Caltech Astrophysics Option
Option Representative: Lynne Hillenbrand
- e-mail: lah[at]astro.caltech.edu
- phone: 395-6587
- office: 218 Cahill
While most universities and colleges consider the major area of concentration the "Major,"
at Caltech we call that the undergraduate "Option".
We also have a first-rate graduate program.
The Option Rep is the professorial faculty member who serves as:
a point of general consultation for undergraduate students, who also have individual academic advisors as per the registrar.
the official academic advisor for graduate students in the first and second years,
until they sign up with a thesis advisor.
a resource as needed for more senior graduate students, who also have a research/thesis advisor/s.
As a Caltech Ay student, you are welcome at any time to come and talk to me, especially if you have a problem.
These days, send me an email and we can arrange to ZOOM.
If you are looking for information regarding admissions, try:
Information on courses:
Information for everyone:
Information for undergraduate students:
Information for graduate students:
- The Ay option is fairly similar to the Ph option, with the basic difference
being four required Ay courses: Ay20, 21, 101, 102, and consequently fewer
required lab courses. For a more complete desription of the Ay undergrad program, see
the relevant chapter in the Catalog.
- There are ample opportunities for undergraduate research in all of:
theory, experimental, and observational astronomy. Ask professors
about how to get involved, for example in working with
our many research facilities.
Research can be conducted for course credit (Ay 142 generally, Ay 78 for senior thesis)
or as part of work-study, or as a summer SURF project.
- For those students interested in pursuing graduate study, please feel free to
consult with the Option Representative in addition your formal Academic Advisor.
Important components to a graduate school application include: your CIT transcript;
GRE test scores (the General and often also a Subject test, usually in Physics);
a personal statement; and letters of recommendation (typically three).
Graduate schools like to see research experience, so you should aim to participate
in the SURF program; this also gives you something to write about in the
personal statement, and access to potential letter writers. One letter should come
from your Academic Advisor who can speak broadly about your Caltech experience
and academic preparation. Please note that we never accept our own undergraduates into
our graduate program -- not because you are not well-qualified, but because you
really should go out into the world and thrive at another institution.
So save your application fee money. However, for general familiarity with
the process, it may be useful to look at the CIT graduate admissions office
FAQ for prospective applicants.
- Upperclass students are also a good resource for advice on courses
or applying to graduate schools. Your compatriots are listed in the compilation of
current undergraduate students in Ay