• Astronomy
    Astrophysicist John Wallin examines interacting galaxies
  • Astronomy
    A special hydrogen alpha telescope protects students' eyes as they study the sun
  • Astronomy
    MTSU's classical observatory opens the marvels of the skies to students and the public
  • Astronomy
    MTSU's Naked Eye Observatory offers a unique way to study the solar system

Astronomy

Humans have been looking to the stars and trying to understand how it all works since ancient times. Today, the curiosity may be the same, but the tools available have opened up a universe of exciting things to unearth. From discovering new planets and stars to understanding black holes—astronomers  are proving the science fiction of yesterday to be the reality of today! 

Uranidrome

A classic approach to sky watching

The Uranidrome is a user-friendly naked-eye observatory that enables students to observe sky motions in a manner similar to Greek astronomers. One can actually use the Uranidrome to determine the earth's rate of rotation, the tilt of its axis, the time of day, or the time for the earth to revolve once around the sun (one year). Campus visitors can experience the unusual structure on their own or with guided tours.

MTSU Observatory

Stars for all!

On the first Friday of each month, the Physics and Astronomy Department hosts a Star Party. Free and open to the public, the Star Party begins with a lecture in the Wiser-Patten Science (WPS) Hall (Room 102) and is followed by telescope observation at the MTSU Observatory, weather permitting. Families from the community join students to view the wonders of the sky. MTSU's telescope has a camera that feeds the images to 61-inch flat panel plasma displays mounted on two walls of the observatory.

There's almost no field of endeavor that doesn't have some part of it touched by physics. Not surprisingly, a B.S. in Physics can be that first step to any number of diverse careers! Examples include

  • Acoustics researcher
  • Architect
  • Astrophysicist
  • Doctor
  • Engineer
  • High school physics teacher
  • Medical physicist
  • Naval mine warfare analyst
  • Patent attorney
  • Pilot
  • Software developer
  • Spacecraft designer
  • Radio Frequency (RF) specialist
  • Video game developer

Employers of MTSU alumni include

  • AFL Global
  • Arlington High School
  • Cheezburger Network
  • Corvel Corporation
  • Energetics Technology
  • Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center
  • Gearbox Software
  • JET Programme, Japan
  • Robert Half Technology
  • RF Signatures
  • Memorial Hospital, Chattanooga
  • Middle Tennessee Medical Center
  • MiraCosta College
  • Tennessee Valley Authority
  • Texas Tech University
  • University of Maryland

Dr. Daniel Erenso
Associate Professor
daniel.erenso@mtsu.edu

Phone | 615-494-8853
Office | Room 203, Wiser-Patten Science Building (WPS)
Mail | MTSU Box 71, Murfreesboro, TN 37132

Degree Information
Ph.D., University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (2003)
M.S., University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (2002)
M.S., Addis Ababa University (1997)
B.S., Addis Ababa University (1990)

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JanaRuth Ford
Instructor
janaruth.ford@mtsu.edu

Phone | 615-494-8639
Office | Room 206A, Wiser-Patten Science Building (WPS)
Mail | MTSU Box 71, Murfreesboro, TN 37132

Degree Information
M.S., University of Western Sydney (2004)
B.A., Vanderbilt University, TN (1977)
 

Dr. Brian Frank
Assistant Professor
brian.frank@mtsu.edu

Phone | 615-494-7844
Office | Room 208, Wiser-Patten Science Building (WPS)
Mail | MTSU Box 71, Murfreesboro, TN 37132

Degree Information
Ph.D., University of Maryland, College Park (2009)
M.S., Arizona State University, Tempe (2006)
B.A., Johns Hopkins University, MD (2003)
 

Dr. Ron Henderson
Department Chair
ron.henderson@mtsu.edu

Phone | 615-898-2130
Office | Room 219, Wiser-Patten Science Building (WPS)
Mail | MTSU Box 71, Murfreesboro, TN 37132

Degree Information
Ph.D., University of Virginia (1996)
M.S., Duke University, NC (1991)
B.S.E.E., University of Tennessee, Knoxville (1989)
 

Dr. Chuck Higgins
Associate Professor
chuck.higgins@mtsu.edu

Phone | 615-898-5946
Office | Room 206, Wiser-Patten Science Building (WPS)
Mail | MTSU Box 471, Murfreesboro, TN 37132

