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Modern Astronomical and Physics Research


Admission requirements



What is the size and structure of the Universe? How do stars and planets form and evolve? Could there be life elsewhere in the Universe? How can we write software for a quantum computer? Can self-assembly enable microscale robots? How is DNA folded within the nucleus? How can we describe exotic electronic fluids in quantum materials? Which particles are missing from current particle physics? How can metamaterials simulate solid state systems? These are some of the most fascinating open questions of Mankind.
In this introductory course on contemporary astronomical and/or physics research topics, you learn what modern astronomy and/or physics is and what it means to be a successful researcher in astronomy and/or physics. You will learn basic academic skills of modern research on how to tackle challenging research questions and where to start searching for an answer. You will also learn how to communicate these answers to colleagues through different approaches, from research publications to scientific presentations. In addition, you will understand the different career paths of astronomers and/or physicists.
Students will be provided with a bird’s-eye view of contemporary challenges in the astronomy and/or physics community through work sessions and guest lectures covering all the major fields in astronomy and/or physics. There will be special emphasis on the topics that are central to STRW/LION because STRW/LION most likely will play a part in the student’s foreseeable future.
In interactive work sessions, students will learn about academic skills: searching literature, reading papers, writing reports, and presenting posters. A group research project forms the core of this class. In groups of three, you choose a recent research question and apply the before mentioned research skills to discover current challenges related to your question. You will discuss the outcomes with your peers, and will create a poster with your findings at the end of the course.
The course address the following topics:

  • Current field of modern astronomy and/or physics

  • Knowledge-bases: Astronomy databases and research articles repositories (e.g.: ADS and astro-ph)

  • Research Communication with peers: Publications and Presentations

  • Astronomy and/or Physics Careers

  • Communicating Astronomy and/or Physics with the Public

Course Objectives

After this class, you will be able to dive into a completely new research topic and summarize the key challenges in a written report and a poster presentation and you will be able to summarize the contemporary astronomy and/or physics research landscape.
This involves that you are able to

  • Select a difficult contemporary topic in astronomy and/or physics that interests the members of your group and list different techniques that astronomers and/or physicists use to tackle these topics

  • Pose an astronomy and/or physics related and unanswered question

  • Use the main tools and the main knowledge databases used in astronomy and/or physics for data and research publications related to a specialized topic

  • Define a research publication workflow and peer-review processes

  • List the main sections of a research publication and compare it with the main open research questions

  • Summarize and judge the results of research publications

  • Digest difficult research papers efficiently so that you can gauge their quality and extract key information

  • Summarize the current key challenges for a specialized astronomy and/or physics topic in a written report and a poster

  • Write a literary overview that recapitulates the main results of an extensive collection of research papers related to a specialized topic

  • Develop and deliver a poster presentation based on research publications

  • List the main components of a successful poster presentation

  • Recognize the different careers steps of a professional astronomer and/or physicist and possible alternative career paths

Transferable Skills

In this course, you will be trained in the following behavior-oriented skills:

  • Work in a small group on summarizing key challenges in a specialized astronomy and/or physics topic and distribute and manage the various tasks involved

  • Create a poster that summarizes a topic clearly

  • Deliver a well designed and developed poster presentation

  • Present research to fellow colleagues in a convincing and inspiring way

  • Write a structured essay on a very difficult, specialized topic in astronomy and/or physics

  • Make an informed choice about a future research field or career you want to be involved in and have an overview of the possibilities within STRW/LION concerning that choice


For detailed information go to Timetable in Brightspace

You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of Instruction

See Brightspace

Assessment method

The assessment of the coursw will be based on group work, comprising a simple research proposal, a poster and presentation; and a final report.

Reading list


From the academic year 2022-2023 on every student has to register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudyMap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information.

Please note that it is compulsory to both preregister and confirm your participation for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam of the course. Confirming your exam participation is possible until ten days before the exam.
Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.


Lecturers: Dr. P.M. (Pedro) Russo Dr. Semonti Bhattacharyya