Twin Cities campus
 
Twin Cities Campus

Astrophysics Ph.D.

Astrophysics, Minnesota Institute for
College of Science and Engineering
Link to a list of faculty for this program.
Contact Information
Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics, 116 Church Street S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55455 (612-624-4811; fax: 612-626-2029)
Email: MIfA@umn.edu
  • Program Type: Doctorate
  • Requirements for this program are current for Spring 2021
  • Length of program in credits: 64
  • This program does not require summer semesters for timely completion.
  • Degree: Doctor of Philosophy
Along with the program-specific requirements listed below, please read the General Information section of this website for requirements that apply to all major fields.
Astrophysics is the study of the universe and its constituent parts. The Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics conducts research in observational, theoretical, and computational astrophysics, as well as instrument development. The main research areas include minor planetary bodies, solar system properties, dynamics of normal and active galaxies, stellar evolution, interaction of stars with their environments, the interstellar medium, astrophysical magnetohydrodynamics, and galactic and cosmological structure. Observational research includes activities that cover X-ray, ultraviolet, optical, infrared, and radio wavelengths. Extensive research programs in space physics, nucleosynthesis, and the elementary particle-cosmology interface are also carried out in interdisciplinary connections with the graduate program in physics.
Program Delivery
  • via classroom (the majority of instruction is face-to-face)
Prerequisites for Admission
The preferred undergraduate GPA for admittance to the program is 3.50.
Undergraduate astronomy, physics or equivalent degree required.
Other requirements to be completed before admission:
Coursework in analytical mechanics, electrodynamics, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, and statistical physics.
Special Application Requirements:
A statement of career goals, diversity statement, scores from the GRE General Test (required) and Subject Test in physics (optional), and three letters of recommendation are required. Applications are due by December 15 to be considered for fellowships and by January 15 for teaching and research assistantships. Students are admitted fall semester only.
Applicants must submit their test score(s) from the following:
  • GRE
International applicants must submit score(s) from one of the following tests:
  • TOEFL
    • Internet Based - Total Score: 79
    • Internet Based - Writing Score: 21
    • Internet Based - Reading Score: 19
  • IELTS
    • Total Score: 6.5
  • MELAB
    • Final score: 80
The preferred English language test is Test of English as Foreign Language.
Key to test abbreviations (GRE, TOEFL, IELTS, MELAB).
For an online application or for more information about graduate education admissions, see the General Information section of this website.
Program Requirements
28 credits are required in the major.
12 credits are required outside the major.
24 thesis credits are required.
This program may be completed with a minor.
Use of 4xxx courses toward program requirements is permitted under certain conditions with adviser approval.
A minimum GPA of 3.00 is required for students to remain in good standing.
Courses must be taken on the A/F grade basis, unless only offered S/N, with a minimum grade of B- earned for each course.
Major Courses (28 credits)
In consultation with adviser, select a minimum of 28 credits from the following. All students must complete PHYS 5011-12.
AST 4001 - Astrophysics I (4.0 cr)
AST 4002 - Astrophysics II (4.0 cr)
AST 4031 - Interpretation and Analysis of Astrophysical Data (4.0 cr)
AST 4041 - Computational Methods in the Physical Sciences (4.0 cr)
AST 5012 - The Interstellar Medium (4.0 cr)
AST 5022 - Relativity, Cosmology, and the Universe (4.0 cr)
AST 5201 - Methods of Experimental Astrophysics (4.0 cr)
AST 8001 - Radiative Processes in Astrophysics (4.0 cr)
AST 8011 - High Energy Astrophysics (4.0 cr)
AST 8031 - Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics (4.0 cr)
AST 8110 - Topics in Astrophysics (4.0 cr)
AST 8120 - Topics in Astrophysics (2.0-4.0 cr)
AST 8200 - Astrophysics Seminar (1.0-3.0 cr)
AST 8990 - Research in Astronomy and Astrophysics (1.0-4.0 cr)
PHYS 5011 - Classical Physics I (4.0 cr)
PHYS 5012 - Classical Physics II (4.0 cr)
Electives (12 credits)
In consultation with adviser, select a minimum of 12 credits. Additional courses may be approved by the director of graduate studies.
