Applying for graduate programs in astronomy can be an exciting but stressful time. Many programs in physics and astronomy require that you submit scores for both the General Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and the Physics GRE (PGRE) as part of your application package. As the season for grad school applications approaches, we want to draw your attention to an up-to-date list detailing which universities require the GRE and/or PGRE scores. This thorough Google doc has been compiled by Dr. James Guillochon, an ITC Fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. This list is a community-driven resource, so if you have information regarding departmental requirements that are not currently listed on the Google doc, please email James to propose edits.

A great deal of research has been done on the topic of the problematic use of the in determining an applicant’s potential to be a successful graduate student (Miller & Staussun 2014; Levesque, Bezanson, & Tremblay 2015). The AAS has also released a statement recommending limiting the use of the PGRE for admission into astronomy grad programs:

Given the research indicating that the GRE and PGRE are poor predictors of graduate student success, that their use in graduate admissions has a particularly negative impact on underrepresented groups, and that they represent a financial burden for many students in pursuing advanced degrees in the astronomical sciences, the AAS recommends that graduate programs eliminate or make optional the GRE and PGRE as metrics of evaluation for graduate applicants. If GRE or PGRE scores are used, the AAS recommends that admissions criteria account explicitly for the known systematics in scores as a function of gender, race, and socioeconomic status, and that cutoff scores not be used to eliminate candidates from admission, scholarships/fellowships, or financial support, in accordance with ETS recommendations.

More resources on grad school admissions can be found on the AstroBetter wiki under Graduate School section. There, you can find a wealth of useful information for applying to and choosing the right graduate program for you. As a reminder, the AstroBetter wiki is open for edits by anyone in the community, and we hope you will add any resources or links that you think others will find useful!


Our guest post today, by Dr. Sarah Gallagher and Dr. Eilat Glikman, features some useful tips on how to customize your citation outputs from ADS. Dr. Sarah Gallagher (@scgQuasar) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Western Ontario in Canada. Dr. Eilat Glikman is an assistant professor of physics at Middlebury College. She studies dust reddened quasars and their role in quasar/galaxy co-evolution, as well as faint quasars at high redshifts.

The SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS) is a powerful database that not only gives you electronic access to the astronomy and astrophysics literature, but can also output bibliographic information in LaTeX-friendly formats. Though the pre-defined outputs are in the rather sparse journal styles, the output can be completely customized to comply with those annoyingly specific proposal and annual report requirements.

We briefly describe how to do this, and give some examples below. In this post, we assume familiarity with ADS and its literature search functions as well as LaTeX bibliographies.

In the new ADS, after performing a query, click the “Export” button on the top, right-hand of the screen.

Select “Other Formats” from the drop-down menu of format options. This will take you to a new screen where you can select “Custom Format” from the drop-down menu on that screen.

A basic Latex bibliography reference which conforms to the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada Form 100 requirements can be created using the following format command:  %ZEncoding:latex\\bibitem[]  %l %T (%Y) %q, %V, %p-%P.

The resulting output is displayed in the right side of the export window as shown in the screenshot below. From there, it can be copied and pasted into your document.

Here’s another custom format option using LaTeX mark-up that does not require the LaTeX bibliography environment:
%ZEncoding:latex\\par\\noindent\\hangindent=10pt\\hangafter=1\\\\”\n[%zn] %l ,“%T” (%Y) %q, %V, %p-%P

This format will result in this output:
[1] Gallagher, S.~C., Everett, J.~E., Abado, M.~M. \{\&} Keating, S.~K. ,“Investigating the structure of the windy torus in quasars” (2015) MNRAS, 451, 2991-3000
[2] Gallagher, S.~C., Abado, M.~M., Everett, J.~E., Keating, S. \{\&} Deo, R.~P. ,“Why a Windy Torus?” (2013) arXiv:1303.714

If you want to create references that adhere to the NSF Proposal & Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG), the required References Cited must include the following: the names of all authors (in the same sequence in which they appear in the publication), the article and journal title, book title, volume number, page numbers, and year of publication. This format can be achieved with the following custom format:
%ZEncoding:latex %N, %T, %q, Vol. %V, %p-%P, %Y

This custom format option will output text like this:
Glikman, E., Lacy, M., LaMassa, S., Stern, D., Djorgovski, S. G., Graham, M. J., Urrutia, T., Lovdal, L., Crnogorcevic, M., Daniels-Koch, H., Hundal, C. B., Urry, M., Gates, E. L., Murray, S., Luminous WISE-selected
Obscured, Unobscured, and Red Quasars in Stripe 82, ApJ, Vol. 861, 37, 2018

For more information and detailed instructions about the possible options for the output, see the ADS Help section on Export Results. Also check out the ADS blog for updates on this resource.

