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 Post subject: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Tue May 06, 2008 6:52 pm 
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I made a ranking of Astronomy/Astrophysics graduate programs in the the US based on experience of finding out where to apply, applying, and then getting accepted, wait-listed, and rejected; then finally deciding and having afterthoughts. This is certainly not a definitive list, but should help future applicants. Plus, I am adding short notes about most of them.


Top 5, Broad Based Strengths:
1. Caltech - I know ppl with 3.5/830 and research experience getting in.
2. Harvard - Very large department; impersonal, arguably top.
3. Ohio State - Research from Day 1. Grads happy, get good jobs.
4. Berkeley - See note about UC schools.
5. UT-Austin - Has own observatory, good health insurance.


Next 5, Good Reputation:
6. Columbia - Makes living in NYC affordable with subsidized on-campus housing.
7. UCSC - See note about UC schools.
8. Cornell - Strong in theory and computation. Very cold in winter.
9. UCLA - See note about UC schools.
10. Yale - Friendly dept. Just a train ride away from NYC.


Strong in Specialty, Lacks Diversity in Astro Research:
Princeton - Theoretical Astrophysics. Not good for observational work.
Illinois-Urbana - Computational Astrophysics. Focused on courses not research.
Chicago - Cosmology. Kavli Inst.
Arizona - Instrumentation. Good pay.
Hawaii - Observation. Big pay (30k). Islands/town/no-life.
MIT - Planetary Sciences. Doesn't have Astro dept/program though.


Top Safety Schools, worth going to:
Michigan - Good Physics faculty.
Colorado - Earth and Planetary Sci strong.
Penn State - No application fee.
UW-Seattle - Depends on who you work with.
Maryland (UMD) - NASA-GSFC and STSci nearby.
Florida-Gainsville (UFL) - Has money problem.
UW-Madison - Decision on May 2 !!!


Joint Programs, Physics Dept. with Astro Strength:
NYU - Strong in Cosmology. Live in downtown Manhattan.
UPenn - Live in Philly. TA Ivy students.
UCSB - See note about UC schools
UCSD - See note about UC schools
Vanderbilt - No application fee.


Notes:

1. About UC Schools: The UC schools hire tons of grad students to use as TA, only to chop off most of them with a Masters. Unless you have commitment from a faculty member that you will be funded after the first 2 years, be careful when deciding. They have a ridiculously low international to domestic students ratio and their bureaucratic mess is notorious. However, on the upside, you have access to most of the world's best telescopes and many reputed faculty.

2. Princeton has recently lifted their strict 4-year finishing line requirement amidst burn-out cases. They are top for theory by any measure, and have just poached Burrows from Arizona.

3. OSU has very good faculty members in each Astro sub-field and they really care for their graduate students' research. Most students have their first publication in the first year.

4. At UT-Austin the grad students get almost unlimited access to the McDonald observatory ran by Austin. However, their observatory is now aging, as are majority of the faculty members.

5. Columbia, Cornell, Yale, and UPenn have strong departments with rich and diverse faculty along with Ivy league brand value. They pay generously as well. Certainly worth considering.

6. Arizona's instrumentalists are the best in their business but they don't observe. Since Burrows left and Arnett retired, their theory has snagged too. Good pay for a small town though.

7. Go to UIUC if you know for sure that you want to do Computational Astrophysics, and that you perform better in a classroom than out of it. Good for international students finishing college abroad.

8. In Michigan and Chicago, the Astro and Physics grad programs have a similar track, which is a positive for students looking for grad level pure-physics classes in a Astro program.

9. Penn State and Vanderbilt do not have any application fee. So these are great picks as safety schools, specially if you have application fee headaches.

