National Centre for Radio Astrophysics
TATA INSTITUTE OF FUNDAMENTAL RESEARCH
UPDATED AS ON 18 October 2009
Guidelines for Graduate Studies by Research Scholars
The Graduate Programme at NCRA-TIFR, Pune involves both course work and
research work in the areas of observational and theoretical astrophysics with an emphasis on
radio astronomy. There are also courses on basic physics and mathematical methods relevant
for astronomy and astrophysics.
The normal duration of the programme is five years, within which the student is
expected to submit a thesis for a PhD. degree to the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, a
deemed University or any other University/Institution with whom NCRA has a formal
arrangement. Details regarding the requirements of the University / Institution can be obtained
from the Faculty Office at NCRA.
The Graduate Programme is monitored by a committee known as the Academic Affairs
Committee (AAC). The Chairperson of this committee has the overall responsibility for the
programme. The academic activities of all Ph.D. students after their course work, are monitored
by the AAC, who will work in co-ordination with the guide and the Ph.D. Advisory Committee
which is set up for each student. The student's guide will be a member of his/her Ph.D.
Advisory Committee, along with one member of the AAC.
Policies and guidelines concerning various aspects of the Graduate Programme are
described below. Further information and recent updates are available on the NCRA
(http://www.ncra.tifr.res.in) and TIFR (http://www.tifr.res.in) web pages.
1. Admission to the Graduate Programme
1.1 Normal Procedure
The normal procedure for admission to the Graduate Programme is via the JEST (Joint
Entrance Screening Test), INAT (IUCAA-NCRA Admission Test) and TIFR written tests.
These are announced through advertisements placed in several national newspapers and the
NCRA web page, as well as notifications sent to different educational/research institutions.
Based on their performance in the written test and assessment of their academic abilities,
candidates are called for interviews. Candidates short-listed via JEST and INAT are then
interviewed at Pune. These interviews may be conducted jointly with the Inter-University
Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA). Candidates who clear these interviews are
selected to join NCRA's Graduate Programme as Research Scholars. Those short-listed via the
TIFR written test are interviewed at TIFR (Mumbai). Research scholars selected at TIFR
(Mumbai) and wishing to join NCRA, Pune should inform the Chairperson, Subject Board in
Physics, and the Centre Director/Dean, NCRA. Students who take the TIFR exam and
interview and opt from the time of induction to join NCRA will join the NCRA-IUCAA
graduate school, and be regular NCRA students. For students who have carried out their
graduate school work at TIFR, the norms for transfer to NCRA at the end of graduate school
are available on the web page of the TIFR Subject Board (Physics).
Research scholars may also be selected from the Visiting Students' Research Programme
(VSRP), conducted over the summer at NCRA. Students may apply for this programme directly
to NCRA or via TIFR (Mumbai). Students entering the final year of their
M.Sc/B.E/B.Tech/B.Sc. courses are selected to spend about eight weeks during the summer
working on a project at NCRA. Based on their performance during the programme, which
includes a written test and an interview, students may be pre-selected to join NCRA's Graduate
Programme in the following year. Selected students must satisfactorily complete their M.Sc/
B.E/B.Tech. course before joining NCRA.
Finally, students with a B.Sc. degree in Physics/Mathematics may be selected for the
Research Scholar programme, via either the JEST/INAT/TIFR written tests or the VSRP. Such
students would undergo one year of M.Sc-level courses conducted jointly with the Indian
Institute of Science Education Research (IISER), Pune, before joining NCRA's Graduate
School. Further details of this programme are given at WEBPAGE.
1.2 Exceptional Case for Research Scholars: Applicants from Abroad
An exception to the requirements described above for admission of research scholars to
the NCRA Graduate Programme may be made for applicants who are not in India and are
therefore unable to appear for the tests and interview(s). This procedure must be used sparingly
and only in outstanding cases. Details of this procedure are described in Appendix-I below.
2. Requirement for Graduate Work
Research scholars are normally required to join the Institute on or before August 1 every
year. Course work starts from around mid-August. The contents and scope of the various
courses offered in each semester are described below. The syllabus for each course is given in
The course requirements are that the students must satisfactorily complete all core
courses and one six-month research project (see below for details).
3. Graduate School Courses
There are two semesters (four terms) in a year, with each term of roughly seven weeks duration.
The first semester is from mid-August to the third week of December with a short mid-term
break in October, while the second semester is from mid-January to mid-May. Research
Scholars are expected to complete all core courses in their first year.
