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Hutton Honors College

 — Indiana University

Contact:
Astronomy Department Undergraduate Advisors
Professors Haldan Cohn & Constantine Deliyannis
Swain West 319
855-6911
astdept@indiana.edu

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 themselves?

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 courses?

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 Astrophysics). Physics Courses: P221, P222 (Physics I & II), P301 (Physics III), P331, P332 (Electricity and Magnetism I & III), and two of the following four courses: 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, Arizona, automated telescopes located in the Morgan-Monroe State Forest, and two computer-controlled 14" telescopes on the roof of Swain West. Students either 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 Technology 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.

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