Dear First Year Students,

Welcome to UMD Astronomy! I've talked to several of you already about courses, and thought that it would be useful to introduce myself to the rest of you (Doug Hamilton, Graduate Director) and give you some information about registering for courses in the fall. The great thing about graduate courses is that they do not ever fill up, so you can register as late as the end of August as the semester is beginning. There are some good reasons to register early (potential VISA issues, access to the gym and pool on campus) and some reasons to delay (student fees are due immediately after you register).

In any case, you do want to be thinking about which courses to take. In Fall 2006, the Astronomy Department offers the following courses:
ASTR601 Radiative Processes
ASTR610 Instrumentaion
ASTR688 Planetary Science
ASTR695 Introduction to Research

All of you should sign up for ASTR695, which is a one-credit course that I run where you'll learn about the research that we do in the department. The course meets once a week and there are no assignments or tests. See for more details (there are some useful links there too).

For those of you who have no prior graduate courses, you have very few decisions to make! You need to take Radiative Processes, which is a prerequisite for all of our other courses. And you need to take Instrumentation, which is one of our required courses that will appear on the qualifying exam that you will take in a few years. Those two courses, along with ASTR695 and a TA-ship, are a pretty full load. If you have a fellowship, however, you might consider taking a third course. About 15-20% of our students do take three courses while holding a TA-ship, so that is also possible. The best time to do this is the second semester of your first year after you have acclimatized to graduate life and before the second-year research project.

Drop me an email when you start thinking about classes and I'll see you when you arrive in the fall!

Doug Hamilton
Graduate Director