3.2 Core Courses
During Graduate School, Research Scholars are taught a set of basic courses in Physics
and Mathematics and are also introduced to courses in Astronomy and Astrophysics. The
Graduate School structure is given below. The number of teaching hours is shown in brackets
after each course. A core course may be given as a reading course if there are only one or two
students taking the course.
Semester I, Term I: Mid-August to end-September
01. Methods of Mathematical Physics I (21)
02. Introduction to Astronomy and Astrophysics I (14)
03. Electrodynamics and Radiative Processes I (14)
04. Quantum and Statistical Mechanics I (14)
Semester I, Term II: Mid-October to mid-December
05. Methods of Mathematical Physics II (14)
06. Introduction to Astronomy and Astrophysics II (14)
07. Electrodynamics and Radiative Processes II (14)
08. Quantum and Statistical Mechanics II (14)
Semester II, Term I: Early January to mid-March
09. Astronomical Techniques I (14)
10. Galaxies : Structure, Dynamics and Evolution (21)
11. Extragalactic Astronomy I (21)
Semester II, Term II: Mid-March to mid-May
12. Astronomical Techniques II (14)
13. Interstellar Medium (14)
14. Extragalactic Astronomy II (14)
Projects: Students are required to do a six-month research project during the third
semester. This could, in principle, develop into a Ph.D. project, although this is not necessary.
An Institute member who intends to guide a student on a project is requested to give a brief
description of the scope and contents of the course to the AAC as early as possible. This
information will be circulated to the students.
Exemption from Attending the Lectures: Normally, no graduate student will be
exempted from completing the course requirements. However, if the student is thoroughly
familiar with the material in a particular core course, s/he may request the lecturer to exempt
him/her from attending the lectures and to evaluate him/her on the basis of assignments and an
exam. It is up to the lecturer to decide whether such an exemption should be granted.
4. Evaluation of Graduate Work
a) The performance of the students in the core courses will be evaluated on the basis of the
test(s) and assignments, with typically about sixty percent weightage given to the tests(s) and
forty percent weightage to assignments. Each course will typically have one mid-term
assignment and then a final test, either an examination or a seminar.
b) For projects, the student will be required to write a project report and to give a seminar
on the project. A committee, formed for this purpose, will evaluate the student based on the
seminar and the project report, in addition to the guide's assessment of the student. The final
grade will be the arithmetic mean of the grades from the guide's evaluation, the seminar
presentation and the project report.
The final grade in any of the courses and projects, will be one of the following:
A+ (excellent), A (very good), A- (good), B+(satisfactory), B (fair); B- (marginal), C (fail)
The following norms will be used to determine satisfactory completion of the course work: (i)
Any student who gets 2 or more C grades, one C and one B- grade, or more than two B- grades
will be asked to leave the institute; (ii) any student who gets a single C grade must take a
second examination in that course before the end of the first year. If s/he fails to clear it at the
second attempt, s/he will be asked to leave the institute. The final decision in this matter will be
taken by the Centre Director (NCRA). Students who get a marginal grade (B-) in any course
may also be asked to repeat it. Finally, all students must get a minimum grade of B+ in their
c) If a student does not complete the requirements of a core course, s/he is deemed to have
failed in that course. In case a student is unable to participate in the assignments or final
examination of a core course due to a genuine problem, s/he will be given an I (incomplete)
grade. The course instructor, in consultation with the AAC, can arrange for one or more special
tests/assignments after the end of the semester to evaluate the student's performance and
convert the I grade into a regular grade. This procedure is to be adopted only in emergencies.
d) At the end of each semester, students will be given an opportunity to evaluate the
courses and course instructors in a prescribed form. This evaluation will be sent directly to the
Directors of IUCAA and NCRA and will be treated as confidential.
5. Requirements for PhD Registration
Research Scholars may register for a Ph.D. after successful completion (see Section 4)
of their graduate course work (i.e. core courses and the six-month research project).
Students with a B.E. or B.Tech degree should register for an M.Sc. in Physics
immediately after joining as a Research Scholar. This is required because the B.E/B.Tech.
degree is not considered to be sufficient for registering for a Ph.D. in Physics. The NCRA
Graduate School course work is considered by the TIFR Deemed University as equivalent to
the course requirements of an M.Sc. degree. B.E./B.Tech. students will also have to submit an
M.Sc. thesis. In most cases, this would be based on the six-month research project carried out
as part of the Graduate School course work.
