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Admission requirements

Astronomy bachelor's courses Radiative processes and Quantum Mechanics 1 and Quantum Mechanics 2


The space between the stars is not empty but filled with a very dilute gas with extremely low densities and temperatures, providing a unique laboratory with conditions not normally encountered on Earth. A surprisingly rich chemistry occurs in these so-called interstellar clouds, as evidenced by the discovery of nearly 150 different molecules. Some of these species were found in space before they were identified in a laboratory on Earth. How are these molecules formed? Where are they found and how do astronomers identify them? How do their abundances differ from place to place and what does this tell us about the structure of the region? How do the abundances evolve from cold clouds to planet-forming disks, where they can form the basis for prebiotic species?

The outline of the course is as follows:

  • Basic principles of gas-phase and gas-grain chemical reactions

  • Chemistry in the early Universe

  • Chemistry in diffuse and translucent clouds, and in photon-dominated regions

  • Chemistry in shocks

  • Evolution of molecular abundances from dark pre-stellar cores to star-forming regions

  • Chemistry in protoplanetary disks and links with comets

Course objectives

The student will gain relevant background information that will enable him/her to follow the current literature on Astrochemistry and to do research in this field. The student will also acquire hands-on experience with running molecular excitation and chemical network codes, and make predictions for ALMA.

Soft skills

In this course, students will be trained in the following behaviour-oriented skills:

  • Structured thinking (structure, modulated thinking, computational thinking, programming)

  • Verbal communication (presenting, speaking, listening)

  • Critical thinking (asking questions, check assumptions)

  • Creative thinking (resourcefulness, curiosity, thinking out of the box)


See Schedules Astronomy master 2017-2018

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

  • Exercise classes

Assessment method

  • Oral exam (by appointment): 100%

  • Presentation (optional): 50% (if chosen, the oral exam is only on half of the course and counts for 50%)


Blackboard is not used for this course.

Reading list

  • Handouts of lecture notes, both on paper and electronically on website

  • The physics and chemistry of the interstellar medium, Tielens, ISBN 9780521826341, chapters 4, 5, 9, 10 (background)


Via uSis. More information about signing up for your classes can be found here. Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Lecturer: Prof.dr. E.F. (Ewine) van Dishoeck
Assistant: Merel van 't Hoff
Course website: Astrochemistry


This lecture series is given every other year. The next opportunity is likely in Spring 2020.