PhD Degree Direct-Entry

The direct-entry PhD degree (PhD U) is designed for students entering with a qualifying bachelor’s degree. It is structured as a five year doctoral program which in its first year combines coursework with intensive research providing the foundation of a well-rounded one year master’s program curriculum.


Students are required to complete a minimum of four graduate elective half courses (0.5 FCE). These courses are selected from the AST preparatory (1000 series), elective (2000 series), or specialized graduate courses (3000 series). Courses offered of equivalent levels from a cognate department may be substituted, subject to the approval of the Associate Chair, Graduate Studies. The recommended timeline for completion of the four graduate elective half courses is two in the first year and two in the second year. More courses may be taken for credit or audited as appropriate.


Students are immediately engaged in research through the required research course series AST 1501Y and AST 1500Y, each in a separate area under the supervision of a different faculty member. The research courses are weighted as full courses (1.0 FCE). AST 1501Y is completed during the fall and winter sessions of the first year, and AST 1500Y the following summer. Projects should be feasible and interesting, clearly defined, and ultimately publishable. Each research course culminates with a final report (ApJ Letter length or actual draft of paper for submission) and project presentation.

Qualifying Exams

The PhD Qualifying Examinations are comprised of two parts: general knowledge and thesis proposal. Both parts must be successfully completed in order to continue in the doctoral program.

The General Knowledge Examination should be scheduled in May of the second year; the date is set by the Associate Chair, Graduate Studies. The Thesis Proposal Examination should be held in June or July of the second year after the General Knowledge Examination.


The core of the program is a doctoral thesis embodying the results of original investigation conducted by the candidate. The thesis should constitute a significant contribution to the knowledge of the field and must be based on research conducted while registered for the PhD program.

A thesis should have a coherent topic with an introduction presenting the general theme of the research and a conclusion summarizing and integrating the major findings. Nonetheless, it may contain a collection of several papers which may be expanded or supplemented by unpublished material and scholarly notes.

PhD Degree (4-Year Track)

This track is a four-year program focused on a doctoral thesis project for students who enter with an MSc degree in Astronomy and Astrophysics or in another appropriate discipline deemed equivalent. There is no minimum course requirement in the four-year program except for courses deemed necessary by the student’s PhD supervisory committee. Students must successfully complete the two parts of the PhD qualifying examinations (general knowledge and thesis proposal) in the summer session of the first year.

MSc Degree

Note that the default point of entry for graduate studies with a qualifying bachelor’s degree is the direct-entry PhD program. Degree requirements for the MSc are similar to those for the first year of the direct-entry PhD, requiring candidates to follow an approved program that includes a minimum of two graduate elective half-courses and the research course series AST1500Y and AST1501Y. Candidates in the direct-entry PhD program who have successfully completed these requirements, and who wish to terminate their studies at that point, may request consideration for award of the MSc degree.