«Boston University Astronomy Department Graduate Student Handbook Introduction! Getting Started! Important locations The Astronomy Department! ...»
Graduate Student Handbook
The Astronomy Department!
Who is here to help you
We get by with a little help from our friends
The Astronomy Library
This is very important:
Seminar + Journal Club
Life in the Astronomy Department!
Social life in the department
Seminars + The Pub
Tuesday lunch talks
Unplugged & Soiree
There is life outside your department
A grad’s personal life—got kids?
Research in the Astronomy Department!
List of Some Common Fellowships
Finding an advisor
How to break up with your advisor
Astronomy Department Faculty Research Interests
Other resources on current research
Department research facilities
Conferences (go to them!)
Travel booking and reimbursement
Taking courses outside of the Astronomy Department
Course Requirements (as of Fall 2012)
How many classes you can fail, and what to do if you fail one
Written Comprehensive Examination
Studying for the Exam
Applying for your Master’s along the way
Oral Qualifying Examination
Appendix A: First Year Paperwork!
Appendix B: Formal Requirements!
M.A. in Astronomy
Ph.D. in Astronomy
Written Comprehensive Examination
Oral Qualifying Examination
Final Oral Examination
Appendix C: Observatory Instructions!
Getting ready for night lab
Instructions for night lab phone announcements
Appendix D: Graduation Checklist!
Cover image: NASA, ESA, J. Clarke (Boston University), and Z. Levay (STScI)
IntroductionWelcome to the Astronomy Department at Boston University! This handbook has been written and compiled by graduate students, for you, fellow students and intrepid seekers of knowledge. Furthermore, its accuracy has been vetted by the Chair and the Director of Graduate Studies. Although procedures and rules may evolve, in this handbook, we’ve tried to lay out the requirements for graduation—coursework, examinations, etc.—as they stand now, for you, the incoming class of 2013. We’ve also included what we hope is some helpful advice about how things work around the department, things we wish we’d known coming in. Although we believe all the information in this handbook holds value, particularly important sections are underlined in the table of contents. We hope this will serve as a useful reference throughout your graduate career on the road to your PhD!
Live long and prosper!
—the grad students Getting Started The following is a quick, condensed overview of what you’ll need to do when you arrive on campus. If anything’s confusing or for more info, follow the links to the other sections of the handbook. Alternatively, feel free to skip ahead to The Astronomy Department and start reading from there.
Upon arrival, you will need to (1) find your desk, (2) obtain keys, (3) obtain a BU identification card, (4) open a computer account, (5) schedule an advising appointment, (6) fill out a Graduate Student Contract, and (7) complete your payroll paperwork.
Your desk: You will be assigned a desk in one of the graduate student offices. Please check with the department’s Observatory Manager (Quinn Sykes) for your assignment.
Most first-year students are assigned desks in the Teaching Fellows office (CAS 524), but if you are a Research Assistant, you may be assigned to another office. In addition, you will get a work computer. This will be set up by one of the computer Systems Managers (David Bradford and Jeff Sanborn). Don't forget to ask about setting up access to printers on your computer (ask specifically for double-sided).
Your keys: Keys should be obtained from the Observatory Manager. You will get a submaster key that will open various doors around the department, including the TF office, the observatory storage room, and Room 413 (a conference room). If your office requires another key, or if you are working with a professor and need access to labs or other rooms, the Observatory Manager, CSP, or IAR staff will issue you the appropriate keys. Specifically, you might also want to ask for keys that open CAS 500 and CAS 502.
Upon obtaining your BU ID card (see below), Quinn will also add your card to the swipe database so it can open the department office, the kitchen, the observatory, Room 606 (a computer lab), and the library. If you ever need to replace your ID, tell Quinn so he can update the departmental card-swipes (the university card swipes will be automatically updated with the issuance of the new ID, but not those managed by the Astronomy Department.) BU Identification: BU identification cards can be obtained by going to the Terrier Card office in the basement of the George Sherman Student Union Building (775 Commonwealth Ave). You will have a photo ID made and be assigned a BU identification number. The room will be clearly marked; just follow the signs. If you damage it to the point that it no longer works in card swipes or lose it, you can get a new one at the same location. If you are replacing a damaged ID, bring it with you and you will not have to pay for a new one. If you have lost your ID, replacement fees “start at $30,” according to the form.
Computer Account: You will need to set up an account on Kerberos, the standard BU campus-wide network, in order to access Student Link (bu.edu/studentlink), email, and other BU online services. Information Services & Technology (IS&T) should contact you during the summer with instructions on how to do this. You may have already set up a Kerberos account as part of your application to BU. Boston University now uses Microsoft Exchange for email. Instructions for setting up email, and whom to contact if you have trouble with your Kerberos (bu.edu/tech/accounts/kerberos) and Exchange accounts can be found on the IS&T website. You can also find instructions for mail forwarding here if you want to forward your BU email to a different account. Also make sure to sign up for appropriate mailing lists (astrowiki.bu.edu/Mailing Lists) on the Department’s AstroWiki (astrowiki.bu.edu). These lists are the best way to get information about seminars, journal club, and other department events. At the minimum you should sign up for [announce], [grad], and either [CSP] or [IAR] (or both). For more information, see The Astronomy Department Department Facilities Computer Facilities section of this handbook.