10. I have listed only a fraction of all Astro graduate programs here. A fuller list can be seen here -
http://www.astro.umass.edu/~arny/astro_gradprogs.html

For detailed statistics on program size, recent incoming class sizes, number of international students in program etc. information, please see -
http://www.aip.org/statistics/trends/re ... strost.pdf
http://www.aip.org/statistics/trends/ar ... rorost.htm


Last edited by shouravv on Sun Mar 01, 2009 10:35 pm, edited 18 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 3:52 am 
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Hi
thanks for all the info!!
where will u be going??


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 6:05 am 
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I am an undergrad at UT Austin and am currently doing research with one of the astronomy faculty. Overall I have had a great relationship with all my ast professors and have found them quite engaging and personal, despite the fact that they are getting on in age. The observatory has made advancements in the last half-decade and is doing collaborative work with several prestigious schools, not to mention it has the fifth largest telescope in the world. I have talked to quite a few grad students and not one of them have regretted coming here. My advice would be to come if you have been accepted and not to apply next year(thats when I am applying hehe)


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 3:29 pm 
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That's a great list, i'm sure future applicants would like to see it, although there are some schools for which I'd tweak them lower or higher =) (UW seattle going higher-- their grads this year (three) are each going for postdoc work at Harvard, Berkeley and Caltech) and Berkeley dropping a bit (their retention rate and overall happiness is horrible, in addition to the terrible lack of funding for international students)

But after all the visits are said and done, and all the decisions have been made, I can't help but think that it really comes down to where you see yourself doing good work, and being happy. That's how I made my decision =).


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 4:17 pm 
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@littlemonster -
Could not agree more. It always comes down to the the feel factor. Visiting a place and trying to answer this question to oneself: "Do I see myself working here for years to come? How do I feel about imagining that?" is the biggest issue that comes into play at the end, not any ranking.


Last edited by shouravv on Wed May 07, 2008 6:36 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 4:38 pm 
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lol I didn't think you were being disrespectful or anything. Personally I didn't think UT deserved to be as high on your list as it was. I just didn't want the illusion of aging faculty and equitment to be as big a deterent as it might be. In the end you gotta pick whats best for you.


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2008 1:58 am 
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thanks for the list! your comments are very useful.
I'm surprise U Chicago is not in the top list though, but i don't know. I'll have to do a lot more research before i apply next year.
I think Ohio State is a very good school for astronomy. But i've been having a problem imagining living in Ohio for many more years.
Eventhough Columbus is great, i can't wait to get away from Ohio after being here for 4 years.
I'm just so depress with the long winter and weird weather here.

I'm planning to apply to UT Austin next year! i really like the campus, Sorry FORTRAN :) guess we'll have to battle it out!


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2008 9:02 am 
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Ha; I grew up in Ohio and then moved to Florida for my undergrad, then couldn't wait to get the hell out of Florida, even if it meant coming back to Ohio.


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2008 1:17 pm 
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@Ren

Both Austin and Chicago are good places to be in. You'll see that I put Chicago and Michigan among top joint-programs.

Just to note: this year Austin lost 4 recruits while Chicago and Michigan each lost 1 to Ohio State.

However, it is very much about individual taste. If sunny weather is very important to someone then Caltech, Berkeley, Austin, Arizona, Hawaii, or Florida will make better picks than Harvard, MIT, Ohio, Illinois, Chicago, or Cornell.


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2008 3:00 pm 
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Why is Chicago in the "top joint" programs??
They have a separate Astronomy and Astrophysics Department...

I would definitely put them in "top in specialty" for cosmology. They have a lot of people working on that, and they have the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics.

Also, I'm not sure about this... but doesn't Michigan also have a separate Astronomy and Astrophysics department?


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2008 4:55 pm 
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GCS wrote:
Why is Chicago in the "top joint" programs??
They have a separate Astronomy and Astrophysics Department...

I would definitely put them in "top in specialty" for cosmology. They have a lot of people working on that, and they have the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics.


I have moved Chicago to top-specialty.

Quote:
Also, I'm not sure about this... but doesn't Michigan also have a separate Astronomy and Astrophysics department?


