The Astronomy Department of Beijing Normal University (BNU) was established in 1960, and is the second oldest in the country. It has since made important contributions to the training of astronomers, to scientific research and technological innovation, and to public outreach. We ranked fourth among all astronomy departments in China, according to the subject review carried out by the Education Ministry’s Degree and Graduate Education Development Center in 2012. BNU’s physics and astronomy programs together sit between 201 and 250 in Quacquarelli Symonds’ 2014/15 World Universities Ranking list.
The positioning and goals of the BNU Astronomy Department: to be among the top tier in China, to be influential globally, i.e., to build up internationally renowned research programs, assemble globally competitive research teams, and to train exceptional talents.
（1）We have a broad-focused faculty, covering most areas of astronomy, supported by resourceful teaching and research platforms, and we make a conscious effort to marry theory to observations. Our departmental headcount is currently 33, of which 14 are full professors, 8 are associate professors, 5 are lecturers, and 6 are administrative and support staff. Among them, 1 person is a Ministry of Education Cheung Kong Scholar and recipient of the National Natural Science Foundation of China’s career grant; 2 are Youth Thousand Talent program scholars; 2 are recipients of the National Natural Science Foundation of China’s youth career grants; 4 are Ministry of Education’s New Century Talent program scholars. Eleven of the faculty members are qualified to mentor doctoral students, and twenty-two are qualified to mentor master's students.
The department awards doctoral and master's degrees in astrophysics, as well as masters degrees in astrometry, optics, and astronomy education. In particular, the astrophysics program is awarded Key Subject status by the Beijing municipality and the university. The department is also certified to host post-doctoral scholars in astronomy. Our overarching astronomy program is being fostered by the Ministry of Education and the Beijing municipality as a prospective specialty program. Our “basic astronomy” course is awarded the National Choicest Course status, and a member of the faculty won the Beijing Renowned Teachers award.
We are in long term collaborations with the various observatories within China, and our subsidiary research units include the Gravitational Wave and Cosmology Laboratory, the Modern Astronomy Laboratory, the Comprehensive Astronomy Education Laboratory, as well as the Xinglong Astronomical Practical Training Base (jointly with the National Observatory) and the Astronomy Education Practical Training Base (jointly with Yunnan Observatory). Students graduating from our programs are renowned for their down-to-earth attitudes, solid foundation in mathematics and physics, strong practical observational skills, extensive research techniques training, as well as a penchant for teamwork. As such, they are well-received by employers.
（2）Both research and teaching activities within the department are highly internationalized. We have substantial and substantive collaborations with universities and research institutes worldwide. Within the past five years, we have sent around 20 doctoral and master's students to the US, UK, Germany, France, Canada, Italy, and Australia to pursue studies, including to take part in joint degree-awarding program.
To nurture high quality innovative leadership talent versed in both sciences and humanities, who possess a solid foundation in mathematics and physics, a broad astronomical knowledge base, are courageous in exploration, all encompassing in vision, and healthy in both body and mind.
According to the present conditions and historical heritages, our department currently focuses on 6 research directions: Gravitational Wave and Galactic Cosmology; Solar, Stellar and Interstellar Medium Physics; Laboratory Astrophysics; High Energy Astrophysics; Astronomical Optics and Applied Astronomy; Astronomy Education and Outreach.
The Astronomy Department published 202 papers during China's 12th five year plan, among which 160 are indexed in the SCI (EI) database (46 in the top category), 42 are published in international conference proceedings or Chinese language core journals; From 2010 on, the department had received over 90 grants, 31 of which are from the National Natural Science Foundation of China, with 3 being Key Programs, 12 being General Programs, 8 being Youth Programs, 5 being Joint Programs, and 3 others. The department had also participated in 5 Ministry of Science and Technology 973 projects, as well as over 50 other projects initiated by the Beijing Municipality, Beijing Normal University or industry. Astrophysics is an area of strength for the department, on which we possess a strong research team. The research groups working on gravitational wave and cosmology, as well as stellar physics, are in particular influential globally. For example: (1) the gravitational wave group led by Prof. Zonghong Zhu is a collaborator of the Japanese detector KAGRA and the Australian project AIGO, and has trained 5 LIGO Scientific Collaboration members, 3 of which are authors on the gravitational wave discovery paper. (2) the department has become a Chinese core working group member for the international SONG project during the 12th five year plan.
The Astronomy Department works closely with internationally renowned universities and research institutes, such as the California Institute of Technology and Yale University. Through international exchanges, we allow the flow of ideas to help overcome each other's shortcomings, and to grow our own influence.
The Astronomy Department takes in 14 master's students, 7 doctoral students each year, and has practiced autonomous enrollment (allowing us additional flexibility beyond the national entrance exams) of undergraduate students for five consecutive years. The department began receiving master's students in Astronomy Education since 2006, and is the only university in the country to offer this degree. The department currently hosts 96 undergraduate students, 42 master's students, 30 doctoral candidates, 3 postdoc researchers, as well as 10 graduate students from other institutions that are on joint degree programs. The department boasts an excellent record in supplying top talent for the astronomy community, examplified by the illustrious alumni: Jet Propulsion Laboratory chief scientist Jiang Hongtao, Prof. Li aigen of the University of Missouri, Prof. Li jing of the University of California Los Angeles, Prof. Li weidong (passed away) of the University of California Berkeley, ex-Dean of the National Time Service Center Guo ji, Party Secretary of the Yunnan Observatory Zhao shirong, Chair of the Xinglong base of the National Observatory Jiang xiaojun, Curator of Beijing Planetarium Zhi jin, Dean of the National Key Laboratory of Space Flight Dynamics Technology Tang geshi, Prof. Wu dejin of Purple Mountain Observatory, Prof. Chen yuqin of the National Observatory, Prof. Lu fangjun of the High Energy Physics Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Prof. Wang xiaofeng of Tsinghua University, and Prof. Peng yingjie of Peking University.