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AstronomyCollege of Natural Sciences
2505 Correa Road
Honolulu, HI 96822
Tel: (808) 956-7087
Fax: (808) 956-7107
* Graduate faculty
*C. G. Wynn-Williams (Graduate Chair), PhD—infrared astronomy
The Academic Program
Astronomy (ASTR) is the branch of science that studies the structure and development of the physical world beyond Earth. It includes the study of planets and other objects of the solar system; the sun and stars and their evolution; the interstellar medium; the nature and dynamics of star clusters, galaxies, and clusters of galaxies; and the study of the nature and history of the universe itself—of the physical world taken in its largest extent in space and time.
Incomparable facilities for ground-based observational astronomy in the optical, infrared, and submillimeter regions of the spectrum reside in Hawai‘i. The UH’s facilities are located on Haleakalâ on the island of Maui at an elevation of 3,000 meters and on Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawai‘i at an elevation of 4,200 meters. The summit of Mauna Kea is internationally recognized as the best observing site in the world. As a consequence, the major telescopes of 11 nations are located there, and the UH is guaranteed access to them. The Institute for Astronomy of the UH has major programs in the study of galaxies and cosmology, stellar and interstellar astronomy, solar astronomy, infrared and submillimeter astronomy, and planetary astronomy.
Most students entering the astronomy graduate program do so with the goal of achieving the PhD degree, but they must first obtain an MS degree unless they already have a closely-related master’s degree from another university.
In selecting applications for entry to the astronomy program we pay particular attention to high academic achievement, especially in physics, and to the letters of recommendation. Research experience at the undergraduate level is valuable, though not essential.
The program offers both the Plan A (thesis) and Plan B (non-thesis) MS degrees, but almost all students opt for the Plan B program as it dovetails better with the requirements of qualification for PhD candidacy. The only real advantage of the Plan A masters is that it can be completed within four semesters; it is therefore of interest only to those students want to get a terminal masters degree in the minimum time.
All MS students must take 30 credits of graduate level astronomy courses unless substitution is approved by the graduate chair. They must include Astr 633 (Astrophysical Techniques) and at least three credits of Astr 734-736. Plan A students must complete a thesis in accordance with UHM regulations, while Plan B students must pass the final examination (which is also the PhD qualifying examination) and satisfactorily complete at least one directed research project as judged by the qualifying exam committee.
Besides the course work required for the MS degree, PhD students are expected to undertake two directed research projects during their first two years, and present the results to the faculty both as a written report and an oral presentation. Students must pass the Qualifying Exam Assessment (which also serves as the Plan B MS degree final exam) by the end of their 5th semester in the astronomy graduate program. The qualifying exam committee considers the student’s record in astronomy coursework and in directed research projects as well as the results of a written and an oral exam taken by the candidate.
Students who by-pass the MS degree (because they already have an MS degree) must register for at least 3 credits of astronomy coursework in each semester prior to the semester in which they will take the qualifying exam assessment; they must also take at least three credits of Astr 734-736.