Statistical and Computational Methods in Physics and Astronomy — ASTR/PHYS 7730

Spring 2019

Welcome to the home page of Statistical and Computational Methods, a class offered by the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Here you will find information about the course and links to homework, exam materials and other resources.


MW 12:55 pm - 2:50 pm, SP 205


Ben Bromley
Office Hours (held in SP 205): TBD


Course description and objectives

A survey of mathematical, statistical and computational methods of analyzing and modeling phenomena in astrophysics, biophysics, and physics in general. The goal is to connect observational data with underlying physical processes through numerical simulations, analytic approximations, and statistical analyses. Subjects in statistics include parameter estimation, Fisher information and correlators. Other topics, such as analytical methods (including series and asymptotic approximations to functions and wavelet analysis) and numerical topics (including data visualization, Monte Carlo methods and dynamical modeling) may be discussed as time permits. Case studies, tuned to student research interests in physics and astronomy, provide examples.

Recommended Prerequisites/Corequisites: "B" or better in (PHYS 5570 or PHYS 5580 or PHYS 5590 or ASTR 5570 or ASTR 5580 or ASTR 5590 or ASTR 6410).

Textbook and references

There is no required textbook for this course. Please note that extensive resources exist both in print and online, as will be discussed in lecture.

Class format

Each class will consist of a lecture part and/or a lab component. The lecture part may vary in style from traditional lecture to discussion. Students may be called upon to present or lead short discussions on topics previously arranged with the instructor. The lab part will involve students doing computer-based exercises related to lecture topics and homework problems. Homework assignments will be posted approximately every two weeks. Students will also complete a capstone project related to their chosen field of research, and will give an in-class presentation on their project. Students also will take one in-class mid-term exam and a final exam.

Computer access

All students will need a Physics and Astronomy computer account. If you do not already have one, please notify the instructor for help.

You can access department computers in the room where the class meets, SP 205, the department Computer Lab. You may also access these computers remotely using ssh, PuTTY or WinSCP utilities. Other possibilities will be discussed in lecture.


One in-class midterm exam and a final exam will be given. The format and dates of these exams will be announced.

Final project

Students are required to do a final project on a topic related to their research. The topic is to be agreed-upon with the instructor so that the project will bring together aspects of the material covered in this course. The format/deliverables will be discussed in lecture.


Assessment will be based this distribution: homework, 40 pts; mid-term exam 10 pts; final exam 20 pts; and final project, 30 pts. A letter grade for the course will be assigned as per A:[100-93], A-:(93-90], B+:(90,87], B:(87,83], etc. Note: Homework assignments are weighted equally. The lowest individual homework assignment score will be dropped.

Potential changes to this syllabus

This syllabus is meant to serve as an outline and guide for our course. Please note that I may modify it with reasonable notice to you. I may also modify the Course Schedule to accommodate the needs of our class. Any changes will be announced in class and posted on announcements section of the class web page.

The Americans with disabilities act

The University of Utah seeks to provide equal access to its programs, services, and activities for people with disabilities. If you will need accommodations in this class, reasonable prior notice needs to be given to the Center for Disability Services, 162 Olpin Union Building, 801-581-5020. CDS will work with you and the instructor to make arrangements for accommodations. All written information in this course can be made available in an alternative format with prior notification to the Center for Disability Services.

Addressing sexual misconduct

Title IX makes it clear that violence and harassment based on sex and gender (which Includes sexual orientation and gender identity/expression) is a civil rights offense subject to the same kinds of accountability and the same kinds of support applied to offenses against other protected categories such as race, national origin, color, religion, age, status as a person with a disability, veteran's status or genetic information. If you or someone you know has been harassed or assaulted, you are encouraged to report it to the Title IX Coordinator in the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, 135 Park Building, 801-581-8365, or the Office of the Dean of Students, 270 Union Building, 801-581-7066. For support and confidential consultation, contact the Center for Student Wellness, 426 SSB, 801-581-7776. To report to the police, contact the Department of Public Safety, 801-585-2677(COPS).

Student names and personal pronouns

Class rosters are provided to the instructor with the student's legal name as well as Preferred First Name (if previously entered by you in the Student Profile section of your CIS account). While CIS refers to this as merely a preference, I will honor you by referring to you with the name and pronoun that feels best for you in class, on papers, exams, group projects, etc. Please advise me of any name or pronoun changes (and update CIS) so I can help create a learning environment in which you, your name, and your pronoun will be respected. If you need assistance getting your preferred name on your UIDcard, please visit the LGBT Resource Center Room 409 in the Olpin Union Building, or email to schedule a time to drop by. The LGBT Resource Center hours are M-F 8am-5pm, and 8am-6pm on Tuesdays.