Astronomy Department Undergraduate Advisors
Professors Haldan Cohn & Constantine Deliyannis
Swain West 319
1. How is your honors degree program administered? Is there a specific
person who acts as coordinator? Is there a faculty committee?
The honors degree program in Astronomy & Astrophysics is administered by the
undergraduate advisors. Astronomy S499, Honors Research, is arranged
between the student and a professor in the Astronomy Department.
2. What are the requirements for admission into your honors program?
How are students recruited for your program? May students recommend
The honors program is designed for well-qualified students who plan
graduate studies in astronomy, astrophysics, or related fields. To be
admitted to the honors program, students must have an overall GPA of at
least 3.3 and a GPA of 3.3 in the required courses of the B.S. program in
Astronomy & Astrophysics. Students who wish to pursue the honors program
should speak with the undergraduate advisor by the first semester of
their junior year. The advisor makes this option known to all qualified
students during regular advising sessions.
3. How does a student graduate with honors from your department?
Honors candidates complete the same requirements as the regular B.S. in
astronomy and astrophysics and in addition take S499, Honors Research,
during the senior year. S499 is normally taken for two semesters,
counting for three credits each time it is taken. During the spring
semester of the senior year, honors candidates present a mini-colloquium
to the Astronomy Department on their research and submit a 5-page written
report to the department. The undergraduate advisor certifies that all
of the requirements have been completed in order for the student to
graduate with honors.
4. What courses do students take as juniors and before in order to
prepare for working on the senior project? How are these honors seminars
and courses typically conducted? What are the usual requirements in such
All students who pursue the B.S. in astronomy and astrophysics take the
following set of courses. Honors students also take S499 (as discussed
above) and are encouraged to broaden their background in physics by
taking additional courses at the 300-level and above.
Astronomy Courses: A221, A222 (General Astronomy I & II), A305
(Observational Techniques), two of the following courses, A451 (Stellar
Astrophysics), A452 (Extragalactic Astrophysics), A453 (Topical
Physics Courses: P221, P222 (Physics I & II), P301 (Physics III),
P331, P332 (Electricity and Magnetism I & III), and two of the following
P441, P442 (Analytic Mechanics I & II), P453, P454 (Introduction to
Quantum Mechanics, Modern Physics).
Mathematics Courses: M211, M212, M311 (Calculus I, II, III), M343
(Introduction to Differential Equations I).
While the Astronomy course sequence may be started in either the
freshman or sophomore year, honors students benefit from starting
the sequence in the freshman year. This allows the student to
take A305 which is offered biannually, in either their
sophomore or junior year. The skills developed in this
course provide important support for carrying out an S499
research project during the senior year.
5. Are there departmental resources available to support internships or
research projects related to the senior project?
Students have access to the telescope, laboratory, and computing
facilities of the Astronomy Department. The telescope facilities include
the WIYN 3.5 meter and 0.9 meter telescopes on Kitt Peak, near Tucson,
telescopes located in the Morgan-Monroe State Forest, and two
computer-controlled 14" telescopes on the roof of Swain West. Students
use these facilities directly, under the supervision of a professor, or
else use data that were previously acquired by the professor. There are
several labs in the department where students can participate in
instrument development projects. The departmental computer facilities
include the undergraduate computing lab and the remote observing center
(ROC). In addition, honors students use the University Information
Services facilities, including specialized research computing systems.
6. What is the nature of the senior project and what are the
requirements for completing it?
Students carry out research under close supervision of a member of the
Astronomy Department faculty. The research can be in any area of
astronomy and astrophysics, and can have an observational, experimental,
or theoretical orientation. Some typical projects are: (1) analyzing
data obtained with a ground-based or space-based telescope and (2)
performing a computer simulation of an astrophysical system. During the
second semester of the senior year, the honors student must write a
5-page research report and make an oral presentation describing the work
to the Astronomy Department in a mini-colloquium.
7. How might the work required for earning a honors degree be
particularly beneficial in future endeavors?
Honors students gain valuable research experience in carrying out their
S499 project. This provides excellent preparation for graduate studies
in the sciences. Even students who plan other post-graduate paths
benefit from the experience of being responsible for a long-term project that
involves computer-based analysis of data or simulation of a physical
system. A number of undergraduate research projects have led to
published articles in professional journals.
8. What are the advantages for students who pursue the honors degree
compared to a regular degree in your area?
The key advantage to the honors degree is the opportunity to carry out a
substantial research project under the supervision of a faculty member. While students can carry out research without pursuing an honors degree,
the more formal approach of the honors program research, including the
written report and mini-colloquium, make this a more valuable experience.
9. Please list suggestions for other departments based on activities that
have worked well for your students.
We highly recommend a senior-year, supervised research project.
10. Explain the background of honors course offering in your
discipline. When were honors courses or sections first offered?
The honors B.S. in Astronomy & Astrophysics was first offered in the fall
of 1988. We realized at that time that the rigor of our B.S. program
already put it at the level of an honors program. Thus, by adding a
senior-year research project, we were able to offer an honors option to
our well-qualified undergraduate majors.