Advising: Contact the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS; currently Meers Oppenheim) for an initial advising appointment. You should already be registered for the basic firstyear Astronomy classes, and you can check on your schedule through Student Link once you have a username and login. You should still meet with the Director of Graduate Studies to discuss your proposed plan of study. Every semester the DGS meets with the grads to discuss the next semester, but of course you should feel welcome to meet more frequently. For more information about course registration, see the Academics Registration section of this handbook.
Graduate Student Contract: Before every academic year begins, each graduate student is required to fill out a contract detailing their financial aid arrangements. If you are going to be a Research Assistant, this form will need to be signed by the Principal Investigator of the grant you will be working under; if you are going to be a Teaching Fellow, this form needs to be signed by the Chair. The Department Administrator can provide you with this form. For more information about the ever-important topic of funding and where it comes from, see the Department Duties Funding and Research in the Astronomy Department Funding, again sections of this handbook.
Payroll Documents: You should have received a letter informing you of the type of financial aid you have been awarded. If you are an RA, you will need to fill out a W-4, Iand Patent Policy Agreement. If you are a TF, you just need to fill out the W-4 and I-9.
For the I-9 you will need to bring in a passport or a Social Security card. See the Department Administrator in Room 514 to fill out these forms on the first day of classes (or before, if possible). The Department Administrator or Graduate Student Advisor can help you find all of the correct forms. For more information on payroll and other money matters, see the Academics Financial aspects section of this handbook.
Once you have your Kerberos account set up, you can find a lot of useful information at Student Link, including your class schedule, grades, transcript, any holds on registration, payroll information, etc. You can also set up direct deposit, pay fees, buy a discounted MBTA (subway and bus) semester pass, and update emergency contact information here.
Another minor item is to get a photo into the “Rogue’s Gallery” opposite room 512.
David Bradford is in charge of the cabinet, and will be happy to take a picture of you or you can provide one of your own. If you provide your own picture, it must be a full photo and not a thumbnail. With the large turnover associated with a University, this lets everyone attach names to faces more easily. This, along with payroll documents, desk assignments, and keys are generally done during Orientation.
International students will want to become familiar with the services available to them through the International Students & Scholars Office (bu.edu/isso/index.html). If you have questions about your visa or your international status, this is the place to go.
Important locations The Department of Astronomy is located in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) building, at 725 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 02215. The Department occupies the 4th, 5th, and 6th floors. The Observatory is on the 7th floor.
A few key rooms of note:
CAS 500: Conference room/Access Grid CAS 502: Main Astronomy classroom CAS 506: Research Support office: Center for Space Physics (CSP) and Institute for Astrophysical Research (IAR) main office CAS 511: Computer System Managers’ office (David Bradford, Jeff Sanborn) CAS 514: Main department office (Dept. Administrator) CAS 514A: Chair’s office (Prof. Tereasa Brainerd) CAS 517: Director of Graduate Studies’ office (Prof. Meers Oppenheim) CAS 520: Observatory Manager’s office (Quinn Sykes) CAS 521: Solar laboratory and undergraduate class laboratory CAS 522: Lecture hall for most large Astronomy undergraduate classes CAS 524: Teaching Fellows’ office CAS 606: Astronomy computer laboratory CAS 601: Astronomy Library CAS B4: Astronomy undergraduate class laboratory (in the basement of CAS)
The Astronomy Department
Organization For all academic and scientific purposes, we are united under the common banner of the Astronomy Department. This is the academic entity that falls under the official umbrella of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences (GRS) of BU. However, for administrative purposes—mostly related to the handling of grants—the Department has found it advantageous to establish three different “research centers” within the Department.
the Center for Space Physics (CSP) the Institute for Astrophysical Research (IAR) the Center for Integrated Space Weather Modeling (CISM) The Center for Space Physics also bridges the College of Engineering and includes some students pursuing a degree in the Engineering program.
Each of these four entities associated with the department, including the Astronomy
Department proper, have their own directors and administrators. Right now, these are:
Astronomy Department Prof. Tereasa Brainerd, Chair Prof. John Clarke, Associate Chair, Department Administrator Prof. Meers Oppenheim, Director of Graduate Studies Prof. Dan Clemens, Director of Undergraduate Studies Prof. Paul Withers, Director of Graduate Admissions Center for Space Physics Prof. John Clarke, Director Institute for Astrophysical Research Prof. Alan Marscher, Director
IAR and CSP share the following research support staff:
Despina Bokios, Assistant Director Zachary Grein, Financial Administrator Alyson Savoie, Fiscal Administrator Center for Integrated Space Weather Modeling Prof. Jeffrey Hughes, Director Kathy Nottingham, Administrator If you are working as a Teaching Fellow (TF), your funding source will be the department; if you work as a Research Assistant (RA), your funding will be handled through one of the three research centers. Academic stuff such as class scheduling and grading are handled by the department; research stuff such as seminars, conferences, and grants are handled by the three research centers.