I have moved Michigan to top safety. The point is, at Michigan and Chicago, the Astro grad programs share a similar course track with Physics. But yes, it was a mistake to put them as joint programs. Good catch.

Also, I am adding a few links on where people can find info about more programs.


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Sat May 10, 2008 3:17 pm 
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Thanks shouravv for a nice post. So your top 5 -

1. Harvard - Very large department; impersonal, but undoubtedly top.
2. Caltech - I know ppl with 3.5/830 and research exp getting in.
3. Berkeley - See note about UC schools.
4. Ohio State - Salary not tied with who you work for. Grads get good jobs.
5. UT-Austin - Has own observatory, good health insurance, wow weather.

What is the average GRE and GPA of accepted students of these schools?


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 12:03 am 
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http://www.gradschoolshopper.com go see for yourself.


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 12:17 am 
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SuperStringBoy wrote:
Thanks shouravv for a nice post. So your top 5 -

1. Harvard - Very large department; impersonal, but undoubtedly top.
2. Caltech - I know ppl with 3.5/830 and research exp getting in.
3. Berkeley - See note about UC schools.
4. Ohio State - Salary not tied with who you work for. Grads get good jobs.
5. UT-Austin - Has own observatory, good health insurance, wow weather.

What is the average GRE and GPA of accepted students of these schools?

I think a fair rule of thumb when applying to top schools is that if you have to ask, you probably can't get in.


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 4:01 pm 
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megatron wrote:
SuperStringBoy wrote:
What is the average GRE and GPA of accepted students of these schools?

I think a fair rule of thumb when applying to top schools is that if you have to ask, you probably can't get in.

not true.


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Wed May 14, 2008 4:32 pm 
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SuperStringBoy wrote:
So your top 5 -
....
What is the average GRE and GPA of accepted students of these schools?


You can visit individual dept. pages to find the info, but only a few schools post that. Moreover, this information is practically useless. There are so many factors - research experience, recommendation letters, personal statement, impression (if you visit / meet), grades/scores - that only the grades/scores say very little.

For example, I have a friend who visited Caltech Astro before applying, and they said that most students come in with a >=3.8 and 890+. My friend had 3.5 and 830, but he still got in with the first wave of acceptances. I know about another guy who got into Harvard with ~770. Both had excellent research background, good letters etc. So don't depend on grades and scores too much.


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Wed May 14, 2008 5:48 pm 
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shouravv wrote:
SuperStringBoy wrote:
So your top 5 -
....
What is the average GRE and GPA of accepted students of these schools?


You can visit individual dept. pages to find the info, but only a few schools post that. Moreover, this information is practically useless. There are so many factors - research experience, recommendation letters, personal statement, impression (if you visit / meet), grades/scores - that only the grades/scores say very little.

For example, I have a friend who visited Caltech Astro before applying, and they said that most students come in with a >=3.8 and 890+. My friend had 3.5 and 830, but he still got in with the first wave of acceptances. I know about another guy who got into Harvard with ~770. Both had excellent research background, good letters etc. So don't depend on grades and scores too much.

Thanks.


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Thu May 15, 2008 2:25 am 
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Going along with some of the sentiments expressed in this thread: the only way to be admitted to a top school (in any field) is with a solid, well-rounded application. A perfect GPA and GRE would help, but is far from necessary. Most students admitted to the coveted "top ranked" schools have strong GPA's and GRE's, but stand out based on their research experiences and letters of recommendations. To quote Caltech's Astronomy's Website:

"Everything you send is important; one or two outstanding items can outweigh several poor ones in our decisions. We look at any research work you may have done, your publications if you have any, letters of recommendation, your GRE scores, courses taken, grades, and your essay statement of purpose. Despite the limitations of standardized exams, your GRE scores (General and preferably Physics) are important."

