Previous knowledge of astronomy is not a prerequisite for admission to the department. However, during your first semester at Harvard, students with little or no previous astronomy background are expected to become familiar with introductory concepts at the level of the following undergraduate textbook:
- An Introduction to Astrophysics by B. W. Carroll & D. A. Ostlie
All first year graduate students will be asked to complete a self-assessment inventory early in the fall term of their first year. This assessment will include the basic concepts of astronomy and astrophysics as covered by Carroll & Ostlie and should be used as a guide by each student to engage in remedial study in those areas where they feel deficient. Informal group learning activities are strongly encouraged. This inventory is not a graded exercise and does not become part of the student record.
In November each student will attend an oral exam with two faculty members to assess the results of their informal study. Based on the results of this exercise and in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies students may be asked to take specific courses or teach in specific undergraduate courses in order to refresh their understanding of certain areas of astrophysics.