The Department of Astrophysical Sciences offers advanced training in astrophysics. The faculty and staff in the department conduct world-leading research in theoretical and computational astrophysics, observational astronomy, astronomical surveys and instrumentation (both hardware and software). The fascinating discoveries of modern astronomy challenge human understanding of the broadest possible range of physical phenomena. The graduate program in Astrophysical Sciences prepares students for scientific careers in astrophysics through a combination of classes and early and active participation in semester research projects, culminating in original thesis research.
The program length is five years, the first two years of which are dedicated to taking core astrophysics courses and working on up to four semester-long research projects with different faculty members. After the general exam at the end of the second year, the students are admitted to candidacy, select a thesis advisor, and work on their thesis research for the remaining three years.
Under the department’s aegis, an extensive program of graduate research in fundamental plasma physics is also conducted at the renowned Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), located on Princeton’s Forrestal Campus. Please see Program in Plasma Physics page for information about applying for this program. Students interested in fundamental plasma physics and its laboratory and technology applications should apply to the Program in Plasma Physics. Students interested in astrophysical applications of plasma physics (including high energy astrophysics) should apply to the graduate program in Astrophysical Sciences.
Prior to standing for the general examination students are expected to complete four core astrophysics courses (Stellar Structure, Stellar Dynamics, Interstellar Medium, and Cosmology and Extragalactic Astronomy) and a number of additional courses in astrophysics (such as High Energy Astrophysics, Computational Methods, or Plasma Astrophysics) or physics or mathematics. Additional courses are selected with assistance from and agreement by the faculty. These additional courses allow students to satisfy their own interests and assist them with preparation for the general examination.
Graduate students are required to attend the graduate student seminars each semester, except for their last semester at Princeton. Students take turns presenting 50-minute talks, which they prepare using recent publications on the seminar subject. The seminar is run by faculty members, who usually choose a topic related to their research area as the general theme for the seminar in a given semester. In the fall, the seminar focuses on theory, whereas in spring it is mostly observational. As a result, by the time of graduation, students are familiar with the current state of research in several different areas. The seminar is also attended by graduate students from the Department of Physics and undergraduate students from Astrophysical Sciences.
At the end of the second year, students take the oral general examination. For the examination, the student chooses four topics out of the following six: dynamics of stellar and planetary systems, cosmology and extragalactic astronomy, stellar structure, high-energy astrophysics, interstellar medium, and plasma astrophysics. These topics are covered by classes offered in the department. A committee of four faculty members tests the student for approximately two hours, primarily about the four chosen subjects, but also about other topics in astrophysics.
The Master of Arts (M.A.) degree is normally an incidental degree on the way to full Ph.D. candidacy and is earned after a student successfully completes two of the three following requirements: (1) successful completion of the four core courses and any additional courses mapped out by the DGS and/or the adviser; (2) successful completion of the general examination; and (3) production of at least one paper suitable for submission to a journal as part of a departmental research project. The research supervisor must approve the paper. The M.A. may also be awarded to students who, for various reasons, leave the Ph.D. program, provided that these requirements have been met.
Students are required to serve as assistants in instruction for one semester sometime during their graduate career. For students who secure certain competitive fellowships that do not allow teaching, this requirement can be lifted with approval from the DGS.
The Ph.D. is awarded after the candidate’s doctoral dissertation has been accepted and the final public oral examination sustained.
Michael A. Strauss
Director of Graduate Studies
Neta A. Bahcall
Gáspár Áron Bakos
Adam S. Burrows
Christopher F. Chyba
Bruce T. Draine
Nathaniel J. Fisch
Robert J. Goldston
Jeremy J. Goodman
Jenny E. Greene
Eve Charis Ostriker
Stewart C. Prager
Michael A. Strauss
Edwin L. Turner
Joshua N. Winn
Matthew W. Kunz
Peter M. Melchior
Visiting Lecturer with Rank of Professor
Michael D. Lemonick
Courses listed below are graduate-level courses that have been approved by the program’s faculty as well as the Curriculum Subcommittee of the Faculty Committee on the Graduate School as permanent course offerings. Permanent courses may be offered by the department or program on an ongoing basis, depending on curricular needs, scheduling requirements, and student interest. Not listed below are undergraduate courses and one-time-only graduate courses, which may be found for a specific term through the Registrar’s website. Also not listed are graduate-level independent reading and research courses, which may be approved by the Graduate School for individual students.