AEM 5501 - Continuum Mechanics (3.0 cr)
GRAD 8101 - Teaching in Higher Education (3.0 cr)
GRAD 8200 - Teaching and Learning Topics in Higher Education (1.0 cr)
MATH 5651 - Basic Theory of Probability and Statistics (4.0 cr)
PHYS 5001 - Quantum Mechanics I (4.0 cr)
PHYS 5002 - Quantum Mechanics II (4.0 cr)
PHYS 5012 - Classical Physics II (4.0 cr)
PHYS 8011 - Quantum Field Theory I (3.0 cr)
PHYS 8012 - Quantum Field Theory II (3.0 cr)
PHYS 8501 - General Relativity and Cosmology I (3.0 cr)
PHYS 8502 - General Relativity and Cosmology II (3.0 cr)
PHYS 8601 - Plasma Physics I (3.0 cr)
PHYS 8602 - Plasma Physics II (3.0 cr)
PHYS 8611 - Cosmic Rays and Plasma Astrophysics (3.0 cr)
PHYS 8801 - Nuclear Physics I (3.0 cr)
PHYS 8802 - Nuclear Physics II (3.0 cr)
Thesis Credits (24 credits)
Take 24 credits after passing preliminary oral exam.
AST 8888 - Thesis Credit: Doctoral (1.0-24.0 cr)
 
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AST 4001 - Astrophysics I
Credits: 4.0 [max 4.0]
Grading Basis: A-F or Aud
Typically offered: Periodic Fall
Astrophysics of stars and stellar populations. Stellar formation, evolution, interiors/atmospheres. Stellar populations, galactic distribution of stars. prereq: 2001, Phys 2601
AST 4002 - Astrophysics II
Credits: 4.0 [max 4.0]
Grading Basis: A-F or Aud
Typically offered: Periodic Fall
Astrophysics of galaxies and the universe. Diffuse matter, galactic structure, and evolution. Clusters of galaxies. Introductory cosmology, evolution of the universe. prereq: 2001, Phys 2601
AST 4031 - Interpretation and Analysis of Astrophysical Data
Credits: 4.0 [max 4.0]
Grading Basis: A-F only
Typically offered: Every Spring
Introduction to analysis techniques with applications to modern astrophysics. Methods to interpret/analyze large data sets from experiments. Principles/methods of analysis, with applications to current research. For senior undergraduate/graduate students in Physics/Astronomy. prereq: [Math 2243 or 2373 or equivalent[, [Math 2263 or 2374 or equivalent], Ast 2001 or instr consent
AST 4041 - Computational Methods in the Physical Sciences
Credits: 4.0 [max 4.0]
Course Equivalencies: Ast 4041/Phys 4041
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
Introduction to using computer programs to solve problems in physical sciences. Selected numerical methods, mapping problems onto computational algorithms. Arranged lab. prereq: Upper div or grad student or instr consent
AST 5012 - The Interstellar Medium
Credits: 4.0 [max 4.0]
Typically offered: Periodic Fall
Survey of physical processes in the interstellar medium. Dynamic processes, excitation processes, emission and absorption by gas and dust. Hot bubbles, HII regions, molecular clouds. prereq: 2001, Phys 2601 or instr consent
AST 5022 - Relativity, Cosmology, and the Universe
Credits: 4.0 [max 4.0]
Course Equivalencies: Ast 5022/Phys 5022
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
Large-scale structure/history of universe. Introduction to Newtonian/relativistic world models. Physics of early universe, cosmological tests, formation of galaxies. prereq: [2001, Phys 2601] or instr consent
AST 5201 - Methods of Experimental Astrophysics
Credits: 4.0 [max 4.0]
Typically offered: Spring Even Year
Contemporary astronomical techniques and instrumentation. Emphasizes data reduction and analysis, including image processing. Students make astronomical observations at O'Brien Observatory and use department's computing facilities for data analysis. Image processing packages include IRAF, AIPS, IDL, MIRA. prereq: Upper div CSE or grad or instr consent
AST 8001 - Radiative Processes in Astrophysics
Credits: 4.0 [max 4.0]
Typically offered: Periodic Fall
Introduction to classical/quantum physics of electromagnetic radiation as it applies to astro-physics. Emphasizes radiative processes (e.g., emission, absorption, scattering) in astrophysical contexts (e.g., ordinary stars, ISM, neutron stars, active galaxies). prereq: instr consent
AST 8011 - High Energy Astrophysics
Credits: 4.0 [max 4.0]
Typically offered: Periodic Fall
Energetic phenomena in the universe. Radiative processes in high energy regimes; supernovae, pulsars, and X-ray binaries; radio galaxies, quasars, and active galactic nuclei. prereq: instr consent
AST 8031 - Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics
Credits: 4.0 [max 4.0]
Typically offered: Periodic Fall
Introduction to physics of ideal/non-ideal fluids with application to problems of astrophysical interest. Steady/unsteady flows, instabilities, turbulence. Conducting fluid flows. Magnetohydrodynamics. prereq: instr consent
