Astrochemistry Graduate Programs

Feb 25, 2018

Astrochemistry is often a concentration of the chemistry or astronomy degree and can include coursework in areas such as thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, interstellar mediums, and stellar astrophysics. Find out more about the specialized study for this field, along with possible university admission requirements.

There are few programs in the specialized and evolving field of astrochemistry, perhaps less than a handful, at best. PhD students tend to study both chemistry and astronomy and take astrochemical courses as part of their programs.

Information about Graduate Programs in Astrochemistry

Since astrochemistry is a combination of chemistry and astronomy, you can take coursework in either, along with specific astrochemistry classes, while working toward your degree. For a focus in astrochemistry you will usually need to work toward a doctorate, since most jobs in this field are research-based or in academics and require a PhD. The length of your program could vary, depending on your research goals. The following are a few of the courses that you can expect to find as a part of your program.

Statistical Thermodynamics

In these courses, students work with postulates, assumptions, Hamiltonian dynamics and the microstates of equal energy. They explore how the three laws of thermodynamics are arrived at and how equilibrium is achieved. These classes also give students the opportunity to learn more about macroscopic systems using thermodynamic law as a base.

Quantum Mechanics

Students review basic sets, matrix formulations, and the operations of vector spaces. They may gain practice solving time-independent and angular momentum problems. Time-dependent equations and representations may also be included in these courses.

Interstellar Medium

Courses in interstellar medium discuss a range of the materials in space. They cover topics such as interstellar gas and grains, cosmic radiation, and interstellar magnetic fields. These classes also explore the dynamics and distribution of interstellar gas, along with the chemistry of protostars and interstellar clouds.

Physical Chemistry

Coursework in physical chemistry introduces students to the principles of physical chemistry, although students may be expected to have a foundation in fields such as chemistry or biochemistry. Topics that students might encounter include an exploration of the properties of solids, liquids, and gases. These classes may also delve into thermodynamics and chemical kinetics.

Stellar Astrophysics

Stellar astrophysics courses are designed to help students learn more about the properties and physics of stars. They may learn about how radiation is transferred and how convection functions. Other topics that students may encounter include stellar thermodynamics and the formation of spectra in atmospheres.

Admission Requirements for Graduate Programs in Astrochemistry

Depending on the institution of choice, graduate program applicants may need to show previous successful work in areas such as physics or chemistry and will need to submit transcripts detailing all academic work at the undergraduate and graduate levels. You will probably be required to submit up to 3 letters of recommendation and may also be asked for a personal statement and resume. Your general GRE results or those in specific areas such as physics or chemistry may be requested.

Although a dedicated astrochemistry program is rare, you can often earn a doctoral degree in chemistry or astronomy and study additional courses in astrochemistry while making it your concentration. Programs are research-intensive, as is employment in this field.

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