Timeline - Making Progress to your Ph.D.


The focus of your work in the Ph.D. program at Ohio State should be on original research. As you start your first year, you should talk with faculty and identify an advisor. You will work with your advisor on a first-year project and bring that to completion with a paper. The goal is to submit a first-author paper during the summer after your first academic year, although in some cases the first-year project extends throughout the second year, depending on the scope and depth of your project.

Below, we provide a sample "typical" timeline for the Ph.D. program, which reflects the fact that virtually all of our students finish in 5 or 6 years.

Throughout your time at Ohio State, we encourage you to come to Astronomy Morning Coffee every workday. Every semester, pre-candidacy students should register for "Seminar," which includes Colloquium and Journal Club. All students are strongly encouraged to attend these. You should also actively seek out Colloquium and CCAPP visitors that are connected to your research and meet with them.

Students should submit progress reports to the Graduate Chair every year with a summary of their activities using the Grad Record sent to you each year in October and due in January.

Please read and understand general information on courses and course registration. The College of Arts and Sciences has produced a guide that covers both new graduate student orientation materials and contains a large list of services available to you as a graduate student at Ohio State.

Year 1:

Identify an advisor and a first-year project. Take the required core astronomy courses, plus Order-of-Magnitude. Attend Astro Coffee, Colloquium, Journal Club, and relevant CCAPP seminars. Give a summer Klondike Colloquium. Complete your first-year project before the next autumn semester begins.

Year 2:

Begin contributing regularly at Astro Coffee. Send an email to coffee@astronomy.ohio-state.edu and volunteer to discuss a given paper.

Identify a new advisor and second-year project. This may or may not be in the same research area as your first-year project. Take the second round of required core astronomy courses, plus Order-of-Magnitude. Attend Astro Coffee, Colloquium, Journal Club, and relevant CCAPP seminars. Give a summer Klondike Colloquium. Complete your second-year project(s).

Identify a committee and topic for your Candidacy Exam. Complete your Candidacy exam during the summer after your second year.

Year 3:

Continue to regularly contribute to Astro Coffee.  Lead Astro Coffee at least once (read the guidelines before doing this the first time).

Identify your Ph.D. research topic and advisor. The topic and advisor may or may not be the same as for your first- or second-year projects. Begin working on your dissertation research and papers. Think about faculty who know you and start interacting with more people. You will need 3 letters of recommendation by the start of your 5th or 6th year when you begin applying for doctoral positions and jobs. Attend a conference.

You should complete your proposal to complete your Ph.D. Dissertation.

Year 4:

Continue with your dissertation work. Attend a conference. Give a seminar at another institution.

Aspire to be the "go-to" person at Astro Coffee in the subfield of astronomy/astrophysics that is the topic of your Ph.D. research.

Years 5 and 6:

Continue regularly participating in Astro Coffee. Run Astro Coffee several times per year.

If you plan to graduate at the end of this year, you should begin working on your postdoctoral applications in August or early September. These include a statement of current and past research, a research proposal, a curriculum vitae, and a cover letter. Some applications ask for a combined statement of current, past, and planned research, whereas others ask for separate statements. Some have page limits of 1 page. Others, 3 pages. You should have identified at least 3 reference letter writers and have asked them if they would be willing to write letters for you.

Summer of your 5th or 6th year: Defend your Ph.D. dissertation.