Note that the stipend of all Research Scholars is raised after two years, provided their
graduate school studies have been completed satisfactorily, their progress is assessed to be
satisfactory and they have registered for their Ph.D. All Research Scholars are therefore,
strongly advised to complete their graduate school course work, including all projects, within
two years. Registration for a Ph.D. requires identification of a thesis supervisor (an academic
member of TIFR with a Fellow, or higher, rank) for the candidate. While this is the
responsibility of the Research Scholar, s/he will be advised and assisted by the chairperson of
Each Ph.D. student will have a Ph.D. Advisory Committee to monitor his/her progress.
The NCRA faculty office must have the name of the supervisor and the area of research
identified before registration. A written outline of the Ph.D. project, signed by both the
supervisor and the student should also be submitted to the Faculty office. Before registration, a
meeting of the student with the Ph.D. Advisory Committee will be held to discuss the plan for
the Ph.D. programme. In case a Research Scholar fails, at the end of two years, to identify a
thesis supervisor who is willing and agreeable to act as a guide, the Scholar may have to leave
6. Some General Issues
6.1 Support activities:
All research scholars are expected to take part in support activities, especially in the
observatory, to enrich their experience and learning and also contribute to the centre.
6.2 Seminars, Colloquia etc:
Research scholars are expected to participate in academic activities, such as seminars,
colloquia, informal discussion meetings, Friday meetings, etc. Every research scholars must
give at least two talks during each academic year.
6.3 Leave of Absence for Research Scholars in the First Year
During the first year of the programme, students will not be allowed to be absent from
lecture courses and other activities of the programme except in circumstances such as illness or
emergencies. In any case, absence from the programme during the first year will be permitted
only with the consent of the chairperson of the AAC.
Research Scholars are not permitted to go on vacation while their courses are in
progress. Vacation can be taken only during the breaks in the graduate school. From the second
year, students are entitled to seventy days of leave in a year, provided the leave is taken during
the vacation period (October 1 to October 31, December 16 to January 14, March 1 to June 30).
Further details of leave can be obtained from the Faculty Office. All requests for leave must be
approved by the supervisor or AAC chairperson in advance.
Students in their first year are not generally expected to go out of station to attend
scientific conferences or workshops, or to go on deputation. An exception to this norm must be
recommended by the AAC, and then discussed and approved by the NCRA Faculty.
6.4 Duration of PhD. Programme
A research scholar is expected to submit his/her Ph.D. thesis to the University in
question within five years of the date of joining the NCRA Ph.D. programme. Research
Scholars who fail to complete their work within a 5-year period will have to request an
extension. In such cases, the Ph.D. Advisory Committee should refer the matter to the NCRA
Faculty, along with a justification for the extension. The Faculty will review the case and
recommend an extension, if felt appropriate. In general, such extensions should be granted for
less than six months at a time and should not exceed a total of one year. The total duration of
the thesis is expected to be no more than six years. Extensions beyond six years will be
allowed only in exceptional cases, based on a written application from the advisor, which will
be discussed in the NCRA Faculty.
6.5 Thesis Seminar
Before submitting the Ph.D. thesis, every candidate is required to give a seminar on the
work on which the thesis is based. The seminar must be given about a month before submission
of the synopsis of the thesis. The NCRA Faculty Office will make arrangements for the thesis
seminar, including the setting up of an evaluation committee; this will be done in consultation
with the chairperson of the AAC. The synopsis will only be submitted to the University after
the seminar has been delivered. The grades given by members of the evaluation committee will
be kept in the file of the candidate. If the average grade of the committee is B or lower, the
thesis will not be forwarded to the University. The Committee's recommendations should be
taken into account and the synopsis/thesis revised accordingly before submission.
6.6 Visiting Fellowship after submission of thesis
A student who has submitted his/her thesis within the maximum period of six years is
likely to be offered a short-term Visiting Fellowship at NCRA while thesis evaluation
formalities, and any remaining research projects, are being completed. Students exceeding six
years are unlikely to be offered a Visiting Fellowship without a clear justification and a strong
recommendation from the Ph.D. Advisory Committee; each such case will be discussed in
detail in the NCRA Faculty. Those requiring seven years or more to complete a thesis will not
be offered any such Visiting Fellowship.
6.7 National Eligibility Test (NET)
It is strongly recommended that NCRA Research Scholars pass the CSIR/UGC
National Eligibility Test (NET) at the earliest opportunity after finishing the Graduate School
7. Students or Guides Affiliated to Other Institutions
Students affiliated to an institution other than TIFR but desirous of working at NCRA
for extended periods must have a guide and a research problem clearly identified in their parent
institution. Such a collaborative effort, in which an NCRA staff member is interested in
partially supervising the student, would contribute to increasing academic activities at NCRA.
