Michigan Astronomy offers majors and minors on two tracks: 1) the Astronomy and Astrophysics track— a physics-intensive path for those planning a graduate degree in the field or a career in the high-tech industry; and 2) the Interdisciplinary Astronomy track— which provides a substantive understanding of the field ideal for roles like public outreach or education. Which track you choose depends on your career goals and aptitude for math and physics.
We also offer general-interest courses for students from other majors seeking to fulfill their science requirements while learning about the field.
Research With Faculty
Whether observing at Magellan or doing computer modeling in Ann Arbor, hands-on research with a faculty member is a critical component of the undergraduate experience. Students hone skills in areas like observation, data analysis, and computer programming; learn to work with graduate students and postdocs; and often have work published in professional journals.
While the experience is built into the curriculum with Astro 399, students are encouraged to meet with the undergraduate advisor as early as freshman year to identify faculty projects that interest them. With a roughly 1:1 faculty-student ratio and a departmental culture that encourages undergraduate research, students are able to easily find a faculty member with related interests eager to carve out a research project and mentor them in completing it.
The quality of mentoring is consistently cited by undergraduates as one of the most valuable resources in the department. The department’s small size means that faculty are able to meet with you, discuss your interests, and ensure you are on track with the courses and research experiences that will help you meet your professional goals. In addition to informal mentoring, students are encouraged to meet with the undergraduate advisor formally every year to be sure they’re getting the most from their education.
Student Astronomical Society
Another valuable resource within the department is the Student Astronomical Society (SAS). This small student-run club hosts astronomy events and activities such as public nights on campus telescopes, study groups, tutoring, events at local schools, and observing trips. It’s an important way for astronomy students to support each other and gain relevant experience in the field.
As they progress with their degree, students are supported in applying for prestigious external summer research opportunities. These programs allow students to work with a professional astronomer on an existing research project at a national ground-based observatory, university, or national lab (such as the Space Telescope Science Institute). The experience is a valuable supplement to work on U-M faculty research and provides exposure to other institutions and projects. Most programs pay a modest salary and transportation expenses. Students may participate more than one summer but tend to be most competitive between their junior and senior year. Applications are usually due in January or February.
For more information on external research opportunities, please see: