http://www.uah.edu/science/departments/space-science

Mission

The Department of Space Science's primary objective is to prepare the next generation of space professionals and workforce by educating and providing opportunities for our graduate students to engage in cutting edge research in solar physics, heliospheric science, cosmic ray physics and high-energy astrophysics.  Our graduate students are afforded a unique unified Space Science graduate program under the umbrella of a single university department while introducing students to an academic discipline, solar and space physics, with global consequences that are both intellectually stimulating and relevant to society with faculty from the Department of Space Science and our research partners: UAH’s Center for Space Plasma and Aeronomic Research and Marshall Space Flight Center. 

The Doctoral degree program in Space Science empowers our graduate students to think analytically about real science and technology problems to become part of a multi-talented, creative workforce for the future of the United States.  The Department of Space Science strives to increase the diversification of the space professional and workforce population by encouraging the participation of women and underrepresented groups on the Space Science program.

Our secondary objective is to enhance and promote space subjects and disciplines locally at UAH, in the community of Huntsville, and within the state of Alabama through scientific research, outreach, and community partnerships with schools and other educational institutions.  Our Ph.D. program teaches problem solving and communication skills for future science, engineering, and technology professionals through research in the field of Space Science in order to meet current and future technology needs and demands by training students to formulate and solve technical problems in general research, commercial, and industrial settings. 


Admission Requirements 

The Department of Space Science will follow the guidelines set by the Graduate School at The University of Alabama in Huntsville as the primary criteria for selecting students for admission into the program. The Department Faculty will carefully evaluate the past performance of each student, as documented in transcripts for all undergraduate and graduate courses. The GRE will be required for all students and TOEFL or IELTS is required for all international students. Letters of recommendation will be used to assess the student’s potential for graduate school. Finally, the student must demonstrate a strong interest in performing research in Space Science, as indicated in the personal statement on his or her application. 

Expectations of the students:

  • Ph.D. degree recipients are expected to conduct original, independent research adhering to the principles of scientific rigor and research ethics. A person with a Ph.D. in Space Science will be able to communicate effectively the results of his or her work to the professional community through publications and conference presentations, and to promote science to the public with outreach activities. Graduates who choose to enter a research-oriented field will be ready to seek external funding and write research proposals, successfully competing with the nation's top scientists in space related fields. They are also expected to serve the world's scientific community through peer review, panel service, meeting organizing, and mentoring activities.
  • For those students desiring to enter a non-space science related field, we expect our students to have learned the technical and communications skills to meet the needs of a technologically-based society, and who can contribute to the broader research, industry, and commercial sectors – i.e., we do not just train our students to be future scientists but instead have the skills and training to contribute to a technologically-based society across the world. The Ph.D. program will focus on original research and the development and provision of technical skills, especially programming and analytic, to graduate students. 