However, the following norms should be
(1) The NCRA staff member with whom the student is working, and who is responsible for the
student, should be clearly identified.
(2) The total duration of such visits by one student should not exceed six months in a calendar
year. In exceptional circumstances, this could be extended to at most nine months.
(3) The total number of students at NCRA at any given time should in general not exceed five.
(4) Such visits should be mentioned in the NCRA Faculty as an informational item. The students
should also be encouraged to give a talk at the end of their visit.
(5) The students should be financially supported by their parent institutes, but efforts will be
made to provide logistical support. Students from India and abroad will be treated at par.
7.1 TIFR Members Guiding Students Working Elsewhere
Occasionally, an NCRA member may be requested to be the Ph.D. guide of a student
who intends to carry out doctoral work at another institution. NCRA imposes no constraints on
this activity, except that the thesis may not be submitted through NCRA-TIFR. The Ph.D.
Programme of the student will be governed entirely by the rules and regulations of the student's
institution. However, the NCRA Faculty Office should be informed about such cases.
Research Scholar Applications from Abroad
The procedure for Research Scholar applications from persons residing outside India
who are unable to appear for the regular selection procedure is described below; Such
candidates should write to a NCRA faculty member, the Dean (NCRA), or the chairperson of
the AAC, any of whom may then propose the case at a meeting of the AAC. The Committee
should examine such cases carefully and satisfy itself that the applicant is genuinely unable to
appear for the test and interviews, and at the same time assess the candidates qualifications
and aptitude. This assessment may be based on reference letters, publications and any other
information about the candidate that is available.
If the AAC is convinced that the candidate should be admitted to the Graduate
Programme it should make a clear recommendation to this effect to the Director or Dean,
NCRA. The AAC may also bring it up for discussion at the NCRA Faculty, if it finds this
necessary, before making a recommendation to the Director or Dean. The recommendation
must explain why the candidate is unable to undergo the normal selection procedures, and must
state the academic grounds on which admission of the candidate is being recommended.
The final decision will be made by the Director or the Dean, NCRA and communicated
to the applicant.
An applicant who is offered admission in this way should be made aware that the
normal duration of the PhD. programme is five years. This is important for foreign students
who may have restrictions on their period of absence from their home country. The applicant
must also be made aware of the fees payable to the University, the type of visa required and any
other regulations that may be in force.
Candidates selected through this procedure will in all other respects be subjected to the
same rules and requirements as those selected through the normal procedure.
<discussed in NF meeting held on 18 October 2010>
SYLLABUS FOR THE IUCAA - NCRA GRADUATE SCHOOL COURSES
(a) The courses are designed so as to emphasize aspects that are directly relevant to
Astronomy and Astrophysics and to avoid unnecessary repetition of material already taught in
M.Sc. syllabi. While selecting students for the IUCAA/NCRA graduate school, we try to
ensure that the student is familiar with physics at the M.Sc. level, so that there is no need for
routine material to be repeated in the graduate-level course.
(b) The syllabus provides enough avenues for topics which are of ``local interest'' to be
included in the graduate school. This is necessary so that graduate students coming out of
IUCAA/NCRA not only have a comprehensive grasp of astronomy and astrophysics but are
also aware of the key research areas in which these two institutions are concentrating at
present. 01. Methods of Mathematical Physics I
[The emphasis will be on practical aspects of using mathematics to solve problems rather
than on formal mathematical proofs. Emphasize on Green functions, and Fourier analysis].
Sturm-Liouville problem and its connection with special functions - Partial
differential equations (inhomogeneous and homogeneous wave equations, diffusion equation,
Green functions) - WKB and other approximation methods, series expansions, saddle-point,
etc. - Fourier analysis.
02. Introduction to Astronomy and Astrophysics I
[All these topics will come up for detailed study later; the aim of this course will be to
connect physics with astrophysics at an order-of-magnitude level and to introduce
conventions and jargons of astronomy and astrophysics to a physics student]. Earth-solar
system - The Sun as a star - Stellar structure and evolution - The HR diagram - Colours,
magnitudes, Spectral classification - White dwarfs, neutron stars, black holes - Binaries - ISM
- Structure of Milky Way - Stellar population and galactic structure - Cosmology - Brief
description of Galaxy morphology and evolution - Active Galaxies - Clusters of Galaxies.