AST 8110 - Topics in Astrophysics
Credits: 4.0 [max 4.0]
Grading Basis: A-F or Aud
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
The course will concentrate on two topics in cosmology: formation of the large scale structure in the Universe, and gravitational lensing and its applications. The course will cover the evolution of structure in the early Universe, growth of super- and sub-horizon sized perturbations, transfer function, linear theory of gravitational instability, evolution of mass clustering, statistics of discrete objects, Cold, hot and warm dark matter, and means of measuring mass inhomogeneities. Gravitational lensing is a rapidly growing and wide-reaching field within modern astrophysics and cosmology. In the last 2 decades it has grown from a niche topic to a versatile and indispensable tool. It is now utilized in the studies of planets(finding exoplanets using microlensing), stars (measuring limb darkening, masses, radii, motions of stars), galaxies and clusters of galaxies (mapping out detailed distribution and clumpiness of dark matter, and constraining properties of dark matter particles), and the distribution of mass on the largest cosmological scales (using distant galaxies, and Cosmic Microwave Background as sources). Lensing is often used for its magnifying power to examine highest redshift galaxies (using clusters of galaxies as telescopes), as well as accretion disks around supermassive black holes (using microlensing by stars in external galaxies). About half of the course will be lectures (interspersed throughout the semester), the rest will be seminar-style discussions of current literature, lead by students.
AST 8120 - Topics in Astrophysics
Credits: 2.0 -4.0 [max 4.0]
Typically offered: Periodic Fall
N/A prereq: instr consent
AST 8200 - Astrophysics Seminar
Credits: 1.0 -3.0 [max 3.0]
Typically offered: Every Fall & Spring
TBD prereq: instr consent
AST 8990 - Research in Astronomy and Astrophysics
Credits: 1.0 -4.0 [max 4.0]
Typically offered: Every Fall & Spring
Research under supervision of a graduate faculty member. prereq: instr consent
PHYS 5011 - Classical Physics I
Credits: 4.0 [max 4.0]
Typically offered: Every Fall
Classical mechanics: Lagrangian/Hamiltonian mechanics, orbital dynamics, rigid body motion, special relativity. prereq: 4001, 4002 or instr consent
PHYS 5012 - Classical Physics II
Credits: 4.0 [max 4.0]
Typically offered: Every Spring
Classical electromagnetism: electrostatics, magnetostatics, Maxwell's equations, electromagnetic waves, radiation, interaction of charged particles with matter. prereq: 5011 or instr consent
AEM 5501 - Continuum Mechanics
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Typically offered: Every Fall
Concepts common to all continuous media; elements of tensor analysis; motion, deformation, vorticity; material derivatives; mass, continuity equation; balance of linear, angular momentum; geometric characterization of stress; constitutive equations. prereq: CSE upper div or grad, 3031, Math 2243 or equiv or instr consent
GRAD 8101 - Teaching in Higher Education
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Grading Basis: OPT No Aud
Typically offered: Every Fall, Spring & Summer
Teaching methods/techniques. Active learning, critical thinking, practice teaching, and preparing a portfolio to document/reflect upon teaching. Readings, discussion, peer teaching, e-mail dialog, reflective writing, co-facilitation of course. prereq: Non-Degree Students: contact pffcollege consentumn.edu with questions about registration. If adding a section after first class meeting, contact your instructor as soon as you enroll.
GRAD 8200 - Teaching and Learning Topics in Higher Education
Credits: 1.0 [max 4.0]
Grading Basis: A-F only
Typically offered: Every Fall & Spring
Create course materials for context/discipline. Assess student learning. Write action plan. Topics may include active learning in sciences, teaching with technology, multicultural education, teaching in clinical settings, learning-community course design.
MATH 5651 - Basic Theory of Probability and Statistics
Credits: 4.0 [max 4.0]
Course Equivalencies: Math 5651/Stat 5101
Typically offered: Every Fall & Spring
Logical development of probability, basic issues in statistics. Probability spaces, random variables, their distributions/expected values. Law of large numbers, central limit theorem, generating functions, sampling, sufficiency, estimation. prereq: [2263 or 2374 or 2573], [2243 or 2373]; [2283 or 2574 or 3283] recommended.
