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- Computational Astrophysics
UCSC is one of the national centers for research in computational astrophysics, and is host to the High Performance AstroComputing Center (HIPACC), which brings together computational research throughout the UC system, including the UC-managed national labs: LBL, LLNL, and LANL. UCSC is also host to the annual summer school in AstroComputation, run by HIPACC members.
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Astrophysics and planetary sciences (A&PS) encompasses the study of the Universe from its observable outskirts to our solar neighborhood, to our own planet’s atmosphere, surface, interior and biosphere, and all the way down to the invisible zoo of elementary particles.
The interdisciplinary nature of A&PS is represented at UCSC by 4 departments that work closely together: Astronomy, Earth and Planetary Sciences (EPS), Applied Math and Statistics (AMS) and Physics. For example, the astronomical investigation of the birth of our universe or the death of high mass stars requires a thorough understanding of the standard model of elementary particles, a domain of physics. To describe these observable phenomena requires knowledge of the underpinning mathematical methods. At the same time, we can gain insight about distant stars by studying our own Sun, and we can learn details about planetary systems by exploring our own planets. This is the realm of EPS, but the phenomena involved are ultimately the domain of physics and their description - such as the fluid dynamics operating in oceans, gas giants and stars - requires applied math. In this sense, all four disciplines are intimately linked.
Thus, undergraduate students with interest in astrophysics and planetary sciences may embark on any of the above four tracks. Which one you will ultimately choose depends on your primary interests. Astronomy and EPS students use physics and mathematical methods as tools to observe the real world and create models of it that explain these observations. None of these programs, however, exists in isolation from the others. To get a better idea about the details of each program, click on the links below.