Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy


Guidelines for research supervision (pdf file)


Course Organiser - Prof Carlton Baugh

The astronomy postgraduate course is for first year PhD students in the Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy, the Institute for Computational Cosmology and for students from the Centre for Doctoral Training in Data Intensive Science who aim to pursue astronomy research projects; a selection of the lectures are also taken by the MISCADA MSc in Scientific Computing and Data Analysis students following the astrophysics specialisation. The course runs over the first two terms of the year. The astronomy postgraduate course comprises a broad range of (1) practically orientated research-skill workshops, including (amongst others) statistics, programming, data reduction, and high-performance computing, and (2) scientific lectures. The lecture series have been chosen to cover the range of astronomical research undertaken in Durham and for the most part their focus is the research in which the lecturer is currently involved.

The course starts with predominantly research-based lectures in the Michaelmas term to give you a head start on your research studies. The scientific-based lectures are predominantly given in the Epiphany term. Problems and exercises are set within blocks of lectures and are part of the overall assessment for the first year of postgraduate studies.

The first lecture will be on Monday 2nd October 2023 at 9am. Lectures will be held in OCW017 unless otherwise stated on the calendar.

The slides from the introductory lecture can be found: here (pdf file)

Welcome to Durham astronomy:                          
The Role of a Post-graduate student:		      Prof C. M. Baugh

Research Tools in Astronomy/computing (5 hrs):        Computing team 
                                                      Prof A. M. Swinbank

Programming in Python                                 self study 
    (9 hrs)

Stellar structure and evolution                       Dr. S. Scaringi 
    (5 lectures)                                      

Stellar Populations                                   Dr R. J. Smith
    (4 lectures) 

Astronomical Instrumentation                          TBC/     
    (6 lectures)                                      Dr T. J. Morris/
                                                      Dr J. Schmoll /
                                                      Prof P. M. Chadwick  

Stellar dynamics                                      Prof S. M. Cole
    (5 lectures)

Data Reduction Workshop                               Dr S. Scaringi
    (8 )                                      

High Performance Computing                            part of MSc 

Introduction to COSMA                                 Dr. A. Basden
    (2 lectures) 

Further Research Tools in Astronomy (2 hrs):
Scientific writing skills                             Dr. P. Norberg/
                                                      Dr. R. Massey

Further Research Tools in Astronomy (2 hrs):          Dr R. Massey
Critical assessment of scientific results             Dr. P. Norberg 

Cosmology                                             Prof T. Theuns
    (6 lectures) 

Clusters and Groups of Galaxies                       Prof A. C. Edge
    (3 lectures)

AGN and SMBHs                                         Prof. D. Alexander/Prof C. Dome 
    (6 lectures)                               

The Interstellar and Intergalactic Medium             Prof T. Theuns
    (5 lectures + workshop) 

Galaxy Formation                                      Prof. C. Lacey
    (5 lectures)  

Large-scale structure                                 Prof. P. Norberg
    (5 lectures) 

Gravitational lensing                                 Dr. M. Jauzac
    (2 lectures)

High-z galaxies                                       Dr. R. Cooke 
    (2 lectures)

Cosmological simulations                              Dr. TBC
    (4 lectures) 

The Milky Way                                         Dr. A. Deason/Dr. F. Fragkoudi
    (4 lectures)

Secular evolution in galaxies                         Dr. F. Fragkoudi
    (4 lectures)

Radio Astronomy                                       Dr. L. Morabito 

Recommended MISCADA lectures: 

Introduction to Data Analysis                         Dr. A. McLeod
    (16 hours) 

Scientific Computing                                  Prof. T. Theuns 

Introduction to Machine Learning                      Prof D. Maitre 

HPC  (HPC workshop above) 

MISCADA We recommend a selection of courses from the MSc in Scientific Computing and Data Analysis (MISCADA). The calender for this course can be found on blackboard ultra. The recommended courses are: Core 1a Introduction to Machine Learning and Statistics (PHYS51915), Core 1b Introduction to Scientific Computing (PHYS52015), which includes HPC.


Each block of the course will be assessed via course work. Five pieces of scientific-based course work will be set during the course. Each piece of scientific-based coursework is designed to take ~3 hrs of effort for a five lecture course, although the exact time will vary depending on the lecture course and the student. The research-skill based coursework is expected to be more involved and will typically take more than 3 hrs of effort.

Each student is also required to write a 2500 word critique of two opposing papers/studies and give a 15 minute presentation on this towards the end of the Epiphany term. The selection of the opposing papers is decided by your supervisors. Finally, towards the end of the Easter term each student is required to write a 5000 word research report on which they are tested with a viva examination.

IMPORTANT NOTE: progression into the 2nd year of study is dependent on performance in the 1st year. It is a requirement of each astronomy student to attend all lectures and complete all course work, the 2500 word research critique and presentation, and successfully complete the first year 5000 word research report and viva.


There is are Astronomy talks held on Friday lunchtime at 1pm in OCW017. As a purely informal, but useful exercise, each of the first year students will be called upon to give a presentation on their research in the latter half of their first year. Each of the Astronomy groups also has its own weekly group meetings.


In the Epiphany Term there will be a journal club for first year postgraduates, hosted by a second year postgrad. These will provide an informal forum to discuss astro-ph postings to develop a wider background knowledge.


Postgrads are expected to attend the Wednesday seminars (normally held at 3.00pm on Wednesdays during term time). The speaker's research will be discussed in the student journal club prior to the seminar; there is also the chance to join the speaker for virtual coffee.


Michaelmas Term:
  1. Assessment exercises within the lecture and workshop sessions of the course - deadlines given by the lecturer.
Epiphany Term:
  1. Assessment exercises within the lecture and workshop sessions of the course - deadlines given by the lecturer.
  2. Assessed 2500 word critique written and a 15 minute presentation towards the end of term. First draft of critique to be submitted to supervisor for comments by 1st March 2024. Final draft submitted TBC March 2024.
  3. The presentations are scheduled for TBC.
Easter Term:
  1. Research Report: Deadline to submit first draft to supervisor: 15th June. This is followed by submission of a final draft and a viva examination with two members of staff, which must be completed by the end of July. The schedule for submission of the final draft and the viva is at the discretion of the examinaters, who should inform the student. This process should be completed by 31st July.

Contact Details

Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy,
Ogden Centre for Fundament Physics - West,
Department of Physics,
Durham University,
South Road,
Durham DH1 3LE
Tel: 44 (0)191 3343635