There is no hard and fast cutoff for GPA's or GRE's, and your application will be fully considered if it is reasonably competitive. If you can afford the application fee and you think you have a shot at getting in, then I encourage you to apply. Admission standards change year to year, and no one on this website can tell you with any sort of certainty if you do or do not have a chance at getting into any given school.


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Sat May 17, 2008 11:31 am 
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Which are the best places for theoretical astrophysics?


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 9:55 am 
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SuperStringBoy wrote:
Which are the best places for theoretical astrophysics?


Top: Princeton. Or, Illinois-Urbana if you mean Computational (Theoretical) Astrophysics. Check out OSU, UT-Austin, and Cornell as well.


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Sat May 24, 2008 2:49 am 
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Do you know Avg GRE and GPA of accepted students at Penn State,Illinois-Urbana and cornell ?
I am an international student.
I am specially interested in Gravitational Astrophysics and numerical relativity(simulations).


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Sat May 24, 2008 6:02 am 
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SuperStringBoy wrote:
Do you know Avg GRE and GPA of accepted students at Penn State,Illinois-Urbana and cornell ?
I am an international student.
I am specially interested in Gravitational Astrophysics and numerical relativity(simulations).


Sorry to say this, but you are incredibly obnoxious. Just unbelievable. You keep asking questions that people on this forum have already answered for you. For example, grae313 already pointed you to http://www.gradschoolshopper.com in this thread viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1044. So, you either want to bug everyone or you have serious problems extracting relevant information from what you read.

I am also an international student, but come on, you can't ask people to do your homework for you. The kind of questions that you are asking can be easily answered by yourself with a bit of effort. If you aren't even willing to do so, you should definitely reconsider going for a PhD in physics.


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2008 3:04 pm 
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Wow, this is a great thread for anyone applying to astronomy, thanks a lot!

For some reason I would have thought there were more than 65 schools offering PHDs in Astronomy.


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
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Cool indeed!

Is there a similar ranking for physics and/or applied physics on this forum? I've looked, but no luck for me. Anyone? :)

-Maxwell's Demon


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Tue Jul 01, 2008 2:15 pm 
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astrofan wrote:
For some reason I would have thought there were more than 65 schools offering PHDs in Astronomy.


There are 75 schools that offer Astro degrees. Only 34 of them have PhD programs while others only offer Bachelors or Masters degrees. 38 of these are independent departments and 37 are combined with Physics. These are surprisingly small numbers compared to the numbers for Physics programs (760 total, 187 offering doctorates), but that's because Physics in general is a more diverse field of research with potential direct "real-life" applications.

Please be assured that Astronomers and Astrophysicists generally have no worse job prospect than Physicists despite the relatively smaller size of their field, and often Astro people are better paid. Each year there are over 3000 Physics PhDs granted in the US compared to around 200 Astro PhDs. Astro jobs are more spread-out around the world with Telescopes generally situated off-campus and most colleges worldwide offering Astro courses to undergrads even if they don't have a full fledged Astro grad program.

Just a tidbit: a typical Physics post-doc nowadays gets USD 40k+ (NSF fellowship standard) while an Astro post-doc gets USD 60k+ (NASA fellowship standard). As schools compete for hiring the best ones, they try to top up the govt grants to lure the fellowship winners into taking a better paid position. Thus, Astronomers usually end up with more bucks. I even know about one person who recently turned down a position at Harvard Smithsonian with fellowships attached in favor of a post-doc position in Vanderbilt ...


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
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Interesting, from the umass webpage you linked, I count 75 schools on the list and only 10 of them don't give PHDs in astronomy. I don't understand the process. For example, I know for a fact that Brown University takes students to study astronomy for graduate school; even grad school shopper says they have a few astronomy grad students. However, AIP and the umass website don't list Brown. I don't understand; do they just call the astronomy degree a "physics" degree and thus don't count it as awarding a PHD in astronomy? Same goes for a few of the UC schools that seem to have significant astronomy/cosmology programs, but are not listed as awarding a degree in astronomy.


