The Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) has overall responsibility for administering the graduate program. Currently, the DGS is John Johnson.
The DGS chairs the standing Committee on Academic Studies (CAS), which monitors the academic progress of all graduate students. The CAS is normally composed of the DGS, the department chair, four members of the teaching and research staff, and two graduate students. Current members of the CAS are: Lars Hernquist, Mercedes Lopez-Morales, Karin Oberg, Avi Loeb, John Lewis and Marion Dierickx.
The purpose of the CAS is to ensure that students receive adequate guidance at various stages of their graduate study, to see that uniform academic standards are applied, and to define the professional qualifications expected by the department for advanced degrees in astronomy and astrophysics. At regular intervals the CAS reviews the progress of each graduate student. It also reviews and approves Study Plans, arranges Written and Oral Placement Exams, and appoints Research Exam Committees, Thesis Advisory Committees and Thesis Oral Exam Committees.
An individual Research Exam Committee (REC) is appointed by the CAS for each graduate student, once the student submits a Research Project Proposal in the spring term of the first year. The REC consists of the research project supervisor and two or three additional members. Once the student completes the Research Project, typically in the spring term of the second year, the REC conducts the Research Exam and advises the CAS on the suitability and scope of the project. See Research Project for details.
An individual Thesis Advisory Committee (TAC) is appointed by the CAS for each student, once the student submits a Thesis Proposal. The TAC consists of the thesis supervisor and typically three additional members from the faculty and research staff. The TAC meets twice a year and provides both advice and supervision as the student progresses towards completion of the thesis. See PhD Thesis for details.
The Final Oral Exam Committee is appointed by the CAS to evaluate the PhD Thesis submitted by the student, and to determine whether the completed work is worthy of a PhD. See PhD Thesis for details.