Aarhus University Seal

An Introduction to Astrochemistry

ECTS credits:

Min. 3 ECTS; + 2 optional


Course parameters:

Language: English

Level of course: PhD course

Time of year: Spring 2022

No. of contact hours/hours in total incl. preparation, assignment(s) or the like: min 28/84 – for 3 ECTS

max 28/140 hrs – for 5 ECTS.

Capacity limits: 12 participants


Objectives of the course:

This course will introduce you to the role that chemical processes play in influencing the physical structure of the interstellar medium. An objective is to guide you through some of the contemporary literature describing the use of astrochemical models to understand astronomical observations of the molecular universe. You will become familiar with the chemical processes that are used to explain these observations, learning about the important experimental and theoretical techniques that are used to construct astrochemical models. The course will be of direct interest to astrochemists and astrophysicists, but will also be of interest to physical chemists working with atomic and molecular spectroscopic techniques; surface scientists; and observational astronomers.


Learning outcomes and competences:

At the end of the course, the student should be able to:

  • Understand the relationship between atomic and molecular spectroscopy, and astronomical observations.
  • Understand the role that surface science has to play in our interpretation of astronomical observations.
  • Discuss the types of chemical reactions that are important in different environments in the interstellar medium.
  • Explain how to construct an experiment in a laboratory/simulation that might be used to understand an astronomical observation.
  • Understand the theoretical methods used to produce astrochemical models.
  • Read and understand a contemporary or classic paper in the field of astrochemistry and then explain the impact of this paper to their peers.


Compulsory programme:

Active participation in study group and discussion activities – 3 ECTS points

Submission and approval of one mandatory assignment and one oral presentation to the group – 2 optional ECTS.


Course contents:

The course introduces the different types of environments and objects that exist in the Interstellar Medium (ISM). The different types of chemical reactions that are key to understanding phenomena in the ISM are then introduced; including radical reactions, ion-reactions, electron-induced reactions and photochemical processes; Examining gas phase chemistry, surface reactions, and the gas-surface interface. These processes are then used to understand the observational data available from the various types of regions that have been identified in the ISM, with a focus on understanding how star formation is influenced by the molecular universe. The course builds on molecular and atomic spectroscopic knowledge to explain observed physical phenomena, star formation in the early universe, dark cloud formation, cloud collapse, and a basic introduction to star and planet formation.



The course is open to PhD students in physics, chemistry and iNano. It is an advantage to be familiar with the basic processes of physical chemistry, e.g., reaction rates, and to have an understanding of molecular and/or atomic spectroscopy.


Name of lecturer:

Andrew Cassidy


Type of course/teaching methods:

A weekly 2-hour study group divided into a 45-min lecture and 1-hour discussion/activity group. You will be expected to guide several of these discussions and they will focus on i) reviewing the literature or ii) summarizing the lecture material and presenting these summaries to your peers.



The lecture content follows the course material presented by Ewine van Dishoeck from Leiden University in the Netherlands. These video lectures form the basis of the course. There is a course website where all reference material will be made available.


Course homepage:



Course assessment:

Minimum 3-ECTS points – Active participation in guiding your allocated discussion groups.

Optional 2-ECTS points - Based on a compulsory project report containing: i) You will give a 15-min presentation during the tutorial on ”how this course relates to my PhD project”, and ii) You will prepare a 2000-word literature review on a topic of your choice related to the tutorial content.



Department of Chemistry of Physics and Astronomy



Spring 2022






Deadline for registration is 7 January 2022.

For registration and questions contact to Andrew Cassidy by e-mail at: amc@phys.au.dk

21630 / i43