Department Fact Sheet

(March 2011)

Department Overview

  • UCSC astronomy researchers are the most highly cited in US space science, according to the 2008 Kinney study (2008arXiv0811.0311)
  • UCSC Physics is most highly cited physics faculty in US in the latest ISI study
  • Leading program areas
    - Galaxy formation and cosmology
    - Extra-solar planets, solar system formation, star formation
    - High-energy astrophysics: GRBs, compact objects, supernovae
    - Instrumentation: adaptive optics, optical/near-IR spectrographs
  • Historic UCSC contributions:
    - Home of the ACDM paradigm: comprehensive Cold Dark Matter theory for galaxy and structure formation
    - The largest distance galaxies surveys at z~1 (CANDELS) and z <6 (First Light)
    - The "collapsar" theory for gamma-ray bursts (GRBs)
    -  Over half of all known extrasolar planets were discovered by the UCSC-UCB team.
    - Co-inventors of the laser guide-star for adaptive optics
    - Conceptual design and leadership role in Thirty-Meter telescope project
  •  World-class facilities (Keck, Lick, Adaptive Optics Lab, Pleiades super-computer, Fermi/GLAST)
  •  Partnerships with Physics, Applied Math and Statistics, Earth and Planetary Sciences
    Theoretical Astrophysics Santa Cruz (TASC): a theory institute uniting 18 faculty in Astronomy, Physics, Applied Math, and EPS, the largest computational astrophysics group in the world (director, Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz)
    -Next-Generation Science Institute (NEXSI): 
    a brand-new institute bringing theory to bear on the design of next-generation telescopes and instrumentation (director, Piero Madau)
    - High-Performance AstroComputing Center (HIPACC): a UC-wide multi campus research institute dedicated to promoting inter-campus collaboration on high-performance astrophysical simulations. (director, Joel Primack)
  • Major projects and research groups (e.g., DEEP/AEGIS/CANDELS, First Galaxies, SEGUE, SAGES, Fermi/GLAST, SciDAC, SCIPP, Via Lactea)
  • Science educator and teacher-training programs (CfAO, COSMOS, ISEE, PIE)
  • Moore Foundation granted $250 M to start Thirty-Meter Telescope project, sited on Mauna Kea; first-light spectrograph MOBIE is based at UCSC. Unique training opportunities for instrumentalists.
  • Fermi/GLAST gamma-ray satellite founded by UCSC physicists was launched in May 2008; UCSC programs feature GRBs and dark-matter detection/annihilation
  • Kepler satellite for detecting transiting extrasolar planets was launched Mar 6, 2009; UCSC members on science team;UCSC programs feature modeling of hot jupiters, neptunes, and super-earths, and solar system evolution.

Selected faculty awards and honors from 2009-11:

  • Jerry Nelson received Kavli Prize for design of giant telescopes
  • Sandra Faber received the Henry Norris Russell Lectureship of the AAS and honorary DSc's from UMich and Penn
  • Garth Illingworth received honorary DSc from Univ of Western Australia
  • Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz inducted into the Mexican Academy of Sciences - youngest member ever elected
  • Jonathan Fortney won AAS/DPS Urey Prize for best young planetary astronomer

Some recent science highlights:

  • Illingworth's team found most distant galaxy candidate yet using Hubble's new WFC3-HR camera; z ~ 103
  • Grad student Laura Lopez showed that supernovae remnants retain memory of how the star exploded even though hundreds of thousands of years have passed
  • Six-planet system discovered by Kepler team headed by UCSC astronomers
  • Rockosi's SDSS-III/SEGUE survey released largest color image of sky ever taken
  • Undergrad student Konstatin Batygin and Greg Laughlin solved Laplace's 200- year old conjecture on whether the Solar System is unstable.  The answer is, it is.
  • Faber and Koo on 902 orbits in the Hubble MCT competition (CANDELS). UCSC grads will have unique access to CANDELS data
  • Grad Kevin Schlaufman predicts new breed of prevelent hot super-earths from Kepler data
  • Fortney and undergrad Shabram discovered first potassium on extrasolar planet
  • Grad student Michele Fumigalli and Mark Krumholz calculated H2 in metal-poor galaxies and used it to explain the low star-formation rates of these objects

The Graduate Program

Recent graduating PhD’s:

