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Research Opportunties

The Astronomy & Astrophysics Department supports a wide variety of undergraduate research opportunities.  Researchers in the department work in a number of exciting fields, including star formation and evolution, the structure and evolution of galaxies, stellar and supermassive black holes, exoplanets, cosmology, and astronomical instrumentation.  Research can be supported via course credit in ASTR 99, 99H (for Regents Scholars), 199, and 199H (for students in the honors program).  There are additional opportunities for funded research, especially during the summer.  Below we provide information on research opportunities in the department.

Special Studies Courses

Undergraduate students may request to enroll in a Special Studies course under the supervision of a faculty advisor. You can see a list of research areas and who the lead faculty are for each one here.

Undergraduate students are encouraged to initiate contact with faculty in their interested area of research to see if they would be willing to act as an advisor for their reading or research project. If approved, these students will then make a Special Studies request in the Enrollment Authorization System (EASy) for their faculty advisor to review and approve.

98s, 99s

  • You must have completed between 30 and 90 units and you must have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0.
  • Are available for 2 units, only, and you must commit to at least 6 hours of work per week.

199s are intended for students who are looking to do an undergraduate reading or research project with a faculty member in a particular area of study and would like to earn academic credit for this work:

  • You must have completed more than 90 units and you must have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5. (You can request a 199 if you have less than 90 units, but approval is not guaranteed.)
  • Are available for 2, 3, or 4 units and you must commit to at least 6, 9, or 12 hours of work per week, respectively.
  • ASTR 199 can be taken up to three times and for a maximum of 12 units, overall.
  • A single 4-unit ASTR 199 can be applied as a restricted elective for your A&A major, as long as a ASTR 199H is not also applying.


  • Requires prior completion of all required lower-division astronomy courses, nine upper-division astronomy courses, and a GPA of at least 3.30 in the astronomy major.
  • Include 8-12 units of ASTR 199H enrollment (2-3 terms @ 4-units each / 1 term @ 4 units and at least 2 terms @ 2-units each)
  • Are only open to students who have applied and been accepted to the Astronomy Honors Thesis Program.
  • A single 4-unit ASTR 199H can be applied as a restricted elective for your major, as long as a ASTR 199 is not also applying.

Instructions on how to request enrollment in Special Studies classes can be found here.

Graduate Courses

Undergraduate students may enroll in graduate level courses with the consent of the instructor. We recommend that this consent only be given to exceptional undergraduate students who have shown mastery of their undergraduate coursework.

Undergraduate students requesting to enroll in graduate level courses must use the Enrollment Authorization System (EASy). 

These requests may be placed on hold until Astronomy PhD students have first had an opportunity to enroll in their core graduate coursework.

Honors Program

The Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics offers an honors program to those students who have demonstrated excellence in either of the majors. Students may receive departmental honors if they complete the following in addition to their major requirements:

  • Overall GPA of 3.3 or higher.
  • 2 quarters of ASTR 199H (8.0 units of independent study research), not being used to fulfill any major requirements.
  • Write a thesis and give a presentation.

Students who successfully complete the Honors Program and who have maintained a GPA of at least a 3.3 in the major will have the one of the following designations on their diploma, based on an average of their major GPA and the grade for their research project:

3.50 – 3.67 "with Distinction"
3.68 – 3.85 "with High Distinction"
3.86 – 4.00 "with Highest Distinction"

Instructions for how to apply for honors are coming soon!

The Dean’s Summer Research Awards

Students in Astronomy & Astrophysics are eligible to apply for the Dean’s Summer Research Awards.  More information can be found at this link.

The UC San Diego STARS Program

Researchers in Astronomy & Astrophysics participate in the Summer Training Academy for Research Success (STARS) program.  More information can be found at this link.