http://www.uah.edu/science/departments/space-science

Requirements for a Ph.D. degree

  1. Complete the core coursework (24 credit hours), see Core Courses below.
  2. Complete an additional 18 credit hours of elective courses. These are chosen from the Elective Courses list.
  3. Pass a Comprehensive Examination ("Comps"). The Comps are offered annually during the summer semester and consist of three sections: (a) Electromagnetic Theory, (b) Classical and Quantum Statistics, and (c) Plasma Physics. A passing grade of 60% or above in all three sections is required for a Ph.D. pass.
  4. Give at least two seminar (Journal Club) presentations. Students are encouraged to share the results of their research work with their peers and faculty members. Journal Club presentations are part of the regular Space Science seminar series.
  5. Pass a Ph.D. qualifier exam. This step involves writing a dissertation proposal and forming a Ph.D. committee, that would normally consist of the student's faculty adviser and at least three other members from the UAH graduate faculty. We encourage students to invite at least one committee member from another department or research center.
  6. Complete 18 credit hours of dissertation units (SPA799).
  7. Write and defend a Ph.D. dissertation.
  8. Students must have a first authored peer reviewed paper published or accepted in a major international journal before their graduation date. Examples of acceptable journals include The Astrophysical Journal, Journal of Geophysical Research, Physics of Plasmas, Geophysical Research Letters, and Physical Review.
Core Courses
SPA 522INTRODUCTION TO PLASMA PHYSICS3
MA 607MATHEMATICAL METHODS I3
MA 609MATHEMATICAL METHODS II3
SPA 622CLASSICAL & QUANTUM STATISTICS3
PH 631ELECTROMAGNETIC THEORY I3
PH 732ELECTROMAGNETIC TH II3
SPA 623TRANSPORT PROCESSES IN SPACE3
SPA 624SPACE PHYSICS I3
Elective Courses
SPACE PHYSICS II
SPACE WEATHER
HIGH ENERGY RADIATION DET&MSRM
SOLAR PHYSICS
ASTROPHYSICAL FLUID DYNAMICS
WAVES IN FLUIDS
COMPUTATIONAL PHYSICS
COMPUTATIONAL FLUID DYNMC &MHD
SELECTED TOPICS
PHYSICS OF COSMIC RAYS
GAMMA-RAY BURSTS AND JETS
COMPETITIVE GRANT WRITING WKSP
SELECTED TOPICS
Year 1
FallSemester Hours
SPA 522INTRODUCTION TO PLASMA PHYSICS 3
SPA 622CLASSICAL QUANTUM STATISTICS 3
MA 607MATHEMATICAL METHODS I 3
 Term Semester Hours: 9
Spring
PH 631ELECTROMAGNETIC THEORY I 3
MA 609MATHEMATICAL METHODS II 3
SPA 624SPACE PHYSICS I 3
 Term Semester Hours: 9
Year 2
Fall
SPA 625SPACE PHYSICS II 3
SPA 662COMPUTATIONAL PHYSICS 3
PH 732ELECTROMAGNETIC TH II 3
 Term Semester Hours: 9
Spring
SPA 623TRANSPORT PROCESSES IN SPACE 3
SPA 629ASTROPHYSICAL FLUID DYNAMICS 3
SPA 627HIGH ENERGY RADIATION DETMSRM 3
 Term Semester Hours: 9
Year 3
Fall
SPA 628SOLAR PHYSICS 3
SPA 630WAVES IN FLUIDS 3
SPA 741PHYSICS OF COSMIC RAYS 3
 Term Semester Hours: 9
Spring
SPA 626SPACE WEATHER 3
SPA 663COMPUTATIONAL FLUID DYNMC MHD 3
SPA 799DOCTORAL DISSERTATION 3
SPA 771COMPETITIVE GRANT WRITING WKSP 1
 Term Semester Hours: 10
Year 4
Fall
SPA 742GAMMA-RAY BURSTS AND JETS 3
SPA 799DOCTORAL DISSERTATION 3-9
 Term Semester Hours: 6-12
Spring
SPA 799DOCTORAL DISSERTATION 3-9
 Term Semester Hours: 3-9
 Total Semester Hours: 64-76

SPA 489 - SELECTED TOPICS

Semester Hours: 3

Selected topics in Space Science not covered in other courses.

SPA 522 - INTRODUCTION TO PLASMA PHYSICS

Semester Hours: 3

Provides students with an introduction to the basic physical processes associated with plasmas, which permeate all space environments. Both particle and fluid approaches are introduced, and a variety of elementary drift and wave phenomena are derived. Applications of the theory to various plasma instabilities are explored, along with specific examples of where these may occur in space science. While the goal of this course is to prepare students for more advanced topics in space physics, many of the fundamentals covered are equally relevant for students interested in plasma confinement and its associated engineering challenges.

SPA 532 - SPACE ORIENTATION EDUCATORS

Semester Hours: 3

A weeklong course at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama for pre-service and in-service teachers. The inquiry based workshops are taught around the theme of space exploration include activities to be done across the curriculum. All activities are correlated to National Math, Science, Technology, Social Studies, and Reading Standards. Activities based on curriculum developed by NASA, CAP, NSATA, and the USSRC. Topicis include moon, mars, rocketry, propulsion, hydroponics, math, biology, history and literature.