PHYS 5001 - Quantum Mechanics I
Credits: 4.0 [max 4.0]
Typically offered: Every Fall
Schrodinger equation: bound state and scattering problems in one dimension. Spherically symmetric problems in three dimensions, angular momentum, and the hydrogen atom. Approximation methods for stationary states. Time-dependent perturbation theory. Operators and state vectors: general formalism of quantum theory. prereq: 4101 or equiv or instr consent
PHYS 5002 - Quantum Mechanics II
Credits: 4.0 [max 4.0]
Typically offered: Every Spring
Symmetry in quantum mechanics, space-time symmetries and the rotation group, Clebsch-Gordan coefficients and the Wigner-Eckart theorem. Scattering theory. Method of second quantization with elementary applications. Relativistic wave equations including Dirac equation. prereq: 5001 or equiv
PHYS 5012 - Classical Physics II
Credits: 4.0 [max 4.0]
Typically offered: Every Spring
Classical electromagnetism: electrostatics, magnetostatics, Maxwell's equations, electromagnetic waves, radiation, interaction of charged particles with matter. prereq: 5011 or instr consent
PHYS 8011 - Quantum Field Theory I
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Typically offered: Every Spring
Second quantization of relativistic wave equations: canonical quantization of the free scalar and Dirac fields. Fields in interaction: interaction picture. Quantum electrodynamics: quantization of the electromagnetic field, propagators and Feynman rules, tree-level processes. Higher-order processes and renormalization. prereq: 8001 or instr consent
PHYS 8012 - Quantum Field Theory II
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Typically offered: Every Fall
Aspects of general theory of quantized fields, including space-time and discrete transformation properties, the CPT theorem, and the spin-statistics connection. Introduction to functional and path-integral methods. Renormalization group and asymptotic freedom. Semi-classical methods and instantons in gauge theories. prereq: 8011 or instr consent
PHYS 8501 - General Relativity and Cosmology I
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
Tensor analysis and differential geometry. Special relativity leading to formulation of principles of general relativity and Einstein's equations. Tests of general relativity and thorough discussion of various black hole solutions, including Schwarzschild, Reissner-Nordstrom, and Kerr solutions. prereq: 5012 or instr consent
PHYS 8502 - General Relativity and Cosmology II
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Typically offered: Periodic Fall
Gravitational radiation. Applications of general relativity to stellar structure of white dwarfs and neutron stars, action principle, and symmetric spaces. Big-bang cosmology, strongly emphasizing particle physics. prereq: 8501 or instr consent
PHYS 8601 - Plasma Physics I
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Typically offered: Periodic Fall
Theory of plasma waves and instabilities in plasmas, magnetohydrodynamics, nonlinear waves in plasmas, wave propagation in inhomogeneous plasmas. prereq: 4621, 5012 or instr consent
PHYS 8602 - Plasma Physics II
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Typically offered: Periodic Fall
Theory of plasma waves and instabilities, collisions, radiation, transport, nonlinear wave-particle and wave-wave interactions, instabilities in inhomogeneous plasmas. prereq: 8601 or instr consent
PHYS 8611 - Cosmic Rays and Plasma Astrophysics
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
Properties of energetic particles in heliosphere and in astrophysical environments; solar physics, including radiation and magnetic effects; solar wind and magnetospheric physics; physics of radiation belts. prereq: 5012 or instr consent
PHYS 8801 - Nuclear Physics I
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
Nuclear/neutrino astrophysics. Thermonuclear reactions. Processes of nucleosynthesis. Origin of the elements. Stellar evolution. Theory of supernovae. Exotic stars. Chemical evolution of galaxies. prereq: 5001, 5002, 5011, 5012, 5201; AST 4001 recommended
PHYS 8802 - Nuclear Physics II
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Typically offered: Periodic Fall
Properties of nuclei based on hadronic and quark-gluon degrees of freedom. Relativistic field theory at finite temperatures and density applied to many-body problems, especially nuclear matter and quark-gluon plasma. Applications to lepton and hadron scattering, nucleus-nucleus collisions, astrophysics and cosmology. prereq: 8801 or instr consent
AST 8888 - Thesis Credit: Doctoral
Credits: 1.0 -24.0 [max 100.0]
Grading Basis: No Grade
Typically offered: Every Fall, Spring & Summer
(No description) prereq: Max 18 cr per semester or summer; 24 cr required