Astronomy and astrophysics Science

Astronomy and astrophysics Science

Stars, planets, black holes and galaxies contain the secrets of the cosmos. At Macquarie you’ll explore our understanding of these celestial objects, with significant emphasis on the techniques and technology that have been developed to gather astronomical data.

Our on-campus observatory and state-of-the-art laboratories will help you develop the skills you need for your future career.

Career options in astronomy and astrophysics

Successful completion of a degree in Physics and Astronomy is a demonstration of a keen intellect that has been trained to observe, analyse and interpret complex situations, and to solve a wide range of problems. Some graduates go on to be professional Physicists or Astronomers, but there is a very wide choice of careers that also need exactly the skills that our graduates have gained.

What jobs are there with a Macquarie physics degree?

Macquarie physics graduates have gained a wide range of jobs in areas such as telecommunications, industrial physics, hospital physics, electronics, computing, quality control testing, banking, insurance, teaching, management, technical sales, the armed forces, etc.
In recent years the growing area of telecommunications has employed many Macquarie physics graduates for tasks which include optoelectronics, systems monitoring, management, and technical writing.

Some physics graduates stay on to do research and gain higher degrees, such as masters degrees or doctorates. Our main research areas are photonics, optical and laser physics; nanoscience and condensed matter physics; quantum science and technology; and astronomy and astrophysics.

Whatever career you choose, you can be confident in the knowledge that your Macquarie Physics degree has been accredited by the Australian Institute of Physics, and will be respected wherever it takes you.

Annual Career Night in September

Our yearly Careers Night brings back to Macquarie a number of recent graduates, who tell us what careers they have chosen, and how their degree has given them the skills they needed to succeed. We invite you to our next Careers Night, but in the meantime offer recording of some of the previous speakers to give you a taste of where Physics and Astronomy can take you.

Find out more and hear talk from past speakers.

Professional Experience

Add to the world's knowledge and shine a light on new astronomical discoveries with breakthrough technology.

At Macquarie we believe in learning beyond the lecture hall. Through our unique PACE program, you can gain a unique view and understanding of our galaxy by contributing to astronomical exploration alongside leading researchers at Macquarie and the Australian Astronomical Observatory.

Astronomy students Bronwyn and Jack worked on the Huntsman Telephoto Eye project, alongside researchers from the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO). Their input to the project played a critical role in the cutting-edge scientific research, which will consequently help to improve public understanding of the research that astronomers undertake.

"This PACE project has actually opened doors to me professionally straight away. I've got a research grant to work on the very same project for five to six weeks." – PACE alumnus, Jack Vidler

Start seeing the world in a new light – and you just might change it. Learn more about the opportunities available through PACE.

Student experience

Most students undertake a Bachelor of Science degrees with a major in Astronomy and Astrophysics. Students who decide their interests lie in other areas of physics or in applied optics (perhaps for astronomical instrumentation) may switch to majors in Physics or Photonics.

For highly able students, the Bachelor of Advanced Science (see below) is available for both Physics, and Astronomy and Astrophysics.

What do students of the Department of Physics and Astronomy do in a typical week?

Most units of study in physics typically present you with three lectures each week, during which you are taken through the study material for the unit, a tutorial, at which you practice solving problems and have the chance to sort out your questions, and two or three hours in the laboratory, where you carry out carefully guided experiments. This leaves plenty of time for private study to review your notes and learn the art of problem solving.

What units are available at Macquarie for new students?

There are two first year units in Astronomy (both counting as Planet units in the Macquarie degree program): ASTR170 Introductory Astronomy and ASTR178 Other Worlds: Planets and Planetary Systems. Both are introductory units suitable for aspiring physicists/astronomers and non-scientists with an interest in astronomy alike. Both units gives a broad underpinning of basic astronomical and solar system subjects and concepts with minimal mathematical content. No prior knowledge of astronomy or physics is required.

The core first year program in all Physics and Astronomy degrees consists of two physics units: either PHYS140 Physics IA and PHYS143 Physics IB, or PHYS106  Electric and Magnetic Interactions  and PHYS107 Modern Mechanics. Both these pairs of units will provide you with a broad background in Physics, to either help you with other science courses you may be taking (such as electronics, chemistry, earth sciences, some aspects of biology and some of the Photonics and Astronomy programs) or to provide the necessary background to continue in Physics at second year (200-level). Some students who are majoring in one of the other sciences sometimes opt to take either both or just one of these two units.

In 2016, we are introducing a new first year unit, PHYS130:Foundations of Physics to provide a gentler introduction to students intending to study further in physics but having little or no prior experience with the subject. Students completing PHYS130 will be well-prepared to progress to the core 100-level program contained in PHYS106 and PHYS107.

There are also two first year units in Astronomy (both counting as Planet units in the Macquarie degree program): ASTR170 Introductory Astronomy and ASTR178 Other Worlds: Planets and Planetary Systems. Both are introductory units suitable for aspiring physicists/astronomers and non-scientists with an interest in astronomy alike. Both units gives a broad underpinning of basic astronomical and solar system subjects and concepts with minimal mathematical content. No prior knowledge of astronomy or physics is required.
If you are majoring in Biology or Earth Sciences or just wish to have a general introduction to the concepts in Physics with minimal mathematics you may consider taking PHYS159 Physics for Global Citizens.

Another more technical introduction to physics is PHYS149 Physics for Technology (3 credit points), which is suitable as a service unit for students taking a range of degrees in other Sciences, Medical Science, Computing and IT, Finance and Business or Arts degrees.

What are key units in later years?

The core Astronomy and Astrophysics program includes

Students can choose from a range of other units to suit their interests including 

What is the Bachelor of Advanced Science with a major in Astronomy and Astrophysics?

This degree, designed for students with a high degree of proficiency in physics and/or astronomy allows a deeper exploration of many of the ideas in the standard physics and astronomy programs. Students take an additional whole year unit at 100, 200 and 300 level exploring ideas like probability and statistical concepts in physics, advanced and non-Newtonian mechanics, and the beginnings of field theory. Assessment tasks include project and research based approaches to learning.

Students in the standard Bachelor of Science who perform very strongly in physics and mathematics in their 100-level units may apply to transfer into the Bachelor Advanced Science in their second year.

Find out more about the Bachelor of Advanced Science with a major in Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Scholarships and prizes

The Association for Astronomy Prize

Awarded for proficiency in the unit ASTR170 – Introductory Astronomy: Our Place in the Universe.

Vacation Scholarships

The department of Physics and Astronomy offers several undergraduate vacation scholarships each year. The scholarships:

  • involve cutting-edge research during the summer vacation
  • are open to undergraduate physics students in Australia
  • have a scholarship of a tax-free stipend of up to $500 per week
  • are available in areas of research excellence
  • are typically awarded for 5 weeks in Jan – Feb

Find out how to apply and projects on offer. 

Macquarie University Undergraduate Scholarship

Macquarie University has a generous scholarship program that awards over $2.5 million to our students. Some of our scholarships have a strong emphasis on social inclusion and are awarded on the basis of financial need and other hardship. Others recognise factors such as academic excellence, sporting achievement and community engagement.
Applications for 2016 open in September 2015 and close early January 2016.

Please visit www.mq.edu.au/scholarships for more information.

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