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The Department of Astrophysical Sciences offers advanced training in astrophysics and plasma physics; under the department’s aegis, an extensive program of graduate research is also conducted at the renowned Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), located on Princeton’s Forrestal Campus. The fascinating discoveries of modern astronomy challenge human understanding of the broadest possible range of physical phenomena. Plasma physics provides the scientific basis for the attainment of an effectively unlimited energy source through controlled thermonuclear fusion as well as a framework for interpreting many fascinating laboratory and astrophysical phenomena. The primary emphasis of the departmental program is on the basic physical understanding of these topics.
Prior to the general examination students are expected to take a number of nondepartmental courses, usually in physics and mathematics, in addition to a variety of courses within the department. Courses are selected with assistance from the faculty and 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 seven 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. The student chooses four topics out of the following six: stellar systems, extragalactic astronomy, stellar structure, high-energy astrophysics, diffuse matter in space, and plasma astrophysics. Five of 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 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, although this requirement may be waived in exceptional circumstances.
The Ph.D. is awarded after the candidate’s doctoral dissertation has been accepted and the final public oral examination sustained.
James M. Stone
Neta A. Bahcall
Gáspár A. Bakos
Matthew W. Kunz
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.