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Degree, Minors and Certificates Offered

General Information


Undergraduate Programs

Requirements for Undergraduate Degrees from the Colleges of Arts and Sciences

Professional Programs



College of Natural Sciences
Watanabe 416
2505 Correa Road
Honolulu, HI 96822
Tel: (808) 956-7091
Fax: (808) 956-7107
Email: grad-chair@ifa.hawaii.edu
Web: www.ifa.hawaii.edu/gradprog


*Graduate Faculty

*D. B. Sanders, PhD (Graduate Chair)—infrared and millimeter astronomy
*C. Aspin, PhD—star formation
*C. Baranec, PhD—exoplanets
*J. Barnes, PhD—theoretical astronomy
*F. Bresolin, PhD—stellar astronomy
*K. Chambers, PhD—extragalactic astronomy
*M. R. Chun, PhD—adaptive optics
*P. Coleman, PhD—cosmology
*A. S. Cowie, PhD—interstellar matter
*L. L. Cowie, PhD—extragalactic astronomy
*S. R. Habbal, PhD—solar and heliospheric physics
*D. N. B. Hall, PhD—infrared astronomy
*G. Hasinger, PhD—X-ray astronomy
*K. Hodapp, PhD—infrared astronomy
*A. W. Howard, PhD—exoplanets
*E. M. Hu, PhD—extragalactic astronomy
*R. Jedicke, PhD—asteroids
*R. Joseph, PhD—infrared astronomy
*N. Kaiser, PhD—theoretical astronomy
*R-P. Kudritzki, PhD—stellar astronomy
*J. R. Kuhn, PhD—solar astrophysics
*H. Lin, PhD—solar physics
*M. Liu, PhD—stellar astronomy
*J. Lu, PhD—star formation
*K. Meech, PhD—planetary astronomy
*R. Mendez, PhD—star formation
*B. Reipurth, PhD—star formation
*I. Szapudi, PhD—cosmology
*D. Tholen, PhD—planetary science
*A. T. Tokunaga, PhD—infrared astronomy
*J. Tonry, PhD—extragalactic astronomy
*R. B. Tully, PhD—galaxies and cosmology
*R. Wainscoat, PhD—asteroids
*J. Williams, PhD—submillimeter astronomy

Degrees Offered: MS in astronomy, PhD in 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. UH Manoa's facilities are located on Haleakala 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 UH Manoa is guaranteed access to them. The Institute for Astronomy of UH Manoa has major programs in the study of galaxies and cosmology, stellar and interstellar astronomy, solar astronomy, infrared and submillimeter astronomy, and planetary astronomy

Graduate Study

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.

Applicants to the Astronomy Graduate Program should normally have a bachelor's degree in physics, astronomy, or a related field. Requirements for admission include a minimum of 35 undergraduate credit hours in physics or astronomy, some of which must be in atomic and nuclear physics, electromagnetism, mechanics, optics, and thermodynamics. We require the GRE General Test, and the subject test in physics.

In selecting applications for entry to the astronomy program, we pay attention to high academic achievement, especially in physics, and to the letters of recommendation. Research experience at the undergraduate level is extremely valuable.

Master’s Degree

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 master's is that it can be completed within four semesters; it is therefore of interest only to those students who want to get a terminal master's 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 UH Manoa 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.

Doctoral Degree

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.


Students who bypass the MS degree (because they already have an MS degree) must register for at least 3 credits of astronomy course work 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.

Students must pass the comprehensive exam, which takes the form of an in-depth review of the dissertation proposal, and achieve PhD candidacy by the end of their 6th semester in the astronomy graduate program. Finally, students must research, write, and defend a dissertation on a subject approved by their committee.

ASTR Courses