Degree Information
Ph.D., University of Florida (1996)
M.S., University of Florida (1993)
B.S., University of Alabama, Huntsville (1988)

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Dr. Eric Klumpe
Professor
eric.klumpe@mtsu.edu

Phone | 615-898-2483
Office | Room 216, Wiser-Patten Science Building (WPS)
Mail | MTSU Box 73, Murfreesboro, TN 37132

Degree Information
Ph.D., University of Texas, Austin (1999)
M.A., University of Texas, Austin (1996)
M.S., University of Memphis, TN (1991)
M.S., Stanford University, CA (1981)
B.S., California Institute of Technology (1980)
A.A., Pasadena City College, CA (1977)
 

Dr. Victor Montemayor
Professor
victor.montemayor@mtsu.edu

Phone | 615-898-2108
Office | Room 204, Wiser-Patten Science Building (WPS)
Mail | MTSU Box 71, Murfreesboro, TN 37132

Degree Information
Ph.D., University of Toledo, OH (1986)
B.S., Bucknell University, PA (1979)

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Dr. William Robertson
Professor
william.robertson@mtsu.edu

Phone | 615-898-5837
Office | Room 207, Wiser-Patten Science Building (WPS)
Mail | MTSU Box x116, Murfreesboro, TN 37132

Degree Information
Ph.D., Purdue University, Main Campus, IN (1988)
M.S., Purdue University, Main Campus, IN (1982)
B.S.C., University of London (1980)

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Dr. Nat Smith
Assistant Professor
nat.smith@mtsu.edu

Phone | 615-494-8852
Office | Room 216A, Wiser-Patten Science Building (WPS)
Mail | MTSU Box 71, Murfreesboro, TN 37132

Degree Information
Ph.D., Australian National University (2006)
B.S., Australian National University (2001)

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Dr. John Wallin
Professor
john.wallin@mtsu.edu

Phone | 615-494-7735
Office | Room 217, Wiser-Patten Science Building (WPS)
Mail | MTSU Box 71, Murfreesboro, TN 37132

Degree Information
Ph.D., Iowa State University (1989)
B.S., Minnesota State University, Mankato (1984)
B.S., Minnesota State University, Mankato (1984)
B.S., Minnesota State University, Mankato (1984)

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Dr. Martha Weller
Professor
martha.weller@mtsu.edu

Phone | 615-898-2792
Office | Room 217A, Wiser-Patten Science Building (WPS)
Mail | MTSU Box 403, Murfreesboro, TN 37132

Degree Information
Ph.D., California Institute of Technology (1979)
B.A., Rice University, TX (1973)
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For those students with an eye to the stars, a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Physics with a concentration in Astronomy is available. The department offers also a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Physics with a concentration in Physics Teaching or Professional Physics. Within the Professional Physics concentration are tracks in medical physics and astrophysics.

Undergraduate students can pursue a minor in Physics, Electro-Acoustics, or Astronomy.

A minor in Physics is available for graduate students, as well.

An academic map is a suggested four-year schedule of courses based on degree requirements in the undergraduate catalog. This sample schedule serves as a general guideline to help build a full schedule each term. Milestones, courses, and special requirements necessary for timely progress to complete a major are designated to keep you on track to graduate in four years. Missing milestones could delay your program

This map based on the 2013-2014 undergraduate catalog is not a substitute for academic advisement - contact your advisor if you have any questions about scheduling or about your degree requirements. Also see the current undergraduate catalog (catalog.mtsu.edu) for a complete list of requirements and electives. Note: Requirements are continually under revision, and there is no guarantee they will not be changed or revoked; contact the department and/or program area for current information. 

You may choose to attend a summer term to reduce your load during fall or spring terms but still stay on track to graduate in four years (see below). NOTE: Learning Support courses will alter the sequences on this map.

Astronomy Academic Map

Department of Physics and Astronomy
Middle Tennessee State University | Murfreesboro


Suggested Fall/Spring and Summer/Fall/Spring Four-Year Schedule

Refer to www.mtsu.edu/scholarships/ for information regarding use of the Lottery Scholarship for the summer term.

Click here for printer friendly academic map.