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
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astrofan wrote:
Interesting, from the umass webpage you linked, I count 75 schools on the list and only 10 of them don't give PHDs in astronomy. I don't understand the process. For example, I know for a fact that Brown University takes students to study astronomy for graduate school; even grad school shopper says they have a few astronomy grad students. However, AIP and the umass website don't list Brown. I don't understand; do they just call the astronomy degree a "physics" degree and thus don't count it as awarding a PHD in astronomy? Same goes for a few of the UC schools that seem to have significant astronomy/cosmology programs, but are not listed as awarding a degree in astronomy.


It's just semantics. I think most schools give a doctorate in Physics, with your field of interest as Astrophysics. It's just a difference in the names on your diploma. It's an interesting distinction between "astronomy" and "astrophysics":

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astronomy# ... physics.22


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
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christopher3.14 wrote:
astrofan wrote:
Interesting, from the umass webpage you linked, I count 75 schools on the list and only 10 of them don't give PHDs in astronomy. I don't understand the process. For example, I know for a fact that Brown University takes students to study astronomy for graduate school; even grad school shopper says they have a few astronomy grad students. However, AIP and the umass website don't list Brown. I don't understand; do they just call the astronomy degree a "physics" degree and thus don't count it as awarding a PHD in astronomy? Same goes for a few of the UC schools that seem to have significant astronomy/cosmology programs, but are not listed as awarding a degree in astronomy.


It's just semantics. I think most schools give a doctorate in Physics, with your field of interest as Astrophysics. It's just a difference in the names on your diploma. It's an interesting distinction between "astronomy" and "astrophysics":

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astronomy# ... physics.22


Yeah, but it is an important point. I was just trying to point out that you can't just use the AIP listing to determine if a school offers a PHD in the field (of astronomy or astrophysics).


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
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astrofan wrote:
Yeah, but it is an important point. I was just trying to point out that you can't just use the AIP listing to determine if a school offers a PHD in the field (of astronomy or astrophysics).


I guess that the obvious point is that if you know what you want to do and who you want to work for, then as long as you get to do the research you want to do with the faculty you want to work with, you should not care whether it is called a Physics or Astrophysics or Astronomy PhD program.

However, in case you are not that predetermined, then while making a short list or deciding which offer to accept, you can't ignore that Astronomy or Astrophysics programs can offer a lot more customized advantages than a Physics PhD program in terms of observatory access, mentoring and general departmental focus. If you are doing Astro research in a Physics department, then you will most probably be just part of yet another research group in a large department.

For a "fuller" list of places that offer Astronomy or Astrophysics research, regardless of if they call it a Physics or Astro PhD program, try the following two links. They give you the department details in PDF format which can be very informative once you have narrowed down your search.

http://www.gradschoolshopper.com/gpb_se ... it2=submit

http://www.gradschoolshopper.com/gpb_se ... it2=submit


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Wed Oct 22, 2008 1:56 pm 
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wow, is OSU really that prestigious? I'm interesting in transiting extrasolar planets, so I figured OSU might be perfect for me and was on my top 2 schools that I was hoping to get into (Boston U was the other), but I know I couldn't get into a top 5 school (based primarily on how I'm guessing I did on the PGRE). I assumed, based on the US News and World Report rankings for their physics dept that the astron would be comparable, which is still decent, but more like in the top 50 than the top 5. Now I wonder if I really stand a chance if their reputation is really that stellar to rank up with schools like caltech. :(


