Astrophysics Emphasis

Astrophysics Emphasis

The Astrophysics Emphasis is similar to the standard Physics Ph.D. program except for the course requirements. 

Students not yet advanced to candidacy meet quarterly with the Faculty Graduate Advisor who provides guidance on selecting courses, progressing to degree, preparing for advancement to candidacy, selecting a research advisor, and on any issues that influence the student's academic progress.

Graduate students should secure a research advisor by no later than the beginning of their third year, and preferably earlier. By the end of Spring quarter of the third year, each student must pass the advancement to candidacy examination, after which the primary focus is research and work on a dissertation.

The Department's course and examination requirements are outlined below:

  • Supervising Committee The student’s program of study and research is overseen by their Supervising Committee in consultation with the Faculty Graduate Advisor.  The student will work with the Faculty Graduate Advisor to assemble this committee during the first year of graduate studies.  The student and committee will meet at least once a year to complete an Annual Update Form. The committee will consist of at least 3 faculty members.
  • Advancement to Candidacy Exam After advancement, the Supervising Committee will be chaired by the student’s research advisor (or co-chaired by the advisor if they are not UCSB physics ladder faculty).
  • The Guidance provided by the Faculty Graduate Advisor and a student's Supervising Committee includes advice in choosing appropriate courses. The committee may require that certain courses be taken in addition to the normal course requirements, or may tell the student to expect questions in certain areas on the Advancement to Candidacy exam. The guidance may also include advice on choosing a field of specialization as well as help in locating research opportunities.
  •  The Oral Advancement to Candidacy Exam is taken by the end of spring quarter in the student's third year. The exam begins with a short presentation in which the student assesses the overall situation in the field, and proposes a possible line of research, justifying its potential significance. The exam committee may then ask more general background questions. The scope and content of the exam are agreed upon beforehand. If the committee fails the student, the reasons will be given in writing, and the student must retake the exam by the end of spring quarter of the third year.
  • Course Requirements

Students must complete courses as listed in the four sections below with a grade of B or better.

I. First year students will be required to pass five of the six following graduate physics courses:

  1. Stellar Structure and Evolution [Phys 232]
  2. The Interstellar Medium [Phys 233]
  3. High Energy Astrophysics [Phys 234]
  4. Extragalactic Astrophysics [Phys 235]
  5. Cosmology [Phys 236]
  6. Galactic Dynamics [Phys 237]

II. Required course:

  1. Quantum Mechanics [Phys 215A]

III. Students must pass two of the four courses: 

  1. Electromagnetic Theory [Phys 210A]
  2. Electromagnetic Theory [Phys 210B]
  3. Quantum Mechanics [Phys 215B]
  4. Statistical Mechanics [Phys 219]

IV. Additional course requirements:

  1. Theoretical physics students must complete a minimum of four advanced graduate courses, and experimental physics students must complete a minimum of two advanced graduate courses with a grade of B or better. For theoretical physics students, at least one of these courses must be in an area clearly distinct from the student’s field of specialization – such a determination will be made by the departmental graduate advisor.


Please see the Physics Department Graduate Student Handbook for details on the graduate program of study.

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For more information about the Astrophysics Emphasis, please see the Emphasis Worksheet.

For information on the standard Physics Ph.D. program, please click here