03. Electrodynamics and Radiative Processes I
Review of Maxwell's equations, and M.Sc. level electrodynamics - Motion of charged
particle in E, B fields Electromagnetic waves - Polarization and geometrical optics - Radiation
of electromagnetic waves - Scattering of radiation (Thomson and Compton) -
Bremsstrahlung and synchrotron radiation.
04. Quantum and Statistical Mechanics I: (Quantum Mechanics)
[The Course will emphasize the functionality of QM rather than its mathematical or
Overview of M.Sc. level quantum mechanics - Solution of Schrdinger equation in 1 d
and potential motion - Quasi classical case, WKB - Hydrogen atom and the structure of
periodic table - Perturbation theory - Fine structure and hyperfine structure (21 cm) -
Quantum theory of radiation - Energy levels of atoms, and molecules and selection rules.
05. Methods of Mathematical Physics II: (General Relativity)
Physical basis for GR - Tensor analysis - Geodesics, connection and curvature - Einstein
equations - Schwarzschild metric (orbits and classical tests of GR) - Black holes - Gravitational
waves - FRW spacetime.
06. Introduction to Astronomy and Astrophysics II: (Stellar Physics)
Observational data on stars (types of stars, spectral classification, regions of HR
diagram) - Basics of nuclear energy generation - Sources of opacity - Steady state stellar
models (homologous models and multilayered configurations) - Stellar evolution (simple
analytical estimates and summary of numerical results) - Supernova and SNR - End stages of
stellar evolution (white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes) - Pulsars - Evolution of binary
star systems - Star formation (including brown dwarfs) - Star cluster.
07. Electrodynamics and Radiative Processes II: (Astrophysical Processes : Fluid
dynamics, Radiative processes and Plasmas)
Basics of fluid dynamics - Hydrostatic equilibrium, with applications to self
gravitating bodies - Instabilities - Accretion and winds - Shocks - Turbulence - Basics of
plasma physics - MHD - Dynamos - Radiative processes in astrophysical systems:
Bremsstrahlung, synchrotron radiation, Compton and inverse Compton processes -
Macroscopic description of radiation field - Moments of radiative transfer equations and
simple approximate solutions - Ionisation and recombination processes.
08. Quantum and Statistical Mechanics II: (Statistical Mechanics)
Overview of M.Sc. level statistical physics - Basics of statistical mechanics and
thermodynamics - Boltzmann, Bose, Fermi distributions - Applications to classical gases,
electron degeneracy in white dwarfs - Photons Bose condensation and superfluidity -
Ionisation and pair creation equilibria - Phase transitions - Elementary introduction to
09. Astronomical Techniques I: (Incoherent Detection)
Time and coordinate measurements - Atmospheric effects (absorption, seeing,) -
Basics of telescopes - Noise and statistics - Photon detectors - Basics of photometry -
Spectroscopy and polarimetry.
10. Galaxies : Structure, Dynamics and Evolution:
Galaxies as self gravitating objects, virial equilibrium - Estimates of collision times -
Collisionless Boltzmann equation and some steady state solutions - Globular clusters -
stability - Spiral structure, bars and disc dynamics - Ellipticals - Galaxy morphology -
Chemical evolution - Galaxy formation and evolution.
11. Extragalactic Astronomy I: (Cosmology)
Friedmann models (geometrical and physical aspects) - Thermal history of the universe
from T = 1 GeV to T = 900 K - Linear growth of perturbations - Anisotropies in CMBR and
comparison with observations - Nonlinear evolution of perturbations (Zeldovich
approximation, spherical top hat, basic idea of simulation results) - Segregation of baryons and
dark matter- Very early universe and inflation - Clusters and superclusters - Overall
structure of IGM-Gunn-Peterson effect - Quasar absorption systems - High reshift galaxies.
12. Astronomical Techniques II: (Coherent Detection)
Partial coherence - Aperture synthesis and image reconstruction
High angular resolution techniques and astrometry - Databases in
13. Interstellar Medium:
Extinction and reddening of star light, dust - 21 cm, galaxy rotation curves, HI distribution
- Ionised gas, pulsar DM - HII regions - Cooling and heating - Shocks - Supernovae remnants
- Phases of the ISM - Magnetic field and Faraday rotation - Cosmic rays - Molecular clouds
and star formation.
14. Extragalactic Astronomy II: (Radio Galaxies and Quasars)
Phenomenology of AGNs (Seyferts, Quasars, Radio Galaxies, LINERS, BL Lacs) with a
survey of continuum, emission and absorption features of spectra - Black hole and accretion
disc models for AGNs - Emission line regions (BLR, NLR) - Physics of jets and hot spots.
<discussed in NF meeting held on 18 October 2010>