SPA 622 - CLASSICAL & QUANTUM STATISTICS

Semester Hours: 3

Statistical methods, systems of particles, statistical thermodynamics, kinetic theory, methods of statistical mechanics, equilibrium between phases of chemical species. Quantum statistics of identical particles. Spin and statistics. Bose-Einstein and Fermi-Dirac distributions.

SPA 623 - TRANSPORT PROCESSES IN SPACE

Semester Hours: 3

Course presents a systematic treatment of classical and anomalous transport theory for gases, plasmas, energetic particles, and low frequency turbulence. The Chapman-Enskog approach is used to derive transport coefficients for neutral gases and collisional plasmas. The relationship between multi-fluid and MHD models is presented. Weak solutions and shock waves are discussed. The transport of energetic particles that experience scattering by magnetic field fluctuations is presented, together with basic models of the turbulence responsible for scattering turbulence transport in expanding flows such as the solar wind.

SPA 624 - SPACE PHYSICS I

Semester Hours: 3

A broad introduction to particle, MHD, and kinetic phenomena in space. This course is intended for all students interested in space, astro-, and plasma physics. Course covers fusion processes inside the Sun, solar neutrinos, solar atmosphere, coronal magnetic fields, physical mechanisms of magnetic field line reconnection and magnetic dynamo, the interaction between the solar wind with planets and the interstellar medium, corotating and merged interaction regions, collisional and collisionless shock waves in space. Includes an introduction to charged partical acceleration in the heliosphere. Examines differences between planetary magnetospheres, solar-terrestrial relationships, solar activity, climate, and culture.

SPA 625 - SPACE PHYSICS II

Semester Hours: 3

The course develops a deeper understanding and knowledge of plasma instabilities, kinetic dispersion relations, microinstabilities, electrostatic and electromagnetic instabilities; advanced magnetohydrodynamics including MHD turbulence, reconnection; wave-partical interactions, including basic quasi-linear theory; weak and strong wave turbulence; nonlinear waves; collisionless shock waves.

SPA 626 - SPACE WEATHER

Semester Hours: 3

Physics of solar active regions, physics of solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs), the propagation of CMEs, the acceleration and propagation of solar energetic particles, CME interaction with earth's magnetosphere.

SPA 627 - HIGH ENERGY RADIATION DET&MSRM

Semester Hours: 3

This course will provide students with basic understanding of radiation detection for space-based missions. This course will cover the basic nuclear processes in radioactive souces and the interaction of radiation with matter. The statistical treatment of experimental data will be reviewed. General characteristics common to all types of detectors will be given. We will then cover specific classes of detectors focusing on ionization, scintillation and semiconductor detectors. Light collection and detection techniques will follow. The student will then be introduced to basic signal processing and timing techniques important to a successful intstrument design. This course will be taught from a physicist point of view emphasizing the physical processes and interactions that make detection of radiation possible. This course is suitable for those students interested in detector development or astrophysical data analysis using state-of-the-art technology.

SPA 628 - SOLAR PHYSICS

Semester Hours: 3

The workings of the sun, from its interior to the outer reaches of the corona with emphasis on the observations. Energy release in core of the Sun and its transport to the solar atmosphere. Dynamo process and the 11 year solar activity cycle. Formation of active regions and structure of sunspots. The structure of corona, with particular details on the active region corona and its heating to several million kelvin. Energy release processes including solar flares and coronal mass ejections. Prerequisites: SPA 522.

SPA 629 - ASTROPHYSICAL FLUID DYNAMICS

Semester Hours: 3

Covers astrophysical phenomena occuring outside the boundaries of the solar system. Subjects include stellar structure and rotation, waves and instabilities in astrophysical plasmas, the physics of sperical and disk accretion, supernova blast waves, and charged particle transport and acceleration in cosmic plasmas. Introduction to the principles of stellar formation, helioseismology, stellar dynamo, coronal heating, and astrophysical turbulence.

