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undergraduate students looking at data

What is astronomy?

Astronomy seeks to understand the cosmos—in the words of Carl Sagan, "all that is or ever was or ever will be." How did the matter we see around us come into being? What is the nature of the unseen dark matter and dark energy that guide the formation of galaxies? Are planets like Earth common, and is there life elsewhere in the universe?

Contemporary astronomy is generating new discoveries at an astonishing pace. When today's typical college freshman was born, we had just discovered a few planets outside of our solar system; since then astronomers have discovered thousands of new worlds. Also within that time astronomers have found that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. Observations are witnessing the turning on of galaxies when the universe was only a fraction of its current age. New and unusual stellar explosions have been discovered that challenge our paradigms of stellar evolution.

What is the undergraduate program like?

Our program combines a background in physics with courses on stellar astrophysics, galactic evolution and cosmology, and observational techniques. Along the way, you will learn valuable skills in computing, data analysis, and scientific communication, and you will have opportunities for individual research projects.

MSU's undergraduate astronomy program is one of the largest in the U.S., which provides opportunities to meet students with similar interests and goals. We also have an active Astronomy Club.

The astronomy and astrophysics faculty have a reputation for excellent teaching. Many of the faculty have won awards for excellent teaching (see the box "Teaching Awards"), and Professors Donahue and Voit are co-authors of a best-selling textbook

What can I do with my undergraduate degree?

While many of our astronomy graduates pursue a career in science by enrolling in Ph.D. programs, astronomy graduates work in a variety of fields, from aerospace to finance. For more information on astronomy careers, see the AAS careers site.

Selected Teaching Awards


Faculty Teaching Prize (2015)

Lilly Teaching Fellowship (2010)

Ronald W. Wilson Endowed Teaching Award for teaching Integrative Studies (2008)

Teacher-Scholar Award for contributions to research and teaching (2006, 2018)

Undergraduate Teaching Award (2018)


Outstanding Teaching Assistant (2012, 2014, 2015)

Thomas H. Osgood Teaching Award (2013, 2015)