Doctor of Philosophy in Astronomy (PhD)

Quick Facts

Doctor of Philosophy
Mode of delivery
On campus
Registration options
Program Components
Faculty of Science


UBC research in astronomy and astrophysics covers most areas of current interest in this broad field, including a wide range of theoretical and observational studies in astronomy, and also experimental and theoretical studies in cosmology. Research at optical wavelengths includes searches and orbital determination for asteroids and comets, photometric studies of stellar populations, particularly globular clusters, studies of distant galaxies and active galactic nuclei, and time-resolved spectroscopy of variable stars and active binary star systems. Studies at microwave and radio frequencies include research on variable radio sources, searches for pulsars, the early stages of star formation, relativistic jets, and balloon-borne measurements of the cosmic microwave background radiation. A variety of theoretical work complements this research, with topics that range from planetary dynamics and the structure of neutron stars, to theoretical studies of structure formation in the early universe. Development of astronomical instrumentation is also supported.

What makes the program unique?

The Department of Physics & Astronomy at UBC is noted for the excellence of its research and its high academic standards and integrity. We are constantly rated as one of the top Physics & Astronomy programs in the world.



TOEFL (ibT) Overall Score Requirement


IELTS Overall Score Requirement


Funding Sources

Applicants who are interested in the production, preparation, and application of nuclear isotopes for science and medicine may consider the IsoSiM program that provides additional funding and professional development opportunities. Applicants who are interested in quantum materials may consider the QuEST program. Applicants who are interested in nanomaterials synthesis, characterization and application, and nanoscience instrumentation may consider the NanoMat program.

Career Outcomes

18 students graduated between 2005 and 2013. Of these, career information was obtained for 15 alumni (based on research conducted between Feb-May 2016):

RI (Research-Intensive) Faculty: typically tenure-track faculty positions (equivalent of the North American Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor positions) in PhD-granting institutions
TI (Teaching-Intensive) Faculty: typically full-time faculty positions in colleges or in institutions not granting PhDs, and teaching faculty at PhD-granting institutions
Term Faculty: faculty in term appointments (e.g. sessional lecturers, visiting assistant professors, etc.)
Sample Employers in Higher Education
University of Chicago
Tufts University
Open University of Israel
University of Hertfordshire
University of Massachusetts - Amherst
Kwantlen Polytechnic University
McGill University
University of British Columbia
Princeton University
Sample Employers Outside Higher Education
National Research Council
Sony Pictures Entertainment
SETI Institute
Sun Life Financial
Powerex Corp.
Sample Job Titles Outside Higher Education
Plaskett Fellow/Research Assistant
Senior Production Services Technician
Research Scientist
Director of Acturial Pricing
Power Trader
PhD Career Outcome Survey
You may view the full report on career outcomes of UBC PhD graduates on
These data represent historical employment information and do not guarantee future employment prospects for graduates of this program. They are for informational purposes only. Data were collected through either alumni surveys or internet research.

Tuition / Program Costs

FeesCanadian Citizen / Permanent Resident / Refugee / DiplomatInternational
Application Fee$102.00$165.00
Tuition *
Installments per year33
Tuition per installment$1,600.60$2,811.98
Tuition per year$4,801.80$8,435.94
Int. Tuition Award (ITA) per year (if eligible) $3,200.00 (-)
Other Fees and Costs
Student Fees (yearly)$923.38 (approx.)
Costs of living (yearly)starting at $16,884.10 (check cost calculator)
* Regular, full-time tuition. For on-leave, extension, continuing or part time (if applicable) fees see UBC Calendar.
All fees for the year are subject to adjustment and UBC reserves the right to change any fees without notice at any time, including tuition and student fees. In case of a discrepancy between this webpage and the UBC Calendar, the UBC Calendar entry will be held to be correct.

Statistical Data

Enrolment Data

New registrations22 21
Total enrolment899911

Completion Rates & Times

This program has a graduation rate of 100% based on 7 students admitted between 2003 - 2006. Based on 8 graduations between 2012 - 2015 the minimum time to completion is 4.00 years and the maximum time is 5.99 years with an average of 4.75 years of study. All calculations exclude leave times.
Admissions data refer to all UBC Vancouver applications, offers, new registrants for each year, May to April [data updated: 12 July 2017]. Enrolment data are based on March 1 snapshots. Program completion data are only provided for datasets comprised of more than 4 individuals. Rates and times of completion depend on a number of variables (e.g. curriculum requirements, student funding), some of which may have changed in recent years for some programs [data updated: 8 April 2016].

