Doctor of Philosophy in Astronomy (PhD)


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. With approximately 100 regular faculty members, adjuncts, research staff and post-doctoral fellows, and almost 200 graduate students, we are one of the largest departments, and can offer a wide range of pure and applied research opportunities for students. Each year, our faculty bring over $20 million in research grants. This enables us to maintain world-class research laboratories and computational facilities, attract distinguished post-doctorate researchers, and support highly skilled engineers and technicians whose expertise is critical to our research.

Program Structure

The Ph.D. in Astronomy requires a thesis and 12 credits of coursework, all at the 500 level. Courses taken for an M.Sc. or M.A.Sc. degree may be counted towards this, but students entering the program with a masters degree are required to take additional 6 credits of 500-level courses in the Ph.D. program. The course selection is determined in consultation with the student's supervisory committee. Students entering the Ph.D. program must have the equivalent of the required courses for the M.Sc. program, or will be required to take those courses during the program.


Program Enquiries

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Admission Information & Requirements

Program Instructions

We have high admission standards, and cannot admit all qualified applicants. But we do offer full financial support to all students whom we accept.

1) Check Eligibility

Minimum Academic Requirements

The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies establishes the minimum admission requirements common to all applicants, usually a minimum overall average in the B+ range (76% at UBC). The graduate program that you are applying to may have additional requirements. Please review the specific requirements for applicants with credentials from institutions in:

Each program may set higher academic minimum requirements. Please review the program website carefully to understand the program requirements. Meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission as it is a competitive process.

English Language Test

Applicants from a university outside Canada in which English is not the primary language of instruction must provide results of an English language proficiency examination as part of their application. Tests must have been taken within the last 24 months at the time of submission of your application.

Minimum requirements for the two most common English language proficiency tests to apply to this program are listed below:

TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language - internet-based

Overall score requirement: 90









IELTS: International English Language Testing System

Overall score requirement: 6.5









Other Test Scores

Some programs require additional test scores such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Graduate Management Test (GMAT). The requirements for this program are:

The GRE is not required.

Prior degree, course and other requirements

Prior Degree Requirements

Students are normally admitted to the Ph.D. program after obtaining an M.Sc. and meeting the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies admission requirements. Alternatively, well-qualified students admitted to the M.Sc. program may transfer to the Ph.D. program after a year's residence at UBC, if they have at least 12 credits in M.Sc. coursework with an overall average of at least 85%, clear evidence of research ability, approval of the dissertation supervisor, and meet all other Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies requirements.

2) Meet Deadlines

Application open dates and deadlines for an upcoming intake have not yet been configured in the admissions system. Please check back later.

3) Prepare Application


All applicants have to submit transcripts from all past post-secondary study. Document submission requirements depend on whether your institution of study is within Canada or outside of Canada.

Letters of Reference

A minimum of three references are required for application to graduate programs at UBC. References should be requested from individuals who are prepared to provide a report on your academic ability and qualifications.

Statement of Interest

Many programs require a statement of interest, sometimes called a "statement of intent", "description of research interests" or something similar.


Students in research-based programs usually require a faculty member to function as their supervisor. Please follow the instructions provided by each program whether applicants should contact faculty members.

Instructions regarding supervisor contact for Doctor of Philosophy in Astronomy (PhD)
Applicants should browse faculty profiles and indicate in their application who they are interested in working with. No commitment from a supervisor prior to applying is necessary, but contacting faculty members is encouraged.

Please contact potential PhD adviser in the fall before you have submitted your application. If you have not yet secured a commitment by the time you submit your application, you can send friendly reminders to your potential advisers, alerting them that your complete application including recommendations is now available, and asking them to take a look.

Citizenship Verification

Permanent Residents of Canada must provide a clear photocopy of both sides of the Permanent Resident card.

4) Apply Online

All applicants must complete an online application form and pay the application fee to be considered for admission to UBC.

