Program Category: PhD Programs

Chair: David Helfand

Director of Graduate Studies: Jacqueline van Gorkom


Degree Programs: Full-Time: MA, MPhil, PhD

Our faculty excel in theory, observations, and the development of new instrumentation, covering particle physics, cosmology, and astrophysics, as well as extragalactic, galactic, and stellar astronomy.

Research in astronomy and astrophysics is conducted in both the Department of Astronomy and the Department of Physics. Students in the Astronomy Department routinely work with the faculty of both departments, which are located in the same building. A number of students also work on PhD dissertations at the neighboring American Museum of Natural History, whose faculty is closely affiliated with the department.

The Astronomy Department is a member of the MDM consortium, which operates 1.3 and 2.4m telescopes on Kitt Peak in Arizona, providing substantial observational capabilities for the department.

Columbia’s Astrophysics Laboratory, a joint endeavor involving the Astronomy and Physics Departments, has extensive experience in the design and construction of new astronomical instruments for rocket, balloon, and satellite missions, as well as for ground-based telescopes. Facilities include laboratories and equipment for testing and assembling experiments, an electronics shop, and a well-equipped machine shop operated by highly skilled personnel.

Every week, both physics and astronomy colloquia are given by invited speakers.

The Astrophysics Laboratory and Astronomy department maintain a large computing network. All offices have connections to these machines through a wideband network. Members of the department also have access to a 256-cpu cluster computer.

Fellowships are awarded in recognition of academic achievement and in expectation of scholarly success. Teaching and research experience are considered important aspects of the training of graduate students. Thus, graduate fellowships include both teaching and research apprenticeship.

Graduate students are normally required to take a minimum of 30 points of their choosing from the Astronomy and Physics offerings, which include the 5 core courses and numerous special topics courses and seminars. Up to 6 points towards the total of 30 are awarded for written and oral reports on research projects carried out under the direction of faculty members.

Special Admissions Requirements: 

In addition to the requirements listed below, all students must upload transcripts showing courses and grades per school attended, a statement of academic purpose, and three letters of evaluation from academic sources.

All international students whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate degree is from an institution in a country whose official language is not English must submit scores of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or IELTS.

For more information, refer to our Admissions Information and Frequently Asked Questions pages.

Deadline for Fall Admission: Thursday, December 29, 2016
Resume Requirement: Yes
Writing Sample: No
GRE General: Yes
GRE Subject: Yes (Physics)
Degree Programs: Full Time



An undergraduate major in physics, astronomy, or a related field is required in addition to a solid background in physics and mathematics.