Astronomy Department

By linking teaching and research programs, we offer a rich and diverse environment for studying and doing astronomy.

The Five College Astronomy Department is a collaborative program of the astronomers at Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which are all located in the Connecticut River valley of Western Massachusetts. By linking teaching and research programs, we offer a rich and diverse environment for studying and doing astronomy.

Astronomy majors typically take most of their required courses at their home campuses, but they have a wide variety of elective choices to take at the nearby campuses. There is a free bus service connecting all five campuses.

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History of the Five College Astronomy Department

The Five College Astronomy Department (FCAD), founded in 1960 on a shared commitment to excellence in teaching and in research, is a collaborative arrangement between the Astronomy Departments of Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith Colleges and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Over the years we have collectively implemented programs that fostered a shared research community in addition to a shared educational program. The first major collective research initiative was the Five College Radio Astronomy Observatory (FCRAO), begun in 1970 with a grant from the National Science Foundation and supplemented with funds from the Colleges and the Research Corporation. The original meter-wave telescope was replaced by the world’s largest mm-wave telescope and FCRAO continued as a world-class research facility for more than 3 decades. Other major FCAD initiatives included cooperative programs with the Astronomy Department at the University of Wyoming and with the Astronomy Department of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). The latter was the basis for founding the Large Millimeter Telescope, the world´s largest single-dish steerable millimetre-wavelength telescope, sited at the summit of Volcán Sierra Negra in Mexico. Currently our major shared initiative in education and research is centered on the 1.8-meter Perkins telescope at Anderson Mesa Station, Arizona, a dark sky site roughly 14 miles south of Flagstaff owned by Boston University.


Katherine Follette, Assistant Professor of Astronomy
Daniella C. Bardalez Gagliuffi, Assistant Professor of Astronomy
Mia de los Reyes, Assistant Professor of Astronomy 

Salman Hameed, Associate Professor of Integrated Science and Humanities

Darby Dyar, Professor of Astronomy
Manbir Kaur, Visiting Lecturer in Astronomy

Suzan Edwards, L. Clark Seelye Professor of Astronomy (Emerita)
James Lowenthal, Mary Elizabeth Moses Professor of Astronomy
Kimberly Ward-Duong, Assistant Professor of Astronomy

Daniela Calzetti, Professor and Department Head of Astronomy
Neal Erickson, Research Professor of Astronomy
Mauro Giavalisco, Professor of Astronomy
Robert Gutermuth, Associate Research Professor
Martha Hanner, Professor Emeritus of Astronomy
Mark Heyer, Adjunct Professor and Associate Director of Five College Radio Astronomy Observatory
William Irvine, Professor Emeritus
Neal Katz, Professor of Astronomy
Houjun Mo, Professor of Astronomy
Gopal Narayanan, Research Professor of Astronomy
Alexandra Pope, Professor of Astronomy
Stephen Schneider, Professor of Astronomy
Ronald Snell, Professor of Astronomy and Undergraduate Program Chair
Peter Schloerb, Professor of Astronomy and Director of Five College Radio Astronomy Observatory
Michael Stage, Visiting Assistant Professor of Astronomy
Todd Tripp, Professor of Astronomy
Daniel Wang, Professor of Astronomy
Martin Weinberg, Professor of Astronomy
Katherine Whitaker, Assistant Professor of Astronomy
Grant Wilson, Professor of Astronomy and Graduate Program Director
Min Yun, Professor of Astronomy and Honors Program Director


Core Courses in the Shared Undergraduate Astronomy Curriculum

AST 200 Practical Astronomy
AST 220 Topics (Public Policy, Science Communication, Astrobiology)
AST 223 Planetary Science
AST 224 Stars/Discovery of Fundamental Properties
AST 225 Galaxies/Discovery of Dark Matter
AST 226 Cosmology
AST 228 Astrophysics I
AST 330 Seminar (Supernovae, Mars, Moon, Galaxy Evolution)
AST 335 Astrophysics II
AST 337 Techniques of Optical and Infrared Astronomy, I
AST 341 Techniques of Optical and Infrared Astronomy, II
AST 352 Astrophysics III

Mary Dailey Irvine Fund

This fund is named in honor of Mary Dailey, Smith College, class of 1922. It provides travel support for Undergraduates; travel grants for graduate students; and an MDI cash award for distinguished senior thesis in astronomy.

2023 - Cailin Plunkett (Amherst College): Population Properties of Protoplanets: Quantifying Completeness in the Presence of Accretion

2022 - Meredith Stone (UMass): The Coevolution of Star Formation and Supermassive Black Hole Accretion in Local Dusty Galaxies

2021 - Celia Mulcahey (Mount Holyoke College): Star Formation and AGN Feedback in the Local Universe: Combining the Radio Continuum and Integral Field Spectroscopy

2020 - Olivia Cooper (Smith College): Tales from our Dusty, Warped Past: Lensing Environments of Planck-selected Submillimeter Galaxies Observed with Gemini

2019 - Olena Komarova (Smith College): V410 X-ray 6: A Multi-wavelength Study of Transition Disk Properties at the Substellar Boundary

2018 - Alex Watson (Amherst College): Examining Astrometry and Photometry of the Close Companion HD 142527 B Through Direct Imaging

2017 - Laura Breitenfeld (Mount Holyoke College): Predicting olivine composition using Raman spectroscopy

2016 - Kevin Harrington (UMass), Most Luminous, High-redshift Starbursting Galaxies Discovered Using Planck

2015 - Wanda Feng (Smith College), Revisiting Forbidden Lines in T Tauri Stars

2014 - Jennifer Podel (Smith College) Accretion and Winds in Young Stars from Spectroscopy

2013 - Srishti Kashyap (Mount Holyoke College), An Fe(III) Transforming Deep Sea Thermophilic Archaeon

2012 - Erica Jawin (Mount Holyoke College), Relationship Between Radar Scattering And Lunar Surface Roughness

2011 - Kathryn McKinnon (UMass)

2010 - Lindsay Barbieri (Hampshire College), Late-Amazonian Climate Change on Mars

2009 - Jonathan Tucker (Amherst College), Calibrating Chemcam: Preparing to Probe the Red Planet

2008 - Coleman Krawczyk (UMass), Ambient Molecular Cloud Emission in the Regions of Methanol Masers

2007 - Catherine Walker (Mount Holyoke College), Variation of Solar Wind Parameters over a Solar Cycle

2006 - Tiffany Picard (Mount Holyoke College), Rotational Properties and Radii of the Stars in NGC 2264

2005 - Katherine Whitaker (UMass), XMM-Newton Study of IC 10 and the Variable X-Ray Source X-1

2005 - Selby Cull (Hampshire) A Dynamic Digital Map of Mars

2004 - Sam Singer (Hampshire) Creation of H.A.R.P. Observatory and Time-Series Photometry

2003 - Andria Updike (Smith College) Magnetic Helicity in Solar Flares

2002- Kathryn Peek (Mount Holyoke College), A Formation Scenario for Saturn's Rings

2002- Julie Nantais (UMass), Radio-FIR Correlation for Galactic HII Regions

2002 - Jay Dickson (Hampshire College), Water on Mars: A Synthesis of Hydrologic Features

2000 - Jessica Bonjorni (Smith College) The Enigmatic Variable XX Scuti

Contact Us

Program Chair: 

Alexandra Pope, Professor of Astronomy, UMass Amherst

Five College Staff Liaison: 

Ray Rennard, Director of Academic Programs