Tuition & Financial Support


FeesCanadian Citizen / Permanent Resident / Refugee / DiplomatInternational
Application Fee$108.00$168.25
Tuition *
Installments per year33
Tuition per installment$1,732.53$3,043.77
Tuition per year
(plus annual increase, usually 2%-5%)
Int. Tuition Award (ITA) per year (if eligible) $3,200.00 (-)
Other Fees and Costs
Student Fees (yearly)$969.17 (approx.)
Costs of living (yearly)starting at $17,242.00 (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. Tuition fees are reviewed annually by the UBC Board of Governors. In recent years, tuition increases have been 2% for continuing domestic students and between 2% and 5% for continuing international students. New students may see higher increases in tuition. Admitted students who defer their admission are subject to the potentially higher tuition fees for incoming students effective at the later program start date. In case of a discrepancy between this webpage and the UBC Calendar, the UBC Calendar entry will be held to be correct.

Financial Support

Applicants to UBC have access to a variety of funding options, including merit-based (i.e. based on your academic performance) and need-based (i.e. based on your financial situation) opportunities.

Program Funding Packages

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.

All full-time students who begin a UBC-Vancouver PhD program in September 2021 or later will be provided with a funding package of at least $22,000 for each of the first four years of their PhD. The funding package may consist of any combination of internal or external awards, teaching-related work, research assistantships, and graduate academic assistantships. Please note that many graduate programs provide funding packages that are substantially greater than $22,000 per year. Please check with your prospective graduate program for specific details of the funding provided to its PhD students.

Average Funding
Based on the criteria outlined below, 5 students within this program were included in this study because they received funding through UBC in the form of teaching, research/academic assistantships or internal or external awards averaging $22,024.
  • 2 students received Teaching Assistantships. Average TA funding based on 2 students was $12,444.
  • 3 students received Research/Academic Assistantships. Average RA/AA funding based on 3 students was $13,155.
  • 5 students received internal awards. Average internal award funding based on 5 students was $9,153.

Study Period: Sep 2019 to Aug 2020 - average funding for full-time PhD students enrolled in three terms per academic year in this program across years 1-4, the period covered by UBC's Minimum Funding Guarantee. Averages might mask variability in sources and amounts of funding received by individual students. Beyond year 4, funding packages become even more individualized.
Review methodology
Scholarships & awards (merit-based funding)

All applicants are encouraged to review the awards listing to identify potential opportunities to fund their graduate education. The database lists merit-based scholarships and awards and allows for filtering by various criteria, such as domestic vs. international or degree level.

Teaching Assistantships (GTA)

Graduate programs may have Teaching Assistantships available for registered full-time graduate students. Full teaching assistantships involve 12 hours work per week in preparation, lecturing, or laboratory instruction although many graduate programs offer partial TA appointments at less than 12 hours per week. Teaching assistantship rates are set by collective bargaining between the University and the Teaching Assistants' Union.

Research Assistantships (GRA)

Many professors are able to provide Research Assistantships (GRA) from their research grants to support full-time graduate students studying under their direction. The duties usually constitute part of the student's graduate degree requirements. A Graduate Research Assistantship is a form of financial support for a period of graduate study and is, therefore, not covered by a collective agreement. Unlike other forms of fellowship support for graduate students, the amount of a GRA is neither fixed nor subject to a university-wide formula. The stipend amounts vary widely, and are dependent on the field of study and the type of research grant from which the assistantship is being funded. Some research projects also require targeted research assistance and thus hire graduate students on an hourly basis.

Financial aid (need-based funding)

Canadian and US applicants may qualify for governmental loans to finance their studies. Please review eligibility and types of loans.

All students may be able to access private sector or bank loans.

Foreign government scholarships

Many foreign governments provide support to their citizens in pursuing education abroad. International applicants should check the various governmental resources in their home country, such as the Department of Education, for available scholarships.

