The Departments of Physics and Astronomy offer an interdepartmental major in Astrophysics which combines the Physics major with a foundation of course work in Astronomy. The goal of the major is to provide a rigorous and organized program of study for students wishing to pursue graduate study in astronomy or astrophysics and for those who would like a coordinated astronomy extension to the physics major.
Modern astrophysics is the application of physics and mathematics to the study of the universe, and hence there is necessarily a very close connection between physics and astronomy. For students interested in attending graduate school in astronomy, a thorough grounding in mathematics and physics is absolutely essential. The interdisciplinary nature of astrophysics makes it appropriate that this major does not reside in just one department. Although thorough preparation in physics is at the core of an astrophysicist's training, a strong astronomical background is fundamental as well. Our students who have done well in astronomy graduate school report that a solid basis in astronomy has been crucial preparation for their teaching responsibilities as graduate students. It also provides them with a broader overview of the discipline than they would have if they had studied only physics before attending graduate school.
In addition to the nine courses required for the Physics major, an Astrophysics major takes four courses in the Astronomy Department: an introductory-level course to provide a broad background (Astronomy 101), a 200-level observing techniques course to introduce modern observational techniques (Astronomy 206, Basic Astronomical Techniques with Lab), as well as any two 300-level courses in Astronomy: e.g., Astronomy 301 (Advanced topics in Astronomy and Astrophysics), Astronomy 303 (Advanced Planetary Geology), Astronomy 311 (Advanced Astrophysics), Astronomy 323 (Advanced Planetary Atmospheres and Climates), or 350/360/370 (Individual Study/Senior Thesis). The total course load is no larger than for several other interdepartmental majors and it provides more focused preparation for graduate school, and fewer course requirements, than a double major in physics and astronomy.
The Director of the Astrophysics program is the Chair of the Department of Astronomy. Professor Glenn Stark is currently the Physics Department's liaison to the program. All students electing to major in Astrophysics have two faculty advisors - one each from the Physics and Astronomy Departments.