Astrochemistry @ Illinois

Applying for Graduate Studies
Graduate Concentration
Frequently Asked Questions
Research Groups
Double Major
Midwest Astrochemistry Consortium
Seminar Series

University of IL at Urbana Champaign

Contact Ben McCall.


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 here.


  • 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 *CHEM 442 – Physical Chemistry I (Quantum)
*ASTR 405 – Solar System / Interstellar Medium CHEM 444 – Physical Chemistry II (Thermo/Stat Mech)
ASTR 406 – Galaxies & The Universe *CHEM 522 – Experimental Spectroscopy
ASTR 502 – Theory of Diffuse Matter Dynamics CHEM 532 – Reaction Mechanisms (Physical Organic)
*ASTR 503 – Observational Astronomy *CHEM 540 – Quantum Mechanics
ASTR 504 – Theoretical Stellar Physics *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, 217-244-0230,

† 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.