SPA 630 - WAVES IN FLUIDS

Semester Hours: 3

Comprehensive introduction to the science of wave motions in fluids. Waves and first-order (hyperbolic) equations, wave hierarchies; gas dynamics and fluid equations; acoustics, nonlinear plane waves, simple waves, shock waves and structure, shock reflection, similarity solutions, supersonic flows in gas dynamics; the wave equation, including plane, spherical and cylindrical waves, geometrical optics, including far-field approximation, caustics, nonhomogeneous media, anisotropy; water waves, including shallow water theory; group velocity, dispersion; nonlinear waves, including Korteweg-de Vries, sine-Gordon, and nonlinear Schroedinger euqations, solitons.

SPA 631 - WAVES AND FIELDS

Semester Hours: 3

This course will cover the following topics: 1) Review of static solutions of the Maxwell equations. Boundary-value applications. Green function solutions. 2) Covariant electrodynamics: Basic application of special relativity to charged particles and fields. Lienard-Wiechert potentials. Solutions to the wave equation. 3) Space Science applications: Thermal Spectra and Particle Distributions. Cyclotron and synchrotron radiation. Bremsstrahlung and collisions. Compton Scattering.

SPA 662 - COMPUTATIONAL PHYSICS

Semester Hours: 3

Numerical methods to solve common physics problems using C or Fortran. Numerical integration and differentiation, root finding, data fitting, introductory stochastic methods, linear and non-linear differential equations. Fourier analysis. Elliptic parabolic hyperbolic partial differential equations via finite differences, integro-differential equations. Applications to classical dynamics, electromagnetism, statistical and quantum physics.

SPA 663 - COMPUTATIONAL FLUID DYNMC &MHD

Semester Hours: 3

Numerical simulations of various problems in space physics, astrophysics, engineering, and plasma dynamics. Finite- volume and finite-difference, shock-capturing and shock-fitting methods for hyperbolic equations, including gas dynamics, MHD, and shallow water equations. The hierarchy of numerical methods is introduced in a systematic way, starting from standard linear schemes and arriving at modern discontinuity-capturing non-linear methods. Exact and approximate Riemann solvers, characteristic analysis of underlying equations. Different implementations of boundary conditions are introduced in relation with the mathematical properties of quasilinear hyperbolic systems.

SPA 689 - SELECTED TOPICS

Semester Hours: 3

Selected Topics in Space Science not covered in other courses.

SPA 699 - MASTER'S THESIS

Semester Hours: 1-6

SPA 741 - PHYSICS OF COSMIC RAYS

Semester Hours: 3

Covers two principal areas of cosmic ray physics: (i) cosmic ray origin and acceleration, and (ii) cosmic ray transport and detection. Includes galactic cosmic rays, anomalous cosmic rays, and solar energetic particles. Transport theory, acceleration mechanisms and observational signatures.

SPA 742 - GAMMA-RAY BURSTS AND JETS

Semester Hours: 3

Astrophysical jet sources: kinetic and magnetically-dominated relativistic outflows. Blandford-McKee solution. Photospheres. Relativistic shock physics. Emission in relativistic plasmas. Gamma-ray bursts; observations, theory.

SPA 771 - COMPETITIVE GRANT WRITING WKSP

Semester Hour: 1

This course is designed for senior level graduate students who are about to graduate and start their professional career. It will introduce students to the real and complete process of competing for grant support. It is comprised of a series of lectures (workshops), case studies, and ends with a formal proposal from each participant and a mock review process.

SPA 789 - SELECTED TOPICS

Semester Hours: 3

Selected Topics in Space Science not covered in other courses.

SPA 796 - JOURNAL CLUB

Semester Hour: 1

This course requires graduate students to read, interpret and present literature critically to fellow students, researchers, and faculty. Students stay abreast of current knowledge in the field, develop presentation skills and promote department unity. Faculty instructor will lead, assign, and provide students feedback on their presentations.

SPA 799 - DOCTORAL DISSERTATION

Semester Hours: 1-9

Students must have passed the Comprehensive Examination at PhD level and have PhD advisor's approval. No more than 9 hours may be taken prior to passing the Qualifying Examination.