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, stellar, and exoplanetary 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 faculty member from both departments that share the historic Pupin Laboratories building. A number of students also pursue PhD dissertation research at the neighboring American Museum of Natural History whose faculty is closely affiliated with the Department. Our faculty and students also have close ties with other research groups in New York City, including the new Simons Center for Computational Astronomy, CUNY, and New York University.

The Astronomy Department is a member of the MDM consortium, which operates 1.3 and 2.4m telescopes on Kitt Peak in Arizona, providing observational capabilities for our students and a platform for novel instrument development. We recently joined the Subaru Prime-focus Spectrograph consortium that is creating the most powerful multi-object spectrographic survey in the world. The Columbia Astrophysics Laboratory, a joint endeavor of the Astronomy and Physics Departments, now celebrating its 50th anniversary, has extensive experience in the design and construction of new astronomical instruments for rocket, balloon, and satellite missions such as GALEX and NuSTAR, as well as for ground-based telescopes including LIGO.

The Astrophysics Laboratory maintains a large computing facility with all offices connected through a wideband network. Members of the Astronomy Department also have access to Columbia’s shared research computing resources, including two computer clusters with a total of over 7500 cores.

Fellowships, which all include full tuition, fees, and a stipend for the duration of the degree program, are awarded in recognition of academic achievement and in expectation of scholarly success. Since teaching and research experience are considered important aspects of the training of graduate students, graduate fellowships include both teaching and research apprenticeships. 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 individual research projects carried out under the direction of faculty members during the first two years.

Special Admissions Requirements:

In addition to the requirements listed below, all students must upload transcripts showing courses and grades from the school(s) they 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 a non-English-speaking institution 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: Friday, December 29, 2017
Resume Requirement: Yes
Writing Sample: No
GRE General: Yes
GRE Subject: Yes (Physics)
Degree Programs: Full Time
Letters of Recommendation: 3


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