The Department of Astronomy offers programs of study leading to the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. A full schedule of courses covering most fields of astronomy is offered. Some areas in which the faculty focus their research efforts are comets, interplanetary dust, planetary dynamics, star and planet formation, extrasolar planets, mm wavelength astronomy, the interstellar medium, active galaxies, plasma astrophysics, high energy astrophysics, theoretical and computational astrophysics, and cosmology.
Because of the large number of qualified applicants, the Department of Astronomy has had to restrict formal admission to the Graduate School to those who have shown particularly outstanding work in their undergraduate records. Students who enter the graduate program are normally expected to have strong backgrounds in astronomy, physics, and mathematics. A student with deficiencies in one of these areas may be admitted but will be expected to remedy such deficiencies as soon as possible.
Note that the Department of Astronomy accepts applications for the Ph.D. program only. (Admitted students typically receive an M.S. degree after their second year in the program.)
Type of Applicant Fall Spring
Domestic Applicants; US Citizens and Permanent Residents with foreign credentials; International Applicants seeking admissions under A, E, G, H, I and L visas and immigrants
Deadline: January 15
International Applicants seeking admission under F (student) or J (exchange visitor) visas
Deadline: January 15
- GRE General and GRE Physics Subject Test is required (University of Maryland institution code is 5814).
- 3 Letters of Recommendation.
- Statement of Purpose or Essay.
- One copy of your official transcripts (translated in English). You must have an overall grade point average of at least 3.0.
- International applicants must submit the Certification of Finances form.
- TOEFL or IELTS test scores required for international students if English is not your native language.
- Other materials such as curriculum vitae, resume, or other papers are accepted.
Master of Science (M.S.)
Candidates for the non-thesis option of the M.S. degree are required to complete 30 credits, including six of the nine principal Astronomy graduate courses (18 credits), with the remaining 12 credits consisting of classroom courses or research credits in Astronomy or supporting fields. One or more scholarly papers are required, usually fulfilled by the 2nd-year project report. The student must also pass a written examination, normally consisting of the written part of the Ph.D. qualifying examination with appropriately chosen passing requirements.
Candidates for the thesis option of the M.S. degree (less common) are required to complete 30 credits, including eight of the nine principal Astronomy graduate courses (24 credits) and 6 credits of thesis research (ASTR 799). A written thesis is required and must be successfully defended in an oral examination. The student must also pass a written examination, normally consisting of the written part of the Ph.D. qualifying examination with appropriately chosen passing requirements.
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Course requirements for the PhD in Astronomy currently consist of eight courses, at least six of which must come from the nine principal Astronomy graduate courses 601, 606, 610, 615, 620, 622, 630, 670, and 680. A qualifying exam based on these courses is given in the summer after the second year. A research project is required of all students in the second year of graduate study. Admission to the PhD program is based on course work, the research project and the qualifier.Students choose a research stream depending on their interest within the field. Courses beyond the required eight are often necessary for advanced research. This will be assessed by the student's thesis committee.
In collaboration with four other excellent astronomy departments, the University of Maryland operates CARMA (Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave Astronomy), the most powerful millimeter-wave telescope in the northern hemisphere. The Department also has guaranteed observing time on the new 4.3-meter Discovery Channel Telescope through a partnership with Lowell Observatory. We have strong interactions with other major observatories, where many students and faculty maintain observing programs, and with neighboring scientific institutes, including the Naval Observatory, the Naval Research Lab, and other government agencies. The planetary science team is heavily involved with space missions visiting solar system bodies, such as NASA's Deep Impact and EPOXI missions to study comets.
A number of our students conduct research with distinguished scientists at the nearby NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. The University's scientific partnership with Goddard has recently been further strengthened via the creation of the Joint Space Science Institute (JSI) in 2010. The first major component of JSI is a black hole center, a close collaboration between the Departments of Astronomy and Physics and Goddard scientists that is unique in addressing all observational and theoretical aspects of black hole research.
The Department has also recently established a partnership with Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile (PUC). PUC, one of the top two institutions for astronomy in Chile, signed an agreement with UMD in 2010 that enables astronomy graduate students at both institutions to participate in a joint Ph.D. program starting in their third year. These students split their time between both locations and conduct their thesis research under the supervision of UMD and PUC co-advisors. UMD students gain improved access to Chilean observatories, which include many of the best telescopes in the world.
There is an extensive network of workstations available for use in the Department. The network provides seamless access to software and hardware on a variety of UNIX and LINUX platforms. We have a strong computational astrophysics group which maintains and upgrades a Beowulf cluster for computation-intensive science projects and has additional access to a larger cluster maintained by the University.This Department is associated with the following research units and facilities:
- Combined Array for Research in Millimeter Astronomy (CARMA)
- Laboratory for Millimeter Wave Astronomy (LMA)
- Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT)
- Center for Theory and Computation (CTC): Astronomy Dept. center for theory- and computation-related research programs.
- Joint Space Science Institute (JSI): Partnership between Astronomy, Physics, and NASA/Goddard, with an initial emphasis on high energy astrophysics, especially black holes. Established 2010.
- Center for Research and Exploration in Space Science and Technology (CRESST): Partnership between UMCP, UMBC, USRA, and NASA/Goddard, with an emphasis on high-energy astrophysics.
The Department of Astronomy offers both teaching and research assistantships. Essentially all full-time graduate students receive full financial support. Most students receive assistantships to cover the summer period. These are either with faculty in the Department or with staff members at the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. Some summer teaching assistantships are also available. The deadline for financial support applications is January 15th for assistantships and fellowships.
For more specific information, contact: