MSc in Astrophysics

General

Program Description

The MSc in Astrophysics allows students to gain experience in the core areas of astrophysics to develop the necessary research skills to carry out astrophysical research.

The MSc in Astrophysics is a one-year taught programme run by the School of Physics and Astronomy. The programme is intended to provide an entry route to astrophysics research and potentially PhD programmes for students who have taken an undergraduate BSc degree in Physics, Mathematics or an equivalent cognate discipline.

Highlights

  • Students are able and encouraged to use the University Observatory and the James Gregory Telescope, the largest working optical telescope in the UK.
  • Students will also have the opportunity to take part in an observing run at the Teide Observatory on Tenerife, Spain.
  • The programme prepares students to undertake astrophysical research at PhD level.
  • Modules provide transferable skills which enhance employability in and out of academia.

Teaching format

The MSc consists of two semesters of taught courses including a 3.5-month significant research project and dissertation (15,000 words). Teaching methods include lectures and tutorials, covering areas of both theoretical and observational astrophysics, and modules are assessed through examination, research projects and continuous coursework.

Throughout the programme students will not only gain a full working knowledge of the fundamental aspects of astrophysics but will also develop their transferable skills such as programming, data analysis, problem-solving, scientific writing, presentation and science outreach skills, enhancing employability in and out of academia.

Access to the University Observatory and James Gregory Telescope allows students to receive a hands-on experience to develop their observational expertise, which can then be followed into their research projects with the option to use either facility at St Andrews or remote observing facilities around the world.

Modules

The modules in this programme have varying methods of delivery and assessment.

Compulsory

  • Research Skills in Astrophysics: provides the basic astrophysical background and introduces students to the research skills needed for a career in astrophysics.

Optional

Students choose six optional modules from the following:

  • Advanced Data Analysis: develops an understanding of basic concepts and offers practical experience with the techniques of quantitative data analysis.
  • Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics: introduces the concepts of fluid dynamics and describes their application while providing students with the opportunity to develop the numerical skills required for a computational approach.
  • Contemporary Astrophysics: provides an annual survey of the latest, most interesting, developments in astronomy and astrophysics at the research level.
  • Extragalactic Astronomy: introduces the basic elements of extragalactic astronomy, including the morphological, structural and spectral properties of elliptical, spiral, quiescent and star-forming galaxies.
  • General Relativity: provides an introduction and applications to the theory of general relativity, covering its historic evolution, fundamental principles, advanced mathematics, derived predictions and experimental tests.
  • Gravitational Dynamics and Accretion Physics: explores the basics of gravitational dynamics and accretion physics and their application to systems such as circumstellar discs, stellar clusters to galaxies and clusters of galaxies.
  • Magnetofluids and Space Plasmas: covers the fundamental nature of the magnetic field and plasma interaction to many problems in astrophysics, solar and terrestrial physics as well as efforts to harness fusion power using tokamaks.
  • Monte Carlo Radiation Transport Techniques: introduces the theory and practice behind Monte Carlo radiation transport codes for use in physics, astrophysics, atmospheric physics, and medical physics.
  • Observational Techniques in Astrophysics: provides a complete overview of the practical part of research in observational astronomy.
  • The Physics of Nebulae and Stars 1: introduces the physics of astrophysical plasmas, as found in stars and interstellar space, where interactions between matter and radiation play a dominant role.
  • Stellar Physics: develops the physics of stellar interiors and atmospheres from the basic equations of stellar structure and radiative transfer concepts developed in Nebulae and Stars 1.

Optional modules are subject to change each year, and some may only allow limited numbers of students,

Dissertation research project

During the final 3.5 months of the course, students undertake a research project culminating in a 15,000-word dissertation. Students select a project from a list of those available and are supervised by a member of the academic staff.

The project aims to develop students' skills in searching the appropriate literature, astrophysical theory or experimental and observational design, the evaluation and interpretation of data, and the presentation of a report.

If students choose not to complete the dissertation requirement for the MSc, there is an exit award available that allows suitably qualified candidates to receive a Postgraduate Diploma. By choosing an exit award, you will finish your degree at the end of the second semester of study and receive a PGDip instead of an MSc.

The modules listed here are indicative, and there is no guarantee they will run for 2019 entry.

Careers

This degree course is intended to provide an entry route to astrophysics research, and potentially PhD programmes, at St Andrews or another university in the UK or abroad. The course also prepares students for careers in data science, finance, and education, amongst others.

The Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students on a taught postgraduate course and offers a programme of events to assist students to build their employability skills.

Entry requirements

  • A good 2.1 undergraduate Honours degree in Physics, Mathematics or a related topic. If you studied your first degree outside the UK, see the international entry requirements.
  • English language proficiency.

The qualifications listed are indicative of minimum requirements for entry. Some academic Schools will ask applicants to achieve significantly higher marks than the minimum. Obtaining the listed entry requirements will not guarantee you a place, as the University considers all aspects of every application including, where applicable, the writing sample, personal statement, and supporting documents.

Application requirements

  • completed Astrophysics supplementary application form (Word),
  • two original signed academic references,
  • academic transcripts and degree certificates,
  • evidence of English language proficiency (required if English is not your first language).

Funding

Recent Graduate Discount

The University of St Andrews offers a 10% discount in postgraduate tuition fees to students who are eligible to graduate or who have graduated from St Andrews within the last three academic years and are starting a postgraduate programme with the University of St Andrews.

Last updated October 2019

About the School

Founded in the fifteenth century, St Andrews is Scotland's first university and the third oldest in the English speaking world. St Andrews is a unique place to study and live. Nestled on the east coas ... Read More

Founded in the fifteenth century, St Andrews is Scotland's first university and the third oldest in the English speaking world. St Andrews is a unique place to study and live. Nestled on the east coast of Scotland, students may find themselves crossing golf-courses on their way to class, or jogging along the beach after dinner. Not only does the University have a world-class reputation, but it also offers a diverse range of social activities, including over 140 student societies and 50 sports clubs. Historic buildings are juxtaposed against the modern facilities, and the many student traditions truly make studying at St Andrews an unforgettable experience. Read less
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