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
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gliese876d wrote:
wow, is OSU really that prestigious? I'm interesting in transiting extrasolar planets, so I figured OSU might be perfect for me and was on my top 2 schools that I was hoping to get into (Boston U was the other), but I know I couldn't get into a top 5 school (based primarily on how I'm guessing I did on the PGRE). I assumed, based on the US News and World Report rankings for their physics dept that the astron would be comparable, which is still decent, but more like in the top 50 than the top 5. Now I wonder if I really stand a chance if their reputation is really that stellar to rank up with schools like caltech. :(


do it like me.... apply for physics and than try to switch to astro :D


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
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gliese876d wrote:
wow, is OSU really that prestigious? I'm interesting in transiting extrasolar planets, so I figured OSU might be perfect for me and was on my top 2 schools that I was hoping to get into (Boston U was the other), but I know I couldn't get into a top 5 school (based primarily on how I'm guessing I did on the PGRE). I assumed, based on the US News and World Report rankings for their physics dept that the astron would be comparable, which is still decent, but more like in the top 50 than the top 5. Now I wonder if I really stand a chance if their reputation is really that stellar to rank up with schools like caltech. :(


Great to see someone else interested in extrasolar planets on this board! :D

Shouravv did a great job here of making a list of astro rankings based on his experience, but they are still his personal opinions. Personally, I agree with him on most of them, with Ohio State being an exception. I think that they have an exceptional department, but I don't know if I would put it on the top 5 category. For example, the NRC rankings put Ohio State at around #27 and Penn State around #28. These are two schools that shouravv considered to be top 5 and a safety school, respectively.

So my point is, these rankings are just one person's opinion, so don't let that dictate where you apply....instead, do more research, ask other people, look at other rankings, etc...shouravv's rankings are simply a great place to start thinking about which grad schools would be a good fit for you.


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Thu Oct 23, 2008 6:30 pm 
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If anyone has questions about Penn State, I'm an undergrad there now. They actually never make you pay the application fee (they do a shady deal where you submit applications directly to them, and then they only send the ones they accept to the graduate school, along with department $ for the fee).

I'd say PSU's strengths are in relativity, particle astro, high energy astro, and astrobio (there's a separate astrobio grad program, but you can work on it from the astro department). If you're interested in GRBs, it's definitely worthwhile to apply, since the Swift mission control center is here. We have a lot of people working on x-ray too; the xrt on Chandra was built by people here. GR and particle overlap with the physics department, but bonuses are partnerships with the Auger Observatory (cosmic rays) and IceCube (neutrinos), plus lots of work with LIGO. For extrasolar planet people, PSU just opened a "Center for Habitable Worlds", and they'll probably bring in 1-2 new big name people by the beginning of next year.

Harvard I wouldn't rank #1... It is highly impersonal, because there are 1000 people working at the CfA in total. When I was there, I got the impression it was too big to go to for grad school, but probably great for a post-doc. Grad students said they didn't like taking classes either. I think the name gives the degree extra worth than it deserves.

OSU is pretty good (although I feel like a traitor for saying that since I'm going to watch us crush them in football tomorrow). They're certainly working their way up the perceived rankings from the professors I've talked to.


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 Post subject: rankings
PostPosted: Thu Oct 23, 2008 7:31 pm 
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<.>


Last edited by physicsdude on Sun Nov 16, 2008 11:43 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Wed Oct 29, 2008 1:27 pm 
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coconut wrote:
Shouravv did a great job here of making a list of astro rankings based on his experience, but they are still his personal opinions. ... NRC rankings put Ohio State at around #27 and Penn State around #28.

I definitely will stress that this ranking is based very much on my personal experience, plus asking around my undergrad friends and other grad students I met in conferences and observatories. So, of course this is not definitive and please use your own judgment based on your situation. As for the NRC ranking, it's totally outdated (from 1995). But the next ranking comes out in 3 months. Please keep an eye on -

http://sites.nationalacademies.org/pga/ ... PGA_044475

gliese876d wrote:
wow, is OSU really that prestigious? I'm interesting in transiting extrasolar planets ...(

Low pGRE score is very easily overcome with research experience in case of most schools. As for OSU Astronomy, I heard that they accept students primarily based on research experience and publications. So probably OSU Astronomy is your "best bet", aka. as good as it gets for you, specially since they are superb in planets. But again, do your own math when you have to decide.

