Astronomy is, at once, the oldest science and one of the most vibrant fields of modern research. Its goal is to construct testable, quantitative, coherent models of the universe (the UNIty of the diVERSE) and its contents-galaxies, stars, and planets. The department offers two majors, both of which require a solid grounding in the mathematics and physics necessary for the pursuit of the discipline.
The astrophysics major is designed as preparation for graduate study and consists of a standard physics major sequence; a yearlong introduction to astrophysics (typically taken in the sophomore year, but open to first-years with adequate preparation in calculus and physics); and two required courses covering advanced topics in astronomy. Research, in the form of summer internships and/or term-time independent projects, which can lead to a senior thesis, is strongly encouraged. For a research thesis, students should enroll in the parallel, two-semester sequence ASTR UN3997-ASTR UN3998 Independent Research , preferably in their senior year. Students begin the research project in the fall and complete the written thesis in the spring. ASTR UN3997 and ASTR UN3998cannot be repeated for credit.
The astronomy major provides a basis for further study in the field, but is also designed to be compatible with liberal arts students who pursue other careers and those wishing to combine astronomy with related sciences other than physics, such as chemistry or geology. It requires only two physics courses beyond the introductory sequence and can be completed easily if begun in the sophomore year.
The department offers numerous introductory astronomy courses at the 1000-level that do not have prerequisites. The calculus-based ASTR UN2001 Introduction To Astrophysics, I-ASTR UN2002 Introduction To Astrophysics, II sequence is recommended for astronomy majors and concentrators and is required for astrophysics majors.
Most 3000-level courses, as well as ASTR GU4260 Modeling the Universe, are offered every other year. Students should inquire with the director of undergraduate studies if they have specific questions on the course schedule. ASTR UN3996 Current Research in Astrophysics is a one-point course offered in the fall, designed to introduce majors to research methods and topics. It requires students to attend the department colloquia and a seminar designed to help students understand the colloquium topic. The 3000-level courses need not be taken in any particular order.