Working while studying

The possibility to pursue work to supplement income may depend on the demands the program has on students. It should be carefully weighed if work leads to prolonged program durations or whether work placements can be meaningfully embedded into a program.

International students enrolled as full-time students with a valid study permit can work on campus for unlimited hours and work off-campus for no more than 20 hours a week.

A good starting point to explore student jobs is the UBC Work Learn program or a Co-Op placement.

Tax credits and RRSP withdrawals

Students with taxable income in Canada may be able to claim federal or provincial tax credits.

Canadian residents with RRSP accounts may be able to use the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) which allows students to withdraw amounts from their registered retirement savings plan (RRSPs) to finance full-time training or education for themselves or their partner.

Please review Filing taxes in Canada on the student services website for more information.

Cost Calculator

Applicants have access to the cost calculator to develop a financial plan that takes into account various income sources and expenses.

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.

Enrolment, Duration & Other Stats

These statistics show data for the Doctor of Philosophy in Astronomy (PhD). Data are separated for each degree program combination. You may view data for other degree options in the respective program profile.

Enrolment Data

New registrations21122
Total enrolment988108

Completion Rates & Times

Based on 5 graduations between 2016 - 2019 the minimum time to completion is 4.33 years and the maximum time is 5.33 years with an average of 4.60 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: 22 April 2021]. 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: 29 October 2020].

Upcoming Doctoral Exams

Thursday, 20 May 2021 - 12:30pm

Anna Gwen Hughes
The Space Weather of Ultracool Dwarfs

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.

  • Boley, Aaron (Astronomy and Astrophysics; Planet formation, protoplanetary disk evolution, formation of meteorite parent bodies)
  • 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 (Astronomical and space sciences; Physical sciences; Astrophysics; Black Holes; Neutron Stars; quantum phenomena; Quantum-Field Theory; Stellar; Stellar Physics)
  • 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)
  • Man, Allison (Cosmology and extragalactic astronomy; galaxy formation and evolution)
  • Matthews, Jaymie Mark (Stellar seismology, stellar structure and evolution, exoplanets, magnetic peculiar stars, photometry and spectroscopy, space astronomy)
  • McIver, Jess (General relativity and gravitational waves in astronomical and space sciences; Gravitational wave astrophysics; Multi-messenger astronomy; Characterization of large-scale physics instrumentation; data science)
  • Scott, Douglas (Astronomical and space sciences; Physical sciences; Cosmology; Science and Knowledge)
  • 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)

Doctoral Citations

A doctoral citation summarizes the nature of the independent research, provides a high-level overview of the study, states the significance of the work and says who will benefit from the findings in clear, non-specialized language, so that members of a lay audience will understand it.
Year Citation
2020 Dr. Kunimoto discovered 17 new planets outside of the Solar System, including one that may be considered potentially habitable. She also analyzed her planet catalogue to reveal important information about planet formation and evolution theories. Her results indicate that there may be as many as one Earth-like planet for every five Sun-like stars.
2019 Dr. Granados studied the formation of Jupiter sized planets that are very close to their host star. Using numerical simulations, she found that under certain conditions, these 'close-in Jupiters' can form in the region we observe them today through multiple planet-to-planet collisions while there is still considerable amount of gas present in the protoplanetary disk.
2018 Dr. White characterized circumstellar disks of gas and debris around distant stars undergoing the late stages of planet formation. He used radio and millimeter wave astronomical data to study the properties of this material and constrain the radio emission of massive stars.
2017 Dr. Tanimura revealed missing gas and plasma in the universe, which was expected to exist, but not yet observed. His findings help us to understand the entire structure of the universe as well as the evolution of the universe along the time continuum.
2017 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.
2016 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.
2015 Dr. Alexandersen used the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope to discover and track outer Solar System asteroids. Through a careful observing strategy and detailed understanding of observational biases, he studied the size and number distributions of the various underlying sub-populations, properties that carry evidence of how the Solar System formed.
2015 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.
2015 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.
2015 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.


Further Information


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.

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