Information for Students

The Seminar on Astronomy and Astrophysics (astro830) is a four credit point elective seminar in the Master of Astrophysics programme at the Argelander Institute for Astronomy, part of the University of Bonn. Students give a talk and answer relevant questions afterwards. The seminar topics are based on recently published/accepted papers suggested by the supervisors. Students will be assigned a paper at the introductory session and should discuss their topic, and the content of their talk, with their supervisor well in advance before the presentation.

Time and Place

Mondays, 14.00 (sharp!) ---> 15.30, Lecture Hall 0.012, AIfA.

The AstroSem introductory session date is stated on the main AstroSem page. Please note: exceptionally seminars will be held at a different time and/or place, please check the timetable on the main AstroSem page


Sign-up in the university registration system! For participating in AstroSem, you must sign up for the exam of the seminar astro894/astro830 in the registration system of the University of Bonn (deadline: the end of the first week of the semester; contact: Ms. Cornelia Zapf, Mr. Hartmut Schmieden, and Mr. Dietmar Haubrich). Look up registration and de-registeration periods for lectures.

introductory session

The AstroSem starts with an introductory session (usually the second Monday of the term) during which supervisors give short presentations of their papers. You should attend this session and during it, or shortly after, decide with which paper/supervisor you would like to work. If you miss the introductory session, you can still sign up. Simply contact the supervisor of your choice and arrange a time. 

After agreeing with their supervisor, students should then email us (SS17: Abel Schootemeijer - aschoot at stating their choice of datepaper and supervisor before the allowed de-registration period ends. Note that a maximum of two presenters can be hosted on each single date -- first comes, first serves -- please check the AstroSem schedule and NRW holidays before reserving your date with your supervisor! If you could not fix the datepaper and supervisor, and did not de-register before the allowed de-registration period, your exam grade will unfortunately be 5.0. If you fix the paper but not the date before the allowed de-registration period, we will provide you with a final date. If you can't make it at the day of your presentation, your exam grade will be 5.0.


This seminar is a chance for a student to give a talk on a state-of-the-art paper in a subject in astrophysics. Students will learn about oral presentations: the art of communication using your voice and slides, and discussing the content with your peers. This is a skill required by any scientist, e.g. at conferences, in meetings or when teaching. 


The talk has a strict maximum of 30 minutes in length, with 10-15 minutes of questions thereafter (total 45 minutes). Speakers should expect to receive and answer questions both immediately following the talk and by email during the week following their talk (see below). It is the responsibility of the students that their computer works. Presentations of slides as PDF files is recommended.
This may be the first time that students encounter state-of-the-art scientific literature in the form of research papers. Research papers are not easy to read, and this is one of the hurdles along your way before giving the talk. Supervisors are there to help! A research paper typically contains references to other papers. Which of these should be followed up will be clarified by talking to your supervisor. Following-up on some of the cited literature will teach the speaker how to navigate in the scientific literature.


An important skill in giving talks is to know your audience. The AstroSem audience consists mostly of the peers of the speaker (i.e. MSc students). Talks should be aimed at a level that can be understood by all the attending students. During the semester all students are a member of the audience. However, it is not an opportunity to sleep: there is a question and answer session immediately following the talk and all students are expected to participate. Students must attend more than 75% of the seminars on time (a register is taken), give their complete attention and participate fully by asking questions immediately following a talk. It is an essential part of training as a professional - scientist - or otherwise - to learn to both respond to and ask good questions.


All students taking the AstroSem are graded on the usual German scale from 1-5 (where 1 is the best grade), based on their talk. The performance and the understanding of the topic will be weighted roughly 50/50 percent in the grade, with a little regard to how actively you participated with questions during the seminar course.


Students can provide anonymous feedback at using the password given in the class.


Talks are usually in the format of computer-based slides (e.g. ImpressKeynotePowerpointLaTeX Beamer). If you use the projector you must make sure it functions with your laptop before the talk starts because any time taken fixing the laptop will be taken out of your allocated 30 minutes. To be safe, presentations converted to PDF slides are recommended. It is also up to you to make sure - in advance - that all your text, plots, images, animations etc. are clearly visible. The exam grade will be deducted for poor presentation because it often impedes good science. In particular, credit may also be removed if you simply read from memory sheets or your slides: such talks are frequently dull and show a lack of proper preparation. Do not learn a script, be flexible and knowledgeable and you will be fine. 


As with all of the Master courses in Astrophysics, talks must be given in English.


The topics (i.e. recent research papes) listed on the main AstroSem page are chosen by the scientific supervisors. You should choose one of them from the list by contacting the supervisor, usually at the introductory meeting or shortly thereafter. Topics other than those shown can, in rare cases, be arranged with the supervisors. Note that there are a maximum of two talks per week - first come first serve! Please arrange for your talks to not be held in the last week of the term. Exams will take priority for you around that time, you do not want to be giving a talk as well (and neither do your fellow students want to participare). Please note that each supervisor is limited to at most two talks.