and Computational Mathematics
Michael A. Strauss
Edwin L. Turner
Joshua N. WinnAssistant Professor
Matthew W. KunzVisiting Lecturer
Michael D. LemonickAssociated Faculty
N. Jeremy Kasdin, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Lyman A. Page Jr., Physics
Frans Pretorius, Physics
Suzanne T. Staggs, Physics
Paul J. Steinhardt, Physics
Robert J. Vanderbei, Operations Research and Financial Engineering
- Plasma PhysicsProfessor
Steven C. Cowley
Nathaniel J. Fisch
Robert J. Goldston
David J. McComas
Stewart C. PragerLecturer with Rank of Professor
Samuel A. Cohen
Gregory W. Hammett
Richard P. Majeski
Allan H. Reiman
William M. TangLecturer
Ilya I. Dodin
Philip C. Efthimion
Yevgeny RaitsesAssociated Faculty
Edgar Y. Choueiri, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Egemen Kolemen, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Julia Mikhailova, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Information and Departmental Plan of Study
The Department of Astrophysical Sciences offers an outstanding program for astrophysics majors with the flexibility to accommodate students with a broad range of interests. Many of our majors plan to continue in graduate school in astrophysics. For students with career goals in other areas such as science education, science policy, space exploration, as well as law, medicine, finance, and teaching, we offer a flexible choice of courses and research projects. The department covers all major fields in astrophysics -- from planets, to black holes, stars, galaxies, quasars, dark matter, dark energy, and the evolution of the universe from the Big Bang to today. The relatively small size of the department provides an informal, flexible, and friendly setting for students. The department is known for providing strong and supportive mentorship to all students, for cutting-edge independent research done by students for their JPs and theses, as well as for the warm and amiable atmosphere. Full accessibility to all faculty members and to the excellent departmental facilities, including our on-campus and remote telescopes and sophisticated computer system, is provided.
Mathematics 201, 202 or equivalent, and Physics 205 or 207; Astrophysical Sciences 204 is strongly recommended.
Students interested in early concentration in astrophysics should contact the departmental representative.
Program of Study
Every student majoring in astrophysical sciences will acquire the necessary training in astrophysics by taking at least three astrophysics courses at the 300 or 400 level. In addition to these courses, departmental students will take courses in the Department of Physics that provide basic training in mechanics, quantum mechanics, electromagnetic theory, and other relevant topics.
Junior Year. In addition to the course work carried out during the junior year, each student carries out two junior independent research projects, one each semester. Each project is on a research topic of current interest, carried out under close supervision of a faculty adviser who is doing research in this area. The student will complete each term's independent work by submitting a written paper. The research projects can involve data analysis using astronomical data from our telescopes, including data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey -- a unique three-dimensional map of the universe -- and the Hyper Suprime-Cam Survey with the Subaru telescope, as well as data from other national and international facilities such as the Hubble Space Telescope. Similarly, theoretical and computational projects in astrophysics are available. The topics, to be selected jointly by the student and his/her adviser, can range from areas such as cosmology and the early universe, to galaxy formation, large-scale structure of the universe, quasars, black holes, stars, extra-solar planets, high-energy astrophysics, and plasma astrophysics. Interdisciplinary projects, including astronomy and education, science policy, planetary science, astrobiology, space science exploration, and more are possible.
Senior Year. In the senior year, in addition to course work, students carry out an extensive research project with a faculty adviser for their senior thesis. The thesis is completed by submitting the final written paper summarizing the work. There is a wide range of observational and theoretical topics available, including interdisciplinary projects as discussed above. The senior thesis work is frequently published as part of a scientific paper in an astrophysical journal. After the thesis has been completed and read by the adviser and an additional faculty member, the student presents an oral summary of the work, followed by an oral defense of the thesis.
Senior Departmental Examination
The thesis work and the oral defense, combined with a brief oral examination on general topics in astrophysics, compose the senior departmental examination.
Preparation for Graduate Study
The undergraduate program in the department provides an excellent preparation for graduate study in astrophysics, with concentrators frequently accepted at the top graduate schools in the country.
Additional Courses: See Course Offerings, especially for courses offered on a one-time-only basis.