Helio wrote:
do it like me.... apply for physics and than try to switch to astro :D

I wouldn't do that. It's highly unlikely to happen, since OSU Physics is not in the same league as their Astro. But well, Helio is there and he might know better ...


Last edited by shouravv on Thu Oct 30, 2008 12:01 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Wed Oct 29, 2008 4:08 pm 
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Hi, I am a prospective Astronony PhD student at Rice University in Houston, TX, US. I do not have prior background in Physics except that I graduated as a Marine Engineer in 2002 from an Indian university. Following that I studied MBA in US and worked on wallstreet for 2 years. I am new to Physics, and would really appreciate if someone could advice me on what Junior/Sophomore level pre-requisites do I need to take to ace my Physics GRE. I am good analytically.

Also, this may be a little 'off the charts', but just out of curiosity, is there any school out there that may have made some efforts for combined study of Astronomy with some aspects of Astrology. I appreciate your time.


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Thu Oct 30, 2008 12:39 am 
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gjoshi81 wrote:
Also, this may be a little 'off the charts', but just out of curiosity, is there any school out there that may have made some efforts for combined study of Astronomy with some aspects of Astrology. I appreciate your time.


Most research universities have Astrology departments. Usually they are located next to the following departments: Tarot Card Reading, Acupuncture, Chiropractic, Creation Sciences, Atlantis Archaeology, and Paranormal Psychology. Typically all these departments are housed in the College of Woo.


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 1:45 pm 
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thanks fermiboy, r u a physics grad student? do u think I am taking too long a shot to pursue PhD in Astronomy with the kind of backgrund I have? I want to combine Astronomy and Astrology in the long-term as a personal research subject, however I do want to undersstand Space Physics, and thus a PhD in Astronomy! A sincere thanks for your help


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2008 11:17 am 
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fermiboy wrote:
gjoshi81 wrote:
Also, this may be a little 'off the charts', but just out of curiosity, is there any school out there that may have made some efforts for combined study of Astronomy with some aspects of Astrology. I appreciate your time.


Most research universities have Astrology departments. Usually they are located next to the following departments: Tarot Card Reading, Acupuncture, Chiropractic, Creation Sciences, Atlantis Archaeology, and Paranormal Psychology. Typically all these departments are housed in the College of Woo.




HAHAHA :lol:


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 11:10 am 
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I know this is slightly off topic, but what, generally, is a "good enough" PGRE score for American observational astrophysics applicants? I have always thought it was around 650, but that was more of a guess on my part (Obviously, I would expect the cut off to be much higher for physics/cosmology programs).

Penn State is listed as top safety school on this list, and they say 640. Cornell, 8th ranked school on this list (a little to high in my opinion, but still a good school), says 600. Then, Yale (again, I think they are ranked to high) gives the range of accepted scores as low as 590! So, I would really like to know what is to low a PGRE score for admission to these schools.


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 12:20 pm 
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astrofan wrote:
I know this is slightly off topic, but what, generally, is a "good enough" PGRE score for American observational astrophysics applicants? I have always thought it was around 650, but that was more of a guess on my part (Obviously, I would expect the cut off to be much higher for physics/cosmology programs).

Penn State is listed as top safety school on this list, and they say 640. Cornell, 8th ranked school on this list (a little to high in my opinion, but still a good school), says 600. Then, Yale (again, I think they are ranked to high) gives the range of accepted scores as low as 590! So, I would really like to know what is to low a PGRE score for admission to these schools.


I actually was wondering the same thing.... particularly for domestic and female applicants. I read somewhere that only 10% of these applicants have above a 700 on the PGRE... and in astronomy it counts even less. I wonder if a 650 or so would suffice for getting in to a top ten astro dept (with research experience and a decent gpa and letters of course).


