The Astrophysics major will be elected by students who plan graduate study in astronomy, astrophysics, or a closely related field, and also can be elected by those interested in a wide variety of careers. This major emphasizes the description of the universe and its constituents in terms of physical processes.
Potential Astrophysics majors should consult early with members of the Astronomy and Physics departments to determine their most appropriate route to and through the major. An essential ingredient in such students’ undergraduate training is experience in physics and mathematics. Therefore, the major normally will begin in the first year a student is at Williams with Physics 131 or 141 or 151 and Math 104 in the fall continuing with Physics 142 and Math 105/106 in the spring. Students with very good backgrounds placing them out of Physics 142 may elect Physics 201 instead. Astronomy 111 could therefore be taken in the sophomore year, however exceptionally motivated students can consider taking it their first semester at Williams along with physics and math. Faculty are always glad to advise students as they plan their courses.
In addition to the major courses described below, other courses in geosciences, mathematics, and computer science may also be appropriate.
Major Requirements for Astrophysics
or Astronomy 101: Stars: From Suns to Black Holes and either Astronomy 102: The Solar System – Our Planetary Home or Astronomy 104: The Milky Way Galaxy and the Universe Beyond
The total number of courses required for the Astrophysics major, an interdisciplinary major, is eleven. Students entering with Advanced Placement in physics and/or math may obtain credit toward the major for the equivalent of Physics 142 and/or Math 105 taken elsewhere, but at least 8 courses in astronomy, physics, and math must be taken at Williams. There are some aspects of astrophysics that are closely related to chemistry or geology. In recognition of this relation, certain advanced courses in those departments can be accepted for credit toward the Astrophysics major on a two-for-one basis.