Got other ADS tips and tricks? Share them in the comments or consider submitting them to us as a guest post via!


We all have ideas about how astronomy can (and should) be changed for the better, but have you ever wondered how to actually go about making that change happen? Or thought that you were too junior to make a difference? If so, consider applying for this workshop that is specifically aimed at getting junior astronomers involved in the planning the upcoming 2020 Decadal Survey.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will be hosting an Early Career Focus Session for the Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics (Astro2020) in Washington, D.C. on October 8-9, 2018. According to the email invitation to apply to participate in the session, the purpose of this session is to “to provide an opportunity for early career astronomers and astrophysicists to contribute to the decadal survey process. Participants will have the chance to provide input regarding the structure of the decadal survey, the state of the profession, and the future of astronomy and astrophysics.”

Participating in this session will give those of us in the early stages of our careers an opportunity to help direct the focus of the astronomical community for the coming decade. The focus session will be composed of both informational topics on science policy and the decadal survey development, as well as discussion sessions.

The deadline for to apply for this focus session is July 16, 2018 at 5 pm EST. If you have any questions regarding the event, contact Mia Brown at For more information on the decadal survey, check out AstroBetter’s previous posts on the topic.


The standard career path in astronomy often requires a lot of moving around – moving to attend graduate school, moving for a postdoc position, and often moving again at every career transition beyond that. As a result, astronomical research groups tend to be very culturally diverse. Smoothing the way for these transitions is important, particularly if they include moving internationally, where entirely new cultures and norms may have to be learned. This challenge is something that should be kept in mind by both people making the move as well as supervisors who are doing the hiring and advising.

Nature recently published a career feature entitled “How to fit in when you join a lab abroad.” This piece notes that there are definite pros to hiring international researchers, but that there are also challenges of which to be aware. Adding new international members to a research group brings fresh perspective and helps the group approach research problems from new angles. It is important to understand, however, that communication and leadership styles may be very different. The article from Nature provides an important reminder to keep the lines of communication open when hiring internationally. While the article focuses on researchers from other countries, it has advice that is relevant to anyone joining or leading a group of people from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.

We’ve added this article to the AstroBetter wiki in the Project and Team Management section. If you want to explore this topic further, there are also other useful resources for students, postdocs, and advisors at the end of the article.


AAS232 Day 0: Strategic Assembly

by Kelle June 3, 2018

10:00am It’s Day 0 here at AAS232 in Denver, CO. The opening reception is this evening and most attendees will be arriving today. The exhibit hall is getting setup and the meeting staff is busy getting all the signage up and the registration booth opened. On Day 0, the Strategic Assembly meets for a “strategy […]


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AAS232 Day -1: AAS Board of Trustees Meeting

by Kelle June 2, 2018

I’m attending AAS232 in Denver, CO as a member of the Board of the Trustees of the AAS (previously known as the Council). Since the summer meeting is much less hectic than the winter meeting, I’m aiming to live blog every day I’m here! I also want to raise the awareness of the summer meeting […]


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Welcome to the New ADS

by Guest May 28, 2018

Kelly Lockhart is a back-end software engineer for the NASA Astrophysics Data System, based at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The Astrophysics Data System (ADS) is pleased to announce that our new interface is officially out of its beta phase! It has reached nearly full parity with the Classic system, and provides more features, more […]


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Astronomy graduate fellowship and gap year resources [Links][Wiki]

by Joanna Bridge May 11, 2018

Recently, the graduate-student run blog Astrobites posted some great information about graduate research fellowships, authored by Avery Schiff. Although it is not currently fellowship application season, this will be an excellent resource for graduate students looking for funding in the future. The Astrobites post complements the information we have on the AstroBetter wiki graduate funding page. […]


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Introducing The Home of iObserve on the Web!

by Guest April 9, 2018

Cédric Foellmi (@onekiloparsec) is an astrophysicist and senior software engineer. He is the maker of iObserve: a macOS and iOS app that has been previously featured on Astrobetter. He was also formerly an astronomer at ESO in Chile, where he met Éric Depagne, who was a VLT UVES instrument Fellow and is currently an astronomer […]


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The National Science Foundation’s New Policy on Reporting Harassment

by Joanna Bridge March 14, 2018

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has recently developed a new policy on reporting harassment. These rules are meant to address the ongoing problem of sexual harassment in academia. For example, one study found that 30% of postdocs have reported being sexually harassed in the workplace. Another crowdsourced spreadsheet has garnered almost 2500 responses since December […]


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