Astrochemistry Graduate Concentration

Astrochemistry is an emerging interdisciplinary field at the intersection between chemistry and astronomy. As a few examples, topics of active research in this area include identifying organic molecules in interstellar space, building models of the chemical reactions that occur in interstellar space, laboratory measurements of astronomically important molecules, searching for Earthlike planets using molecular signatures, and understanding the contributions of interstellar molecules to the chemical origin of life. To succeed in this field, students require training in both of the traditional disciplines of chemistry and astronomy, as well as formal (transcript) recognition that they are qualified astrochemists. This graduate concentration provides these benefits. More information about graduate concentrations at Illinois is available at the Graduate College website.


  • At least 12 hours of 400- and 500-level Chemistry courses
  • At least 12 hours of 400- and 500-level Astronomy courses
  • ASTR/CHEM 450 required, can count as either a Chemistry or Astronomy course
  • At least one member of each department on PhD thesis committee
  • Thesis research related to astrochemistry, broadly defined

Approved courses

(courses listed with * are especially well-suited for astrochemistry concentrators)

  • *ASTR/CHEM 451 – Astrochemistry Laboratory
  • ASTR 404 – Stellar Astrophysics
  • *ASTR 405 – Solar System / Interstellar Medium
  • ASTR 406 – Galaxies & The Universe
  • ASTR 502 – Theory of Diffuse Matter Dynamics
  • *ASTR 503 – Observational Astronomy
  • ASTR 504 – Theoretical Stellar Physics
  • *CHEM 442 – Physical Chemistry I (Quantum)
  • CHEM 444 – Physical Chemistry II (Thermo/Stat Mech)
  • *CHEM 522 – Experimental Spectroscopy
  • CHEM 532 – Reaction Mechanisms (Physical Organic)
  • *CHEM 540 – Quantum Mechanics
  • *CHEM 542 – Quantum Mechanics and Spectroscopy
  • CHEM 544 – Statistical Thermodynamics
  • CHEM 548 – Molecular Electronic Structure
  • CHEM 550 – Quantum Dynamics

Notes for Chemistry PhD students

Chemistry PhD students concentrating in astrochemistry may apply all 12 hours of astronomy courses to satisfy their "out of area" requirement. Physical chemists, who usually take CHEM 540 and either 542 or 544, can apply these courses to satisfy their "in area" requirement, and would only need to take 4 extra hours of (chemistry) coursework to complete the astrochemistry concentration. Chemists in other areas (e.g. organic or analytical) may need to take 8 "extra" hours of coursework to concentrate in astrochemistry, unless they identify other courses in their area that the steering committee considers relevant to astrochemistry.

Notes for Astronomy PhD students

The twelve hours of astronomy coursework required by the astrochemistry concentration would also count towards the astronomy PhD requirements. Astronomy students would then only need to complete 12 hours of chemistry courses (which could include CHEM 450) to satisfy the concentration requirements. The astronomy requirements are being modified so that the twelve hours of chemistry courses undertaken as part of the astrochemistry concentration could also be counted towards the astronomy course requirements.


Prof. Ben McCall,
166 Roger Adams Laboratory,

Other courses may be substituted if approved by the Astrochemistry Concentration Steering Committee. ASTR 596 and CHEM 554 (special topics courses) are also eligible, when approved by the committee.