FRESHMAN FALL FRESHMAN SPRING
CourseHoursMilestones/Notes CourseHoursMilestones/Notes
ENGL 1010 Comm)3  ENGL 1020 (Comm)3 
MATH 1910 (Math)4Take MATH 1730 first if weak background in Math; may take MATH 1910 with acceptable Math ACT score (26). MATH 19204 
CHEM 1110/1111 (Nat Sci)4  CHEM 1120/11214
PHYS 2010/2011 or PHYS 2110/2111 (Nat Sci)4Consult with advisor PHYS 2020/2021 or PHYS 2120/21214Consult with advisor
PHYS 10101     
SUBTOTAL16  SUBTOTAL15 
SOPHOMORE FALL SOPHOMORE SPRING
PHYS 3100 (OR PHYS 3070)3Consult with advisor ENGL 2020, ENGL 2030, or HUM 2610 (Hum/FA)3 
PHYS 3150 (OR MATH 3120)3Consult with advisor PHYS 3110 (OR PHYS 3080)3Consult with advisor
COMM 2200 (Comm)3  PHYS 31111 
Elective3Consult with advisor Elective3Consult with advisor
Elective3Consult with advisor ASTR 2030 (OR ASTR 2040)3 Consult with advisor
SUBTOTAL15  SUBTOTAL13 
JUNIOR FALL JUNIOR SPRING
ASTR 3400 (OR elective)3Consult with advisor ASTR 2040 (OR ASTR 2030)3Consult with advisor
PHYS 3610 (OR PHYS 3510)3Consult with advisor PHYS 39001 
Hum/FA (Rubric 1)3  Hum/FA (Rubric 2)3 
Soc/Beh Sci (Rubric 1)3  Soc/Beh Sci (Rubric 2)3 
Elective3Consult with advisor Elective3Consult with advisor
ASTR 1031 (OR ASTR 3401)1Consult with advisor Elective3Consult with advisor
SUBTOTAL16  SUBTOTAL16 
SENIOR FALL SENIOR SPRING
ASTR 3401 (OR ASTR 1031)1Consult with advisor PHYS 38001 
ASTR 48502  ASTR 49002 
HIST 2010, HIST 2020, or HIST 20303  HIST 2010, HIST 2020, or HIST 20303 
Elective (OR ASTR 3400)3Consult with advisor Elective3Consult with advisor
Elective3Consult with advisor Elective3Consult with advisor
Elective3Consult with advisor Elective2Consult with advisor
SUBTOTAL15  SUBTOTAL14 

TOTAL HOURS IN PROGRAM: 120

FRESHMAN SUMMER
CourseHoursMilestones/Notes CourseHoursMilestones/Notes
ENGL 1010 (Comm)3  MATH 1910 (Math)4Take MATH 1730 first if weak background in Math; may take MATH 1910 with acceptable Math ACT score (26).
SUBTOTAL3  SUBTOTAL4 
FRESHMAN FALL FRESHMAN SPRING
ENGL 1020 (Comm)3  COMM 2200 (Comm)3 
CHEM 1110/1111 (Nat Sci)4  CHEM 1120/11214 
PHYS 2010/2011 or PHYS 2110/2111 (Nat Sci)4  PHYS 2020/2021 or PHYS 2120/21214Consult with advisor
MATH 19204  ENGL 2020, ENGL 2030, or HUM 2610 (Hum/FA)3 
PHYS 10101     
SUBTOTAL16  SUBTOTAL14 
SOPHOMORE FALL SOPHOMORE SPRING
PHYS 3100 (OR PHYS 3070)3Consult with advisor PHYS 3110 (OR PHYS 3080)3Consult with advisor
PHYS 3150 or MATH 31203  PHYS 31111 
Elective3Consult with advisor Elective3Consult with advisor
Elective3Consult with advisor ASTR 2030 (OR ASTR 2040)3Consult with advisor
Soc/Beh Sci (Rubric 1)3  Hum/FA (Rubric 1)3 
SUBTOTAL15  SUBTOTAL13 
JUNIOR FALL JUNIOR SPRING
ASTR 3400 (OR elective)3Consult with advisor ASTR 2040 (OR ASTR 2030)3Consult with advisor
PHYS 3610 (OR PHYS 3510)3Consult with advisor PHYS 39001 
Hum/FA (Rubric 2)3  Soc/Beh Sci (Rubric 2)3 
Elective3Consult with advisor Elective3Consult with advisor
ASTR 1031 (OR ASTR 3401)1Consult with advisor Elective2Consult with advisor
SUBTOTAL13  SUBTOTAL12 
SENIOR SUMMER
HIST 2010, HIST 2020, or HIST 20303  HIST 2010, HIST 2020, or HIST 20303 
SUBTOTAL3  SUBTOTAL3 
SENIOR FALL SENIOR SPRING
ASTR 3401 (OR ASTR 1031)1Consult with advisor PHYS 38001 
ASTR 48502  ASTR 49002 
Elective (OR ASTR 3400)3Consult with advisor Elective3Consult with advisor
Elective3Consult with advisor Elective3Consult with advisor
Elective3Consult with advisor Elective3Consult with advisor
SUBTOTAL12  SUBTOTAL12 