Research Supervisors

This list shows faculty members with full supervisory privileges who are affiliated with this program. It is not a comprehensive list of all potential supervisors as faculty from other programs or faculty members without full supervisory privileges can request approvals to supervise graduate students in this program.

  • Gladman, Brett (Astronomy, Planetary Science, meteorites, astrobiology, Solar system formation and evolution)
  • Halpern, Mark (Cosmology, Cosmic background radiation, history of star formation, measuring the geometry and contents of the Universe, satellites, balloon-borne telescopes, the physics of music, Physics of music, Cosmic Microwave Background, Physical Cosmology, Star formation history)
  • Heyl, Jeremy (neutron stars, high-energy astrophysics, black holes, x-ray astronomy, theoretical astrophysics, Cosmology, galaxy formation, evolution and mergers, properties of materials, vacuum in ultrastrong magnetic fields, physics of neutron starts, magnetic and relativisitic stellar structure, general relativity)
  • Hickson, Paul (cosmology, galaxies, telescopes, adaptive optics., Astronomy, astrophysics, Galaxies, clusters, instrumentation, adaptive optics)
  • Hinshaw, Gary (cosmology, cosmic background radiation, Cosmology, Measuring diffuse background radiations)
  • Matthews, Jaymie Mark (Stellar seismology, stellar structure and evolution, exoplanets, magnetic peculiar stars, photometry and spectroscopy, space astronomy)
  • Richer, Harvey (astronomy, stars, galaxies, universe, solar system, stellar astrophysics, tellar populations, Astronomy, Stellar populations, star clusters white dwarfs)
  • Scott, Douglas (Cosmology)
  • Sigurdson, Kris (The Universe, Cosmology, Dark Matter, Dark Energy, Particle Physics, Astrophysics, Cosmic Microwave Background, Cosmic 21-cm Fluctuations, Radio Astronomy, CHIME )
  • Stairs, Ingrid (pulsars, gravity, general relativity, radio astronomy, radio pulsars, pulsar searches and long-term timing, Radio astronomy)
  • Van Waerbeke, Ludovic (astrophysics, cosmology, dark energy, universe, gravitational lensing, galaxy, galaxies, Cosmology, dark matter, galaxy formation, structure formation)

Recent Doctoral Citations

  • Dr. Emmanuel Fonseca
    "Dr. Fonseca analyzed the timing of pulses emitted by radio pulsars in binary systems, in order to measure intrinsic parameters of these systems and constrain Einstein's theory of general relativity. He made a large number of mass measurements that directly contribute to the ongoing analyses of neutron-star masses and nuclear physics in physically extreme environments." (May 2017)
  • Dr. Todd Phillip Mackenzie
    "Dr. MacKenzie advanced the methods used to study star forming galaxies in the early universe using far-infrared telescopes. His new methods helped overcome the limited resolving power associated with observing at these wavelengths." (May 2016)
  • Dr. Tessa Sylvia Vernstrom
    "Dr. Vernstrom completed her research in the field of Astronomy. She investigated the characteristics of galaxies with the use of radio telescopes. She studied the details of some of the faintest radio galaxies ever observed. This information can be used to learn how galaxies have evolved over time." (November 2015)
  • Dr. Sarah Janine Greenstreet
    "Using computer models to study how asteroids orbit the Sun, Dr. Greenstreet discovered they can sometimes orbit the Sun backwards. She also determined how often comets strike Pluto and its five moons, which can be used along with data from NASA's historic New Horizons mission to understand characteristics of the surfaces of Pluto and its moons." (November 2015)
  • Dr. Viktoria Asboth
    "Dr. Asboth studied distant dust-obscured, star-forming galaxies. She analyzed large area sky surveys, observed at far-infrared wavelengths. Her results suggest that dusty galaxies played a more significant role in the stellar mass buildup in the early Universe than current galaxy evolution models predict." (November 2015)

Further Program Information


September 2017 Intake

Application Open Date
13 October 2016
Canadian Applicant Deadline
01 December 2016
International Applicant Deadline
01 December 2016

Program Information

Application Enquiries

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