Astrophysics

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

The Department of Astronomy offers an undergraduate major and minor in Astrophysics. This major program prepares students for astrophysics graduate work or other advanced degrees in related fields, teaching, working in the field of computer applications, scientific and technical writing, a career as a field engineer, and other technical fields.

Declaring the Major

Information, including lists of required courses and forms to complete before declaring, is available here.

Honors Program

For honors in Astrophysics a student must fulfill the following additional requirements:

  1. Maintain a grade point average of at least 3.5 in all courses in astronomy and related fields, and an overall grade point average of at least 3.3 in the University.
  2. Carry out an individual research or study project, involving at least 3 units of ASTRON H195.

The student's project is chosen in consultation with a departmental adviser, and the written report is judged by the student's research supervisor and by a departmental adviser.

Minor Program

The Department of Astronomy offers a minor program in Astrophysics. Students can work out the details by seeing the undergraduate major adviser in 501 Campbell Hall.

All the courses applied to the astrophysics minor must be taken for a letter grade.  A minimum grade point average of 2.0 is required for the lower-division minor requirements as well as for the five upper-division courses used for the minor.  Only one upper-division class may overlap between your major and the Astrophysics Minor. 

Once enrolled in the final course/courses to complete the Astrophysics Minor, students must complete the College of Letters and Science Completion of L&S Minor form.

Turn in to the Undergraduate Adviser in 501 Campbell Hall: 1) the completed petition for the minor; and 2) a copy of transcripts (unofficial transcripts are OK) showing your completed Astrophysics courses.
 

Visit Department Website

Major Requirements

In addition to the University, campus, and college requirements, listed on the College Requirements tab, students must fulfill the below requirements specific to their major program.

General Guidelines

  1. All courses taken to fulfill the major requirements below must be taken for graded credit, other than courses listed which are offered on a Pass/No Pass basis only. Other exceptions to this requirement are noted as applicable.
  2. No more than one upper division course may be used to simultaneously fulfill requirements for a student's major and minor programs, with the exception of minors offered outside of the College of Letters & Science.
  3. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 must be maintained in both upper and lower division courses used to fulfill the major requirements.

For information regarding residency requirements and unit requirements, please see the College Requirements tab.

Lower Division Major Requirements

MATH 1ACalculus4
MATH 1BCalculus4
MATH 53Multivariable Calculus4
MATH 54Linear Algebra and Differential Equations 14
or PHYSICS 89 Introduction to Mathematical Physics
PHYSICS 7APhysics for Scientists and Engineers4
or PHYSICS 5A Introductory Mechanics and Relativity
PHYSICS 7BPhysics for Scientists and Engineers4
PHYSICS 7CPhysics for Scientists and Engineers4
1

 If you are planning to double major with Physics, We recommend PHYSICS 89

Upper Division Major Requirements

Optional:
These courses are not required but strongly recommended for anyone considering the Astrophysics major. Please consult with the Undergraduate Adviser.
Introduction to Astrophysics [4]
Introduction to Astrophysics [4]
Required (choose one of the following):
Optical and Infrared Astronomy Laboratory [4]
Radio Astronomy Laboratory [4]
Required (choose two of the following):
Stellar Physics [4]
Relativistic Astrophysics and Cosmology [4]
Planetary Astrophysics [4]
Organic Chemistry [5]
Organic Chemistry [5]
Required (as needed):
Upper division electives so that the total is 30 units for a single major and 24 units for a double major.
Advanced Inorganic Chemistry [3]
Advanced Inorganic Chemistry [3]
Instrumental Methods in Analytical Chemistry [4]
Inorganic Synthesis and Reactions [4]
Physical Chemistry [3]
Physical Chemistry [3]
Quantum Mechanics and Spectroscopy [3]
Physical Chemistry Laboratory [3]
Nuclear Chemistry [2]
User Interface Design and Development [4]
Programming Languages and Compilers [4]
Software Engineering [4]
Foundations of Computer Graphics [4]
Introduction to Database Systems [4]
Introduction to Artificial Intelligence [4]
Geodynamics [4]
Computer Simulations in Earth and Planetary Sciences [4]
Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors [3]
Introduction to Analysis [4]
Linear Algebra [4]
Mathematical Tools for the Physical Sciences [4]
Mathematical Tools for the Physical Sciences [4]
Numerical Analysis [4]
Numerical Analysis [4]
History of Mathematics [4]
Introduction to Complex Analysis [4]
Analytic Mechanics [4]
Electromagnetism and Optics [4]
Electromagnetism and Optics [4]
Instrumentation Laboratory [3]
Advanced Experimentation Laboratory [1-3]
Introduction to Statistical and Thermal Physics [4]
Particle Physics [4]
Quantum Mechanics [4]
Quantum Mechanics [4]
Special Relativity and General Relativity [3]
Introduction to Plasma Physics [4]
Elective Physics: Special Topics [3]
Concepts of Statistics [4]
Introduction to Time Series [4]
1

 ASTRON 7A and ASTRON 7B are recommended prerequisites for all upper division courses.

