The Department of Physics and Astronomy at Rutgers has a single graduate program whose course requirements can be fulfilled via either a physics or an astronomy "option." Most (but not all) students who end up doing astrophysics Ph.D. theses satisfy the requirements for the astronomy option, which comprises:

  • Physics 501: Quantum Mechanics I (offered every fall)
  • Physics 503: Electricity and Magnetism I (offered every fall)
  • Physics 507: Classical Mechanics (offered every fall)
  • Physics 514: Radiative Processes (offered every spring)
  • Physics 606: Stars and Planets (offered fall 2020, 2022, ...)
  • Physics 607: Galaxies and Galaxy Dynamics (offered spring 2022, 2024, ...)
  • Physics 608: Cosmology (offered spring 2021, 2023, ...)
  • Physics 610: Interstellar Matter (offered fall 2021, 2023, ...)
  • two other courses in other areas of physics (e.g., Physics 613: Particles, and Physics 617: General Relativity)

Advancement to candidacy requires grades of B or better in Physics 501, 503, 507, 514, and either 607 or 608. If you have already taken a course that covers material similar to one of these, you have the option of testing out of the requirement via "challenge exam" at the start of the semester in which it is offered. You will also take a placement exam at the beginning of graduate school to assess whether you'd benefit from taking a refresher course at the advanced undergraduate level in some area.

In addition to course requirements, the department requires that each student pass a research-oriented candidacy exam, in which you demonstrate your ability to grasp the relevance, goals, and techniques of a current area of research. The candidacy exam has three components: a written paper, an oral presentation, and an oral exam. In the first semester of your second year of graduate school, working with a faculty mentor, you will write a 10-12 page paper in the form of a review or a research proposal that is a clear and well-referenced summary of your topic at the level of articles in Physics Today. After submitting your paper, you will give a 20-30 minute talk on its contents in the style of a conference presentation to a committee of department faculty members, who will then examine you for at least an hour on your understanding of the topic and the basic physics that is related to it.

A complete description of the graduate program requirements (note: the course requirements for the astronomy option have not yet been updated!) can be found here.

Within the astrophysics group, our students have additional opportunities that are not in the "required" category, but rather in the "strongly encouraged because they make graduate school more fun and educational" category. Examples include:

  • submitting your own proposals for SALT observations, even if you're mostly a theorist
  • serving on the committee that reviews SALT proposals (including your professors') and decides who gets how much time
  • taking "special topics" seminars dedicated to discussion of hot-off-the-press research on dark matter, dark energy, galaxy evolution, etc.
  • attending weekly astrophysics seminars, which come with free refreshments, heavily subsidized dinners, and the chance to talk one-on-one with visiting speakers
  • discussing papers with your fellow graduate students and postdoctoral fellows (free of pesky professors!) at a weekly journal club
  • presenting the most recent results of your own projects at our informal Tuesday research discussion

Last edited August 30, 2019.