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Statistics AN Part 1


Admission requirements

For the Astronomy Bachelor: a passing grade for the course Statistics and Data Analysis (SDA) is strongly recommended.
For the Physics Bachelor: passing grades for the courses Diffusion and Experimental Physics is recommended.


In the era of data science, the responsible and accurate use of statistics is of high importance. In this course we first briefly review the foundations of probability theory and statistics. The main focus is on the application of statistics, mostly parameter inference, in astronomy/physics research.
The course covers the following themes:

  • Statistical models and distributions

  • Likelihood

  • Hypothesis comparison

  • Parameter estimation, including confidence intervals

  • Bayesian Statistics

  • Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) methods

Course objectives

This course will give an overview of the basic concepts of statistics and probability theory and provide some practical tools for (parameter) inference with typical datasets in physics and astronomy. After this course, you will be able to:

  • Explain the difference between least-squares and MCMC methods for parameter inference

  • You can also implement these two methods and select the best approach for your dataset

  • Examine the outcome of your analysis and critique its assumptions if needed.

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

  • Problem solving (recognizing and analyzing problems, solution-oriented thinking)

  • Analytical skills (analytical thinking, abstraction, evidence)

  • Structured thinking (structure, modulated thinking, computational thinking, programming)

  • Critical thinking (asking questions, check assumptions)

  • Lectures (interactive)

  • Exercise classes


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

  • Lectures (interactive)

  • Exercise classes

Assessment method

  • Take-home assignment (50%)

  • Written exam (50%)

Reading list

  • Lecture notes (distributed via Brightspace)


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.


Contact details teacher: Dr. S. van Velzen