  • Five Hubble Fellowships in the last three years, including one this year
  • Laura Lopez won Einstein, Hubble, Pappalardo, and several others. Will take Einstein and Papparlardo at MIT
  • Katie Morzinski won Sagan Fellowship at University of Arizona
  • Javiera Guedes offered UC Berkeley Chancellor Fellowship, KITP Fellowship, and postdocs from MPIA and ETH/Zurich.  Stlll thinking.....
  • Kirsten Howley will take a Livermore postdoctoral fellowship
  • 2010: two Hubbles, Miller Fellow/UCB, Southwestern Institute Fellow, Leiden postdoc

Grad support:

  • UCSC typically has a very high number of NSF Graduate Fellows, with nine in residence right now. Twelve students have external fellowship support
  • Teaching load: one TA quarter in total (low compared to other programs)

Grad program basic facts

  • Vision statement: The Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at UCSC aims to provide an intellectually rich, vibrant, and challenging graduate student program that uses forefront astrophysics research as the main training tool to prepare and support its students for a range of career options.
  • Composition: 38 students; 50-50 male-female; 1/3 theory, 2/3 observational and/or instrumental.
  • Revised academic requirements: two years of classes (on quarter system), 7 required courses plus 4 electives; First-Year Rresearch Project spanning Years 1 and 2; written Prelim Exam at end of second year; Board Review covers overall performance in classes+research at end of first two years; thesis topic exam (Qual), final thesis defense. See Grad Degree Requirements
  • Courses: Required courses alternate each year; this year is a Stars  year, next year will be a Galaxies year. Reworked, streamlined curriculum started in 2009 with wide choice of electives. Courses in Physics, Applied Math, Earth and Planetary, and Computer Sciences are available and encouraged.
  • Research: Research is a major focus of grad program - interact with distingquished world-class faculty starting right away. Fall Research Seminar (AY 205) helps you find topic, GSR provides support for your first summer and second year.
  • Unique teaching/training/outreach experiences: CfAO Institute for Science and Engineering Educators (ISEE), Program for Inmate Education (PIE), community college classes, COSMOS summer high school program, Summer High School Internship Program (SIP), CfAO Professional Development Workshops in Hawaii, and more. Nearly all grads particpate.
  • Female Friendly: 5 (out of 21) faculty, 50% female grads, illustrious at all levels
  • Milestones: Department timeline sets guidelines for courses, research, papers, meeting attendance, external talks, external letter writers, and future research goals.
  • Weekly events for grads: Daily AM coffee (colloquium coffee, Journal Club coffee), CosmoClub seminar, CODEP seminar, Physics colloquium, Astro colloquium (grads take speaker to lunch and dinner), FLASH seminar more.....
  • Time to degree: Median is 5.5 years; goal is 5 years, with 6 years the new max
  • Where our grads go: 85% remain in Astronomy…most are faculty or staff at leading institutions, some at teaching colleges, support astronomers, government and public-service, a handful in business and industry.

Affliated units and facilities

  • University of California Observatories (UCO): 2/3 of Astronomy faculty are UCO astronomers, 1/3 are 100% in Department (mostly theorists)
  • Center for Adaptive Optics (CfAO) and Moore Laboratory for Adaptive Optics (LAO): instrument theses, teacher-training programs
  • Other units:
    Physics, including Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics (SCIPP): Fermi-GLAST, VERITAS, dark-matter, GR, LHC, particle-astrophysics, early Universe
    - Earth and Planetary Sciences, including Center for the Origin and Development of planets (CODEP): Solar System bodies (asteroids, Mars), space experiments
    Applied Math and Statistics (AMS): computational astrophysics, stellar convection, protosolar nebulae, Bayesian statistics
    Theoretical Astrophysics Santa Cruz (TASC): 18 faculty in Astronomy, Physics, Applied Math and Statistics, and Earth and Planetary Sciences in computational astrophysics
    Institute for Scientist and Engineering Educators (ISEE):  institute founded by CfAO to train science and engineering graduate students as future educators
  • Facilities whose data and equipment you can use:
    - Keck (twin 10 m telescopes), Lick (3 m, 1 m, Automated Planet Finder (APF))
    - Competitive access to Hubble, Spitzer, Chandra, GALEX
    Fermi/GLAST, VERITAS in Physics; NUSTAR (high-energy X-ray) in planning
    Pleiades mini-supercomputer on campus, competitive access to world’s best supercomputers off campus
    - UCO instrument shops, Moore Adaptive Optics Lab on campus

See Also