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May 3, 2017

New Astrophysics Courses Coming Next Fall

Four new Astrophysics courses will be offered beginning next fall. The courses include: Observational Techniques in Astrophysics, Cosmological Physics, Radiation Processes in Astrophysics, and Physics of Galaxies. 

The Astrophysics major has not yet been approved. Faculty representatives will hold a vote on May 16 to determine whether the program will be offered. If the vote passes, students will be able to declare once the major is published in the next College Catalog, which will come out next February. In the interim, interested students will be able to take any of the new available courses, all of which will count toward the major upon its approval. 

If the vote does not pass, the astronomy and astrophysics department has until next February to address any concerns brought up during the upcoming vote. 

The Astrophysics major will offer an A.B. and S.B., consisting of 15 and 18 courses respectively. For both certifications, seven courses are to be taken in astrophysics, with additional credits from physics or chemistry, math, computer science, and statistics courses. Electives are also included in the total number of courses. 

According to Julia Brazas, the academic affairs administrator of the astronomy and astrophysics department, the major will not have an introduction sequence. Instead, there will be a spring quarter introductory course available to students in either the physics or chemistry introductory sequences. The astrophysics introductory course will not be available until the 2018–19 academic year. 

“What we’re trying to do is make sure that students who come out at the end of this, they can code, they can analyze and evaluate data, they can do research, and they have mastery of the fundamental science concepts they need to be in a good position vis-á-vis their graduate school applications for astro or other STEM fields,” Brazas said. 

A new course will also be offered next fall quarter for students in the astronomy and astrophysics minor. The course, Philosophical Problems and Cosmology, can be counted as an elective for any student who has completed a physical science introductory sequence. It will also be cross-listed with the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science and Medicine (HIPS) program. 

The three-course specialization in astrophysics program, currently available to physics majors, will be unaffected if the astrophysics major is approved. The specialization program will remain so long as there is sufficient demand, Brazas said. 

“We’re just really excited in the department that this day has come,” Brazas said. “[I]t’s just like a new…day for us and it’s very exciting. I guess for astronomers, you should say a new night but, it’s a new moment in our history,” she joked. 

On May 16 at 5:30 p.m., an astrophysics major information session will be held in the Hubble Lounge of the Eckhardt Research Center (ERC 501).

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