University of Virginia, College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Straight From the Horse's Mouth...As It Were

The best way to get a feel for graduate study at any particular place is to visit and actually talk to the students who are there. Well, we know it’s pretty much impossible to visit all of your potential schools before or even after you apply, so we’d like to do the next best thing: tell you why we chose to come to UVa over our other options, what kinds of experiences we’ve had here--and hopefully, help you decide if UVa is the right place for you.

" One of my favorite aspects of the graduate program at UVA is the opportunities I have had to pursue various interests. Through classes I have been able to work on optical astronomy projects at the Apache Point Observatory, while also learning more about theory and astronomical instrumentation. I have also been able to improve my teaching abilities as a summer instructor and TA. In addition to the wonderful resources of our department, I also have access to research at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. I have been studying pulsars with Scott Ransom, and have had a chance to collaborate with world-class researches from all over North America. My experiences at UVA have opened up possibilities that I know I would not have had anywhere else."


"After visiting a number of schools, I found that the personality and perspective of the UVA program fit my needs the best. Many of the professors are leaders in their particular field, yet in the classroom they are not intimidating, but are engaging and display a fervor towards teaching that makes learning easy and enjoyable. The proximity of the NRAO, helps to attract a diverse body of astronomers to Charlottesville, bringing the frequent news of the most innovative research in Astronomy. Another of the great strengths of the coursework is an emphasis on ’hands-on’ learning through ’lab’ components, in which a student learns how to observe or build an instrument. Having access to nearby radio, infrared and optical telescopes for teaching purposes, is also an unparalleled East Coast luxury. With the background built in the coursework, the jump to tackling world class facilities for research pursuits is not challenging."


" I came to UVa because it offered a wide range of research options along with a friendly atmosphere. It was clear from the first weekend that the students were social and helpful. The collaborative atmosphere among grad students is crucial during the first two years of classes. Charlottesville is also a great place to do radio astronomy. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is right on campus, opening up an even larger pool of potential research projects and advisors. I have been able to work on several projects using world class radio facilities and an instrumentation laboratory through the NRAO."


" In addition to many oppotunities to be involved in important scientific projects, the most impressive thing for me is the pleasant, friendly atmosphere in this department. People talk to each other, help each other, and play together. Although I am not a very social person, I feel this department is just like a big warm family! "


" My decision to return to graduate school came after a year of work for the Department of Defense sparked a new personal interest in electronics and instrumentation. I hadn’t lost my passion for my undergraduate major, Astronomy, so I was looking for an opportunity to combine both subjects. When I looked at UVa, what caught my eye was a newly-founded infrared instrumentation laboratory(headed by 2MASS PI, Dr. Michael Skrutskie), which focuses on mid-sized projects that a grad student can design and actually build. The two grad students in this lab had just finished building an infrared camera, FanCam, which is now used regularly at UVa’s Fan Mountain Observatory. Since then, I have had the opportunity to characterize infrared detectors for the James Webb Space Telescope at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, design pieces of a spectrograph that will soon be installed at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico, and partake in an extensive supernova observing campaign using FanCam as the primary instrument."


" Coming from a strictly physics background, I was more than a little nervous about jumping into an astronomy program, but from Day One, I felt welcomed as a part of the department. The professional and social support shared amongst the students and faculty is inspiring. The emphasis on research, even in the first year, really kickstarts your involvement! I’ve worked on multiple projects with various professors using the Spitzer Space Telescopeand several ground facilities. I’m primarily an observational astronomer, and the hands-on observation classes gave me such a deeper (even unexpected) understanding of my work."


"After visiting UVa, I was very impressed with the wide range of research interests and the obvious strength of the program. I was also drawn by the great sense of community between the grad students (and the faculty). UVa access to world class telescope facilities is something I will definitely be taking advantage of in my future research."