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This is liberally taken from the analogous document published by the Department of Astronomy, University of Arizona. The plan discussed in that document applies well to our program.
A range of educational goals (EG) are expected of students in our graduate program in astronomy. The students will:

EG1: Demonstrate professional-level ability to understand and use principle findings, common applications, fundamental techniques, and the underlying theories of astronomy, with an emphasis on developing critical thinking;

EG2: Demonstrate advanced skills necessary to utilize the observational and/or numerical and/or theoretical techniques, instrumentation, computational methods, and software applications used to investigate modern astrophysical phenomena and problems;

EG3: Develop expertise with communicating, translating, and interpreting fundamental astronomical concepts and research results in oral and/or written formats;

EG4: Conduct independent research and acquire mastery-level knowledge of a specific area of the discipline of astronomy; and

EG5: Engage in the scholarly, ethical, and discipline specific practices of the field at a professional level.

The curriculum described in the previous section has been developed with the aim at accomplishing the educational goals listed above.


In order to evaluate that the student is on track and is progressing towards competency in the five educational goals listed above, a series of assessments is performed throughout the graduate career.

  1. All students are expected to successfully complete all seven base and core courses by the middle of their third year, with a grade better than C in each course, and with an overall average grade of B or better. In addition, students are required to successfully complete two elective courses before graduation, with a grade better than C. Electives are offered by the Department of Astronomy and other departments, such as physics, mathematics, geology, computer sciences, geology, and others as appropriate. Electives offered by other departments require prior approval.

    All courses must be taken for a letter grade.
    This activity fulfills EG1 and EG2.
    Assessment is performed via final exams administered at the end of each course and during the general portion of the Second Year Exam.

  2. All students are required to attend the course: Reviews of Current Literature (Journal Club and Colloquium) and participate in the activities associated with that course. The course will be taken every semester for the entire duration of the graduate career, but after four years the students only need to present one talk per year.

    The course can be taken for either letter or non-letter (e.g., SAT) grade.
    This activity fulfills EG3.
    Each student is required to present at least one paper on current literature during Journal Club, in each semester, for the first four years in the program. Assessment is performed via evaluation of student’s participation and quality of presentations.

  1. All students are required to successfully complete five semesters of Independent Studies while working on their Initial Research Project. A grade better than C is expected in each semester. These courses must be taken for a letter grade.
    This activity fulfills EG2, EG3, EG4, and EG5.

    All students are required to produce a written report on their IRP and present their research and results as described in previous sections. Assessment is based on the grade given by the advisor, the quality of the written report and the oral presentation, and the performance during the IRP Oral Exam.

  2. All students admitted to PhD Candidacy are expected to take at least 18 credits of the PhD Dissertation course. The student selects the advisor, possibly different from the IRP advisors, and forms the Dissertation Thesis Committee. The committee will approve the thesis proposal of the candidate and will monitor progress towards completion of the research plan. The candidate will ensure to present a progress report to the committee at least once per year.

    This activity fulfills EG1, EG2, EG3, EG4, and EG5.
    Assessment is performed via feedback to the candidate by the Dissertation Thesis Committee, which is expected to lead to successful graduation.

  3. All students are expected to participate in the daily activities of the department as appropriate, and to engage in activities at the university level and within the profession. This activity fulfills EG5.
    No formal assessment is formulated for this activity.