Information for New and Prospective Students

Welcome to UCSC! 

The Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at UCSC is world-renown research center.  We are a leader in cosmology, galaxy formation, exoplanets, high-energy astrophysics, and the creation of new astronomical instruments.  Departmental faculty are actively involved in cutting-edge research, astrophysical theory, and state-of-the-art computer simulations using the world's fastest supercomputers.  Our faculty and their research groups mentor undergraduate students in these exciting research projects.  The ability to get involved in research is a hallmark of the undergraduate experience in astronomy and astrophysics at UCSC. Undergradate students are welcome and encouraged to attend department events. 

The Astronomy and Astrophysics Department offers a broad undergraduate curriculum that fulfills the needs of students seeking a general education but also enables students wishing to obtain a minor or major in astrophysics to study the subject in greater depth.

The UCSC major in astrophysics is administered by the Physics Department and combines a core physics major with advanced electives in astrophysics, an astrophysics laboratory course, and senior thesis work on a topic in astrophysics. It is a rigorous program designed to prepare students for a broad range of technical careers or for entry into graduate or professional programs. A full description of the major can be found in the physics section of this catalog.

Here is a list of Astronomy resources available to you during your time on campus:

Weekly colloquia in Astronomy (Wed at 3:45 PM), Physics (Thurs at 4 PM), and Earth and Planetary Sciences (Tues at 4 PM). These colloquiua feature presentations of forefront research work by visitors from other institutions. Colloquia may seem technical and full of jargon at first, but we encourage you to attend anyway, and over the years it will all gradually become clearer and you will learn an enormous amount.

Astronomy FLASH (Friday Lunchtime Astrophysics Seminar Hour), Fridays from 12:30-1:30. Like a colloquium but more informal. Bring a lunch and listen to research presentations by Astronomy graduate students, postdocs, faculty, and occasional visitors.

The Astronomy lower division courses: these are introductory astronomy courses aimed at science majors. They presume no previous knowledge of astronomy, but they contain more math and more rigorous science than the regular introductory courses. Students aiming for an Astronomy minor or the Physics/AStrophysics major should be taking these courses in preference to the regular ones. They are intended for freshmen and sophomores.

Undergraduate advisors: Astronomy, Physics, and Earth Sciences all have undergraduate advisors who are there to assist you in planning what courses you will take:

Division of Physical & Biological - Undergraduate Advising

Maria Nishanian

Undergraduate Student Adviser

Physics Office
Interdisciplinary Sciences Building, Room 211
Voicemail: (831) 459-1347
Fax: (831) 459-1568

Physics Advising:

Do you need to see an advisor? 

Make an appointment: Use our online appointment system to schedule a 20-min appointment to meet one-on-one with your advisor.
**NOTE**: Appointments are only available two weeks in advance.  Each day a new set of appointment times becomes available and cancellations may be made at any time.  If you are not able to attend your appointment, please cancel to allow that time slot to be used by your fellow students.

Come to drop-in advising:  We host drop-in hours each Wednesday morning and afternoon at our office, Interdisciplinary Sciences Building, Room 211.   We also offer extended drop-in advising hours during the beginning of each quarter. Check our advising calendar for availability.

In later years, if you intend to go to graduate school, you will certainly want to do a Senior Thesis on some astronomy topic. Regulations require you to start the thesis in the fall of senior year, but we strongly advise you to get started on it much sooner than that, as you will need to develop research tools and background knowledge. Your thesis will be much meatier and more interesting if you are engaged in a project well before your senior year. That is why we call your attention to the Astronomy Research Socials, which provide a convenient venue for meeting research teams. Inquiring about research opportunities with your instructors in classes that interest you is also highly encouraged.

Looking forward to seeing you all this fall and wishing you the very best for a productive life-long career in science, whichever field you choose.