A Top Ranked Program

Since its beginning in 1965, the UW Astronomy Department has developed a national reputation for producing successful, productive graduate students who go on to successful careers in astronomy and astrophysics.

Student Satisfaction

The graduate program excels in student satisfaction. In the 2001 National Association of Graduate and Professional Student survey, our astronomy program was ranked number 1 in “recommended practices” and number 2 in “satisfaction.” In 2008, our program was presented a Gold Star Award from the UW Graduate and Professional Student Senate; this award recognizes UW programs that have “exhibited outstanding achievement in faculty-student relations, professional development and training, and the funding and support of students and their research.”

NRC Rankings

Another independent and positive assessment of our graduate program is provided by the 2010 National Research Council (NRC) ranking of doctoral programs (http://www.nap.edu/rdp). According to the overall S- or Survey- rankings, we are between 4th and 11th by the NRC’s very broad 5-95 percentile measure. We similarly appear to rank high in multiple other measures from the NRC: between 4th and 13th (5-95 percentile) in Research Activity, between 1st and 14th (5-95 percentile) in Student Support and Outcomes, 8th in placing students into academic positions, 3rd in graduate completion ratio within 6 years, and 4th in both publications per faculty member and citations per publication. By a variety of measures emphasizing quality in the NRC survey, our program places within the top ten US astronomy graduate programs.


There are ~ 30 graduates in our program, with 4-5 students enter our PhD program each year. The number of minority students have remained level at about 9-18% over the past several decades. A more robust gauge of our success in attracting underrepresented students is the growth among women in our program: 6% in 1970-79, 17% in 1980-89, 18% in 1990-99, and 45% in 2000-09. The latter is well above the national average as reported by the American Institute of Physics (http://www.aip.org/statistics/trends/highlite/edastro/figure4a.htm). Our marked growth seems plausibly coupled to the relatively high fraction (about 1/3) of women mentors among our tenured faculty.

Post-PhD Career Paths

Another measure of the success of mentoring in our program is the employment paths of our graduates after receiving their PhDs. Among the 39 PhDs in the past decade, all secured employment in a STEM related field immediately upon completion of the PhD; and 12 of our past-decade PhDs were/are recipients of prestigious prize postdoctoral fellowships (e.g., Hubble, Spitzer, NSF, CfA, NASA, NAI, McDonald, CITA, CIERA). The longer-term trajectories of our past graduate students are also an indicator of success in which we take considerable pride: among the 82 past PhD recipients from our department who are at least 10-years beyond their PhDs, 84% are still employed in STEM fields, with the vast majority involved in astronomy research or teaching.