2

 The 30 unit requirement (or 24 units for double majors with another major) is the sum of astronomy upper division courses and the electives.

Minor Requirements

Students who have a strong interest in an area of study outside their major often decide to complete a minor program. These programs have set requirements and are noted officially on the transcript in the memoranda section, but are not noted on diplomas.

General Guidelines

  1. All courses taken to fulfill the minor requirements below must be taken for graded credit.
  2. A minimum of three of the upper division courses taken to fulfill the minor requirements must be completed at UC Berkeley.
  3. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 is required for courses used to fulfill the minor requirements.
  4. Courses used to fulfill the minor requirements may be applied toward the Seven-Course Breadth requirement, for Letters & Science students.
  5. No more than one upper division course may be used to simultaneously fulfill requirements for a student's major and minor programs.
  6. All minor requirements must be completed prior to the last day of finals during the semester in which you plan to graduate. If you cannot finish all courses required for the minor by that time, please see a College of Letters & Science adviser.
  7. All minor requirements must be completed within the unit ceiling. (For further information regarding the unit ceiling, please see the College Requirements tab.

Lower Division Major Requirements

MATH 1ACalculus4
MATH 1BCalculus4
MATH 53Multivariable Calculus4
MATH 54Linear Algebra and Differential Equations4
PHYSICS 7APhysics for Scientists and Engineers4
PHYSICS 7BPhysics for Scientists and Engineers4
PHYSICS 7CPhysics for Scientists and Engineers4

Upper Division Major Requirements

Optional:
The following are recommended for the minor, but are not required.
Introduction to Astrophysics [4]
Introduction to Astrophysics [4]
Required (choose two of the following):
Optical and Infrared Astronomy Laboratory [4]
Radio Astronomy Laboratory [4]
Stellar Physics [4]
Relativistic Astrophysics and Cosmology [4]
Planetary Astrophysics [4]
Required (choose three of the following electives):
Advanced Inorganic Chemistry [3]
Advanced Inorganic Chemistry [3]
Instrumental Methods in Analytical Chemistry [4]
Inorganic Synthesis and Reactions [4]
CHEM 112A
Course Not Available [5]
CHEM 112B
Course Not Available [5]
Physical Chemistry [3]
Physical Chemistry [3]
Quantum Mechanics and Spectroscopy [3]
Physical Chemistry Laboratory [3]
Nuclear Chemistry [2]
Geodynamics [4]
Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors [3]
User Interface Design and Development [4]
Programming Languages and Compilers [4]
Software Engineering [4]
Foundations of Computer Graphics [4]
Introduction to Database Systems [4]
Introduction to Artificial Intelligence [4]
Introduction to Analysis [4]
Linear Algebra [4]
Mathematical Tools for the Physical Sciences [4]
Mathematical Tools for the Physical Sciences [4]
Numerical Analysis [4]
Numerical Analysis [4]
History of Mathematics [4]
Introduction to Complex Analysis [4]
Analytic Mechanics [4]
Electromagnetism and Optics [4]
Electromagnetism and Optics [4]
Instrumentation Laboratory [3]
Advanced Experimentation Laboratory [1-3]
Introduction to Statistical and Thermal Physics [4]
Particle Physics [4]
Quantum Mechanics [4]
Quantum Mechanics [4]
Introduction to Plasma Physics [4]
Concepts of Statistics [4]
Introduction to Time Series [4]

College Requirements

Undergraduate students must fulfill the following requirements in addition to those required by their major program.

For detailed lists of courses that fulfill college requirements, please review the College of Letters & Sciences page in this Guide. For College advising appointments, please visit the L&S Advising Pages. 

University of California Requirements

Entry Level Writing

All students who will enter the University of California as freshmen must demonstrate their command of the English language by fulfilling the Entry Level Writing requirement. Fulfillment of this requirement is also a prerequisite to enrollment in all reading and composition courses at UC Berkeley. 

American History and American Institutions

The American History and Institutions requirements are based on the principle that a US resident graduated from an American university, should have an understanding of the history and governmental institutions of the United States.

