astronomy
Fall Deadline December 15
Spring Deadline The program does not admit in the spring.
Summer Deadline The program does not admit in the summer.
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Not required.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (https://grad.wisc.edu/apply/requirements/#english-proficiency).
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

To enter as a graduate student, an applicant must have undergraduate preparation that includes at least three years of college physics and mathematics through differential equations. Applicants are judged on the basis of previous academic record, letters of recommendation, personal statement, and research experience. Admission is competitive and is for the fall only.

Applicants for admission must submit the following via the Graduate School online application:

  • Transcripts of all undergraduate work
  • Statement on reasons for graduate study in astronomy
  • Three letters of recommendation from people well acquainted with past academic work
  • International students must submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

Financial support is provided through university fellowships (incoming graduate students only) or department assistantships. To compete for fellowships awarded by the university, students must submit all application materials via the online Graduate School Application by December 15.

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Program Resources

financial support for PhD students in ASTRONOMY

University fellowships or departmental assistantships are offered, contingent on satisfactory progress. The length of guaranteed student support is four continuous years for those with no prior graduate work. Three continuous years of funding are guaranteed for those with one year or more of prior graduate work. It is almost always the case that students remain fully funded through their thesis defense.  

Teaching Assistants (TA) assist faculty members in the introductory Astronomy courses, generally by teaching discussion and laboratory sections. A graduate student is required to TA at least one semester. Research Assistants (RA) work with a major professor on a mutually agreed research program.

Tuition is remitted for TA and RA appointments.  However, all students must still pay the segregated fees, which are about $725 per semester for full-time students, and any additional university fees.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements

MODE OF INSTRUCTION

Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions

CURRICULAR REQUIREMENTS

Minimum Credit Requirement 51 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement Half of degree coursework (26 credits out of 51 total credits) must be completed graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide (https://registrar.wisc.edu/course-guide/).
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
Other Grade Requirements A GPA of at least 3.0 is required in the core (required) courses and a student may have no more than 3 credits of a C or below. A grade of S must be received in ASTRON 990 Research and Thesis before the preliminary examination can be taken.
Assessments and Examinations Students take one oral preliminary examination and one written preliminary examination after completing their second academic year. Students who pass are eligible to continue toward their Ph.D. If students do not wish to retake a failed exam, they may complete the requirements for a terminal master's.

Doctoral candidates must submit a written dissertation proposal and make an oral presentation to the faculty by the end of their third academic year.

A written dissertation must be submitted and successfully defended before a faculty committee.
Language Requirements No language requirements.

Doctoral Minor / Breadth Requirements All doctoral students are required to complete a minor.

They may either meet the minor requirements set by an external department (typically physics), or they may choose a distributed minor. In the latter case, 9 credits must be taken from two or more relevant departments outside of astronomy. The coursework will normally be at the 400 level and above although special exceptions may be made in the case where 300-level courses are needed to satisfy prerequisites. At least two courses must be completed in graduate-level coursework, and one must be completed in physics. Courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide. Courses for the distributed minor or for minors outside of physics should be approved by the student's mentoring committee (or the graduate advisor if the mentoring committee has not yet been formed.)

REQUIRED Courses 

ASTRON 500 Techniques of Modern Observational Astrophysics3
ASTRON 700 Basic Astrophysics I2
ASTRON 702 Basic Astrophysics II2
ASTRON 715 Stellar Interiors and Evolution2
ASTRON 720 The Interstellar Medium I: Basic Processes2
ASTRON 730 Galaxies2
ASTRON 735 Observational Cosmology2
ASTRON/​PHYSICS  910 Seminar in Astrophysics 11-4
ASTRON 990 Research and Thesis 21-12
Breadth Requirement9
See PhD policy above on Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirement for details.
Total Credits51

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students may count graduate coursework from other institutions.  Coursework earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

Up to 7 credits numbered 700 or above from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allow to count toward the degree.

UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 15 credits of coursework numbered 400 or above taken as a UW–Madison Special student. Coursework earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Probation

A grade of C or lower in a core course will result in the student being placed on academic probation. This is removed after the next grade of B or better in a core course. Grades of C or lower in two or more core courses will result in dismissal.

A semester GPA below 3.0 will result in the student being placed on academic probation. This will be removed if the student attains a GPA of 3.0 or above in the subsequent semester.

ADVISOR / COMMITTEE

All students will be assigned a mentoring committee consisting of the student's advisor and two other faculty members. Students are strongly encouraged (but not required) to meet with their mentoring committees twice a year in the first two years and annually thereafter.

CREDITS PER TERM ALLOWED

15 credits

Time Constraints

A candidate for a doctoral degree who fails to take the final oral examination and deposit the dissertation within five years after passing the preliminary examination may be required to take another preliminary examination and to be admitted to candidacy a second time.

Grievances and Appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

Students should contact the department chair or program director with questions about grievances. They may also contact the L&S Academic Divisional Associate Deans, the L&S Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning Administration, or the L&S Director of Human Resources.

Other

University fellowships or departmental assistantships are offered, contingent on satisfactory progress. The length of guaranteed student support is four continuous years for those with no prior graduate work. Three continuous years of funding are guaranteed for those with one year or more of prior graduate work. It is almost always the case that students remain fully funded through their thesis defense. 

Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

Program Resources

The goal of the graduate program is to prepare capable and creative astronomers for careers in research and education. Each student will have both a graduate student mentor and a set of three faculty mentors, called a “Committee of Three” (or Co3 for short). The Co3’s are expected to evolve into a Thesis Committee as the student progress towards their degree. The Committee of Three fosters more departmental collaborations and provides students with a broader advising perspective and regular feedback on their progress.
 

  1. Demonstrate a broad understanding of core astrophysical topics including gravitational dynamics; radiative processes; the interstellar medium; the formation, structure, and evolution of stars and galaxies; cosmology; and observational and numerical techniques.
  2. Demonstrate academic mastery in their area of concentration, including a deep understanding of current theories, recent findings, and their broader implications.
  3. Evaluate scientific literature and use it to construct theoretical frameworks and testable predictions for their own research projects.
  4. Foster ethical and professional conduct.
  5. Develop and complete original research that substantively advances a specific field of study. In so doing, they will cultivate their critical thinking skills, creativity, and independence.
  6. Utilize modern instrumental, observational, or theoretical research techniques in their analysis.
  7. Formulate ideas, designs, or techniques that advance the boundaries of knowledge within their field.
  8. Critically evaluate the robustness and limits of conclusions drawn from their research and the potential for future studies.
  9. Write clear and concise research articles for publication in refereed journals.
  10. Critically evaluate the robustness and limits of conclusions drawn from their research and the potential for future studies.
  11. Write clear and concise research articles for publication in refereed journals.
  12. Deliver articulate oral presentations on their research to diverse audiences ranging from academic departments to the general public.
  13. Serve as teaching assistants for at least one semester. Communicate scientific ideas in a clear and understandable manner, employ techniques that enhance student engagement, and develop and carry out assessments of student progress.

Faculty:
Professors Richard Townsend (chair), Amy Barger, Matt Bershady, Sebastian Heinz, Alex Lazarian, Bob Mathieu, Snezana Stanimirovic, Susanna Widicus Weaver, Eric Wilcots, and Ellen Zweibel

Associate Professors Christy Tremonti and Elena D'Onghia

Assistant Professors Andrew Vanderburg and Ke Zhang

Staff:
Department Administrator: Steve Anderson
Student Coordinator: Heather Sauer