University of Hawaii at Hilo Catalog 2013–2014

Astronomy

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Department Chair:
Philippe M. Binder, Ph.D. (uhhpachr@hawaii.edu), (808) 974-7650

Natural Sciences Division Office:

Life Sciences 2, (808) 974–7383

Web: hilo.hawaii.edu/academics/astronomy/ and www.astro.uhh.hawaii.edu

Professor:

  • Philippe M. Binder, Ph.D.

Assistant Professors:

  • Jesse M. Goldman, Ph.D.
  • R. Pierre Martin, Ph.D.
  • Marianne Y. Takamiya, Ph.D.

Instructors:

  • John C. Hamilton, M.S.
  • Norman G. Purves, M.S.

Technician:

  • John P. Coney, M.Ed.

Astronomy is rich in history as man has tried to explain his universe over the years. Astronomers combine the basic sciences (physics, chemistry, optics, etc.) with computers and complex technology in order to scan and to understand the heavens and the world in which we live. UH Hilo’s proximity to some of the most advanced astronomy facilities in the world provides opportunities that undergraduate students rarely experience. The UH Hilo academic astronomy program utilizes the astronomy infrastructure of Mauna Kea and the University Park of Science and Technology to provide students with knowledge of astronomy and training in modern methods of observational astronomy.

The B.S. degree program provides the training needed for students seeking careers in astronomy, both as professional research astronomers and as observatory technical staff members. In most universities, students are able to study astronomy only at the graduate level. The Bachelor of Science in Astronomy at UH Hilo is the only such undergraduate university program within the State of Hawaiʻi. Our program provides training and instruction at the undergraduate level for students seeking careers in astronomy and related fields, as well as opportunities for non-majors who are also interested in astronomy.

To accomplish this, the program incorporates the following elements:

  • Emphasis on training in observational astronomy, thereby building on the resource represented by the astronomical observatories atop Mauna Kea
  • A full array of courses which provide the theoretical and conceptual background for understanding astronomy
  • A strong component of computer assisted computation and analysis
  • Flexibility to allow students to prepare adequately for a wide variety of career choices, such as: entrance to astronomy graduate school, training for technical careers in astronomy observatory support roles, preparation for careers in related fields such as planetary geosciences or remote sensing, and preparation of teachers, who wish to incorporate astronomy into the public school curriculum

The Department offers a range of astronomy courses suitable for all levels of interest and mathematical preparation. Students in other disciplines who have always wondered about the universe are served by an introductory, non-mathematical course. Students planning a more detailed study of the subject will wish to enroll in the year-long astronomy sequence suitable for astronomy and physics majors. The astronomy program also provides the astronomy components of the Natural Sciences degree and General Education programs, for the enrichment of students in a field of major importance to the State of Hawaiʻi.

Mission

The UH Hilo academic astronomy program takes as its mission the utilization of the astronomy infrastructure of Mauna Kea and University Park in providing students with high levels of knowledge of astronomy, and of training in modern methods of observational astronomy. The B.S. degree program provides the training needed for students seeking careers in astronomy, both as professional research astronomers and as observatory technical staff members. The astronomy program also provides the astronomy components of the Natural Sciences degree and General Education programs, for the enrichment of students in a field of major importance to the State of Hawai`i.

Goals for Student Learning in the Major

  1. Acquisition of basic knowledge of all major fields of modern astronomy, and of understanding of the relations between astronomy and other areas of science and knowledge.
  • Development of a broad understanding of the Universe and its components, through lower-division survey courses.
  • Development of a deep understanding of the central areas and issues of modern astronomy, through upper-division topical astrophysics courses.
  • Development of understanding of the connections between modern astronomy and of other areas of human knowledge, through general education courses accessible to non-science students and appropriate components in courses provided for astronomy majors.
  1. Acquisition of advanced training in all aspects of modern observational astronomy and related research methods.
  • Training in methods of modern observational astronomy at both the lower and upper division levels, the latter incorporating the expertise of Mauna Kea observatories staff members.
  • Experience in research methods in astronomy through cooperative research programs with both UH Hilo faculty and observatory scientific staff members, utilizing the observatories and instruments of Mauna Kea.
  • Advanced training in observatory operations through internships in Mauna Kea observatories.
  1. Acquisition of a deep understanding of the physical principles underlying modern astronomy.
  • Training in the basics of mechanics, optics, electromagnetism, atomic structure, and modern physics; through lower and upper division physics coursework.
  • Acquisition of skills in experimental science through lower and upper division physics/astronomy laboratory courses.
  • Adequate preparation of students to compete for entry into post-graduate programs in astronomy and physics.
  1. Development of basic skills in computational and data analysis techniques of current importance in research astronomy and observatory operations.

  • Knowledge of numerical computational techniques applicable in astronomy, through lower division courses in computational physics and computer science.
  • Programming and computer operations skills commonly used in theoretical and observational astronomy/observatory operations, acquired through upper division courses in computer workstation applications.
  • Training in computerized data analysis techniques in modern observational astronomy, through lower and upper division coursework and research projects mentored by faculty.
  1. Acquisition of basic scientific reasoning, critical thinking, and communications skills.

  • Development of scientific reasoning and critical thinking skills by exposure to numerous examples and open-ended assignments, and by exposure to original research problems through faculty mentored projects and senior theses.
  • Development of communications skills appropriate to scientists through writing assignments in astronomy and physics classes, formal training in technical writing via the English department, composition of a senior thesis, and participation in senior seminar.

Special Aspects of the Astronomy Program

The Department is housed in the new Science and Technology Building, which will provide modern offices, classrooms, introductory and advanced undergraduate labs, and faculty research facilities that provide students with an ideal working environment.

The Department operates a telescope and observatory sited on Mauna Kea among some of the largest and most powerful instruments in the world. This facility provides students with the opportunity to pursue research-grade projects under the supervision of Department faculty, who have active research projects in galactic, planetary, and stellar astronomy. In addition, the Observatory Internship program, coordinated with institutions based in the University Park of Science and Technology, offers students a unique opportunity to gain practical or research experience at astronomical observatories atop Mauna Kea prior to obtaining their degree.

The Space Grant Fellowship Program offers competitive fellowships to students of exceptional promise, usually during their senior year. The fellowships provide a full tuition waiver and $1,000/semester stipend. Space Grant Fellows conduct a proposed research project under the supervision of a faculty mentor and participate in University-wide Space Grant College symposia. Funding for travel to meetings is available from this program.

Affiliated faculty from the University Technology Park and other facilities offer a rich array of supplemental Special Topics courses which expand opportunities for students.

Curricula

Rev. 10/30/13