Berkeley Campus Requirement

American Cultures

All undergraduate students at Cal need to take and pass this course in order to graduate. The requirement offers an exciting intellectual environment centered on the study of race, ethnicity and culture of the United States. AC courses offer students opportunities to be part of research-led, highly accomplished teaching environments, grappling with the complexity of American Culture.

College of Letters & Science Essential Skills Requirements

Quantitative Reasoning

The Quantitative Reasoning requirement is designed to ensure that students graduate with basic understanding and competency in math, statistics, or computer science. The requirement may be satisfied by exam or by taking an approved course.

Foreign Language

The Foreign Language requirement may be satisfied by demonstrating proficiency in reading comprehension, writing, and conversation in a foreign language equivalent to the second semester college level, either by passing an exam or by completing approved course work.

Reading and Composition

In order to provide a solid foundation in reading, writing, and critical thinking the College requires two semesters of lower division work in composition in sequence. Students must complete parts A & B reading and composition courses by the end of their second semester and a second-level course by the end of their fourth semester.

College of Letters & Science 7 Course Breadth Requirements

Breadth Requirements

The undergraduate breadth requirements provide Berkeley students with a rich and varied educational experience outside of their major program. As the foundation of a liberal arts education, breadth courses give students a view into the intellectual life of the University while introducing them to a multitude of perspectives and approaches to research and scholarship. Engaging students in new disciplines and with peers from other majors, the breadth experience strengthens interdisciplinary connections and context that prepares Berkeley graduates to understand and solve the complex issues of their day.

Unit Requirements

  • 120 total units

  • Of the 120 units, 36 must be upper division units

  • Of the 36 upper division units, 6 must be taken in courses offered outside your major department
Residence Requirements

For units to be considered in "residence," you must be registered in courses on the Berkeley campus as a student in the College of Letters & Science. Most students automatically fulfill the residence requirement by attending classes here for four years. In general, there is no need to be concerned about this requirement, unless you go abroad for a semester or year or want to take courses at another institution or through UC Extension during your senior year. In these cases, you should make an appointment to meet an adviser to determine how you can meet the Senior Residence Requirement.

Note: Courses taken through UC Extension do not count toward residence.

Senior Residence Requirement

After you become a senior (with 90 semester units earned toward your BA degree), you must complete at least 24 of the remaining 30 units in residence in at least two semesters. To count as residence, a semester must consist of at least 6 passed units. Intercampus Visitor, EAP, and UC Berkeley-Washington Program (UCDC) units are excluded.

You may use a Berkeley Summer Session to satisfy one semester of the Senior Residence requirement, provided that you successfully complete 6 units of course work in the Summer Session and that you have been enrolled previously in the college.

Modified Senior Residence Requirement

Participants in the UC Education Abroad Program (EAP), Berkeley Summer Abroad, or the UC Berkeley Washington Program (UCDC) may meet a Modified Senior Residence requirement by completing 24 (excluding EAP) of their final 60 semester units in residence. At least 12 of these 24 units must be completed after you have completed 90 units.

Upper Division Residence Requirement

You must complete in residence a minimum of 18 units of upper division courses (excluding UCEAP units), 12 of which must satisfy the requirements for your major.

Advising

Undergraduate and Graduate Advising

Dexter Stewart, the Department of Astronomy's undergraduate and graduate adviser, is available to answer your questions relating to the Astrophysics major and minor, graduate degrees, and other related student matters.

Email: dexters@berkeley.edu
Phone: 510-642-8520
Fax: 510-642-3411
Hours:

  • Drop-in advising is available from 1 to 4 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.
  • Appointments are available 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.

Undergraduate Faculty Adviser

Mariska Kriek is the Department of Astronomy's undergraduate faculty adviser. She is available to assist with issues that arise during your time as an undergraduate student in the Astrophysics program; she is a great resource for explanations pertaining to the content of courses, getting involved in research, and a career in astrophysics in general. Please email her to set up an appointment (mkriek@berkeley.edu).

Graduate Faculty Adviser

Aaron Parsons is the Department of Astronomy's graduate faculty adviser. He is available to assist with a number of course and research matters that may arise during your graduate career; please email him to set up an appointment (aparsons@astro.berkeley.edu).

Courses

Astrophysics

Faculty and Instructors

+ Indicates this faculty member is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award.

Faculty

Steven Beckwith, Professor.