TOTAL HOURS IN PROGRAM: 120


Graduation information may be accessed at www.mtsu.edu/records/grad.php.

Astronomy

ASTR 1030 - Exploring the Universe
3 credit hours
A general introduction to astronomy through an overview of planets, stars, systems of stars, and the overall structure of the universe. Topics will be discussed by answering questions such as "How do you weigh stars?" and "Will the universe die?"

ASTR 1031 - Observing the Universe
1 credit hour
Prerequisite or corequisite: ASTR 1030. Introduction to observational astronomy through laboratory exercises and outdoor observing activities. Topics include telescopes, the analysis of starlight, and observations of stars and planets.

ASTR 2030 - Solar System Astronomy
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: MATH 1710. Comprehensive study of the solar system including models of solar and planetary formation. Analysis of the chemical makeup and physical nature of the Sun, planets, moons, and comets using mathematics and the scientific method. Focus on planetary interiors, surfaces, atmospheres, solar-planetary interactions, and solar system evolution. Discussion of spacecraft missions, future solar system exploration, and possibilities of extraterrestrial life.

ASTR 2040 - Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmology
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: MATH 1710. A comprehensive study of stellar, galactic, and cosmological astronomy. Analyzes the basic theories of stellar and galactic formation and evolution using mathematics and the scientific method. Includes the cataclysmic topics of supernovae, neutron stars, pulsars, and black holes as well as the nature of galaxies including the Milky Way galaxy, active galaxies and quasars, and the formation and evolution of our universe, the big bang theory, and the possibility of other life in the universe.

ASTR 3050 - Directed Study in Astronomy
1 to 4 credit hours
Prerequisite: PHYS 2021 or PHYS 2120 and approval of department chair. Individualized intensive study of a specific topic in astronomy or astrophysics not normally covered  in the standard undergraduate physics and astronomy curriculum. Arrangements must be made with an approved faculty member prior to registration.

ASTR 3400 - Fundamentals of Astrophysics
3 credit hours
Prerequisite: PHYS 2021 or PHYS 2120 and MATH 1910. Modern astronomical knowledge and techniques using classical and modern physical principles. Possible topics include star formation, black holes and neutron stars, galaxy structure and evolution, formation of planetary systems, and large-scale structure of the universe.

ASTR 3401 - Experimental Astronomy
1 credit hour
Prerequisite: Consent of instructor. Principles and techniques of astronomical data acquisition and reduction. Possible research topics involve photometry, spectroscopy, astronomical applications of electronic detectors, and computer modeling.

ASTR 4800 - Special Topics in Astronomy
3 credit hours
Prerequisites: PHYS 3150 and approval of department chair. In-depth, organized study of a contemporary topic of interest not normally covered in the undergraduate physics and astronomy curriculum. Possible topics include planetary geology, radio astronomy, stellar atmospheres or interiors, space physics, pulsating stars, dark matter and energy, galactic evolution, and general relativity and cosmology.

ASTR 4850 - Astronomy Research
2 credit hours
Prerequisite: Consent of instructor. Independent study of a selected research problem in astronomy. Includes experimental and/or theoretical investigation of an important yet unexplored problem or experimental design. Includes literature research and experimental design/problem formulation and execution resulting in oral and written presentation of results suitable for submission/presentation to a suitable journal/conference. One hour lecture and significant additional time working with research mentor.

ASTR 4900 - Astronomy Senior Thesis
2 credit hours
Prerequisites: ASTR 4850 and consent of department chair. Focuses on a specific research/experimental design problem chosen with the consent of the thesis committee and with the potential for original discovery or for creative development of a tool, technique, or instrumentation applicable to scientific research. Independent pursuit of research objectives outlined in a research proposal results in a written thesis, the approval of which will include an oral defense. One hour lecture and independent writing of thesis.