Joshua Bloom, Professor. Machine learning, gamma-ray bursts, supernovae, time-domain astronomy, data-driven discovery.
Research Profile

+ Eugene Chiang, Professor. Planetary science, theoretical astrophysics, dynamics, planet formation, circumstellar disks.
Research Profile

Imke De Pater, Professor. Radio, planetary science, infrared, observations.
Research Profile

Courtney Dressing, Assistant Professor. Searching for small, potentially habitable exoplanets orbiting nearby stars, characterizing planet host stars to improve stellar and planetary parameters, Investigating the dependence of planet occurrence on stellar and planetary properties.
Research Profile

+ Alexei V. Filippenko, Professor.

James R. Graham, Professor. Adaptive optics, infrared instrumentation, large telescopes.
Research Profile

Raymond Jeanloz, Professor. Planetary geophysics, high-pressure physics, national and international security, science-based policy.
Research Profile

Paul Kalas, Adjunct Professor. Planets, astronomy, Telescopes, Science Ethics.
Research Profile

Daniel Kasen, Associate Professor.

Richard I. Klein, Adjunct Professor. Astronomy, star formation, interstellar medium, coupled radiation-gas dynamical flows, supernova shockwaves, hydrodynamic collisions, high-energy astrophysics, photon bubble oscillations, hydro dynamics.
Research Profile

Mariska Kriek, Associate Professor.

Chung-Pei Ma, Professor. Astrophysics, dark matter, cosmology, formation and evolution of galaxies, cosmic microwave background radiation.
Research Profile

Burkhard Militzer, Associate Professor. Saturn, structure and evolution of Jupiter, and extrasolar giant planets.
Research Profile

Peter Nugent, Adjunct Professor. Supernovae, wide-field optical surveys, time-domain astrophysics, radiation transport, cosmology, computational astrophysics.
Research Profile

Aaron Parsons, Assistant Professor.

Eliot Quataert, Professor. Compact objects, theoretical astrophysics, theoretical physics, black holes, accretion theory, plasma physics, high energy astrophysics, galaxies, stars.
Research Profile

Uros Seljak, Professor.

Daniel R. Weisz, Assistant Professor.

Martin White, Professor. Cosmology, formation of structure in the universe, dark energy, expansion of the universe, cosmic microwave background, quasars, redshift surveys.
Research Profile

Emeritus Faculty

Jonathan Arons, Professor Emeritus. Astrophysics, compact astrophysical objects, Neutron Stars, ionized plasmas, cosmic rays, magnetized accretion disks, black holes pulsars, magnetic fields, planets.
Research Profile

Gibor Basri, Professor Emeritus. Astronomy, low mass stars, brown dwarfs, star formation, T Tauri stars, stellar magnetic activity, starspots.
Research Profile

Leo Blitz, Professor Emeritus. Astronomy, formation of galaxies, evolution of galaxies, conversion of interstellar gases, milky way, dark matter, dwarf galaxies, interstellar medium, high velocity clouds, hydrogen atom.
Research Profile

C. Stuart Bowyer, Professor Emeritus.

Marc Davis, Professor Emeritus. Astronomy, physical cosmology, large scale velocity fields, structure formation in the universe, maps of galactic dust.
Research Profile

Reinhard Genzel, Professor. Physics, existence and formation of black holes in galactic nuclei, the nature of the power source, the evolution of (ultra)luminous infrared galaxies, gas dynamics, the fueling of active galactic nuclei, the properties evolution of starburst galaxies.
Research Profile

Alfred E. Glassgold, Adjunct Professor. Theoretical astrophysics and underlying physical processes, interstellar and circumstellar matter, star and planet fromation, protoplanetary disks.
Research Profile

Carl E. Heiles, Professor Emeritus. Astronomy, interstellar medium, itsmorphology, supernovas, interstellar magnetic fields, Eridanus superbubble, interstellar gases.
Research Profile

Ivan R. King, Professor Emeritus.

Christopher F. Mckee, Professor Emeritus. Astrophysics, interstellar medium, formation of stars, astrophysical fluid dynamics, computational astrophysics, astrophysical blast waves, supernova remnants, interstellar shocks.
Research Profile

William J. (Jack) Welch, Professor Emeritus. Formation of stars, dark dust clouds, Michelson interferometer array, and Allen telescope array.
Research Profile

Contact Information

Department of Astronomy

501 Campbell Hall

Phone: 510-642-5275

Fax: 510-642-3411

Visit Department Website

Department Chair

Chung-Pei Ma

319 Campbell Hall

cpma@berkeley.edu

Undergraduate Affairs Officer

Amber Banayat

501E Campbell Hall

Phone: 510-642-8520

abanayat@berekeley.edu

Department Manager

Cara Lyn Giovanniello

501G Campbell Hall

Phone: 510-643-5040

clg@berkeley.edu

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