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 2:28 pm 
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@astrofan: PennState recommends 680 on the subject test (at least thats what it says on their website)


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 2:48 pm 
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kaffeejunkee wrote:
@astrofan: PennState recommends 680 on the subject test (at least thats what it says on their website)


Yeah, gradschoolshopper says 640 on their pdf of Penn St Astronomy, but I know their website says differently. I cited shopper because it is probably more recent (gives the 2008 stats; not sure when the PSU website had been changed), and everything else I cited came from shopper. Still, Yale and Cornell confuse me; both because thier cutoffs are so low and that they actually STATE their cutoffs (I figured it was some sort of snobby gesture; the other elite schools are too classy to disclose information that would save you $50-$100 and hours of work). The other top 5 schools don't, at least I didn't see the numbers; maybe I didn't look close enough.


Perhaps its a way they can distance themselves from the exam. In my experience in physics/astro, most people in the field do not think the exam is very representitive of mastery of undergraduate physics than do. This way they can claim to any applicant that asks that the PGRE did not keep them out.


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 5:47 pm 
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with regard to penn state, don't worry too much about gre scores. people have gotten in with gre scores in the 30-somethingith percentile; they just need their application to be convincing otherwise. not to say that that's a standard score...

and astrology... if you actually believe in it, you're not cut out for astro grad school. every professor will laugh in your face when you tell them about your research goals.


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 6:31 pm 
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astrofan wrote:
I know this is slightly off topic, but what, generally, is a "good enough" PGRE score for American observational astrophysics applicants? I have always thought it was around 650, but that was more of a guess on my part (Obviously, I would expect the cut off to be much higher for physics/cosmology programs).


Don't have a breakdown for observational vs theoretical, but the average scores I was able to find for astro departments were:

Berkeley: 810
Colorado: 720
Cornell: 740

The averages for domestic applicants are lower, and I imagine the averages for observational are also lower. How much lower, I have no idea.


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 3:57 pm 
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I don't know if you guys have seen this, but here are some astronomy rankings from a recent study:

The Science Impact of Astronomy PhD Granting Departments in the United States
Authors: Anne L. Kinney
(Submitted on 3 Nov 2008)

Abstract: The scientific impact of the research of 36 astronomy PhD granting departments is measured and ranked here. Because of the complex nature of Universities, this study looks at the Universities in two ways; first analyzing the impact of the published work over a 10 year period of the Department which grants the PhD and; second, looking at the impact of the published work as a whole including Laboratories, Centers, and Facilities. The Universities considered in the study are drawn from the 1992 NRC study on Programs of Research, Doctorate in Astrophysics and Astronomy with three Universities added. Johns Hopkins, Michigan State, and Northwestern all host substantial astronomical research within their Departments of Physics and Astronomy and so are included here. The first method of measuring impact concentrates on tenured and tenured track faculty, with the top quartile being 1. Caltech, 2. UC Santa Cruz, 3. Princeton, 4. Harvard, 5. U Colorado, Boulder, 6. SUNY, Stony Brook, 7. Johns Hopkins, 8. Penn State, and 9. U Michigan, Ann Arbor. The second method additionally includes "soft money" scientists in research and adjunct faculty positions, with the top quartile being 1. UC Santa Cruz, 2. Princeton, 3. Johns Hopkins 4. Penn State, 5. SUNY Stony Brook, 6. U Michigan, Ann Arbor, 7. New Mexico State, 8. UMass, Amherst, and 9. U Virginia. Both methods reveal important aspects of Universities, representing both the depth and the breadth of the science available at the University. Finally, a comparison is made of the total articles published in the 10 year period, both from the departments alone and from the larger universities. Three Universities have both impact index in the top quartile, and have more than 1000 publications in a decade; UC at Santa Cruz, Princeton, and Johns Hopkins.

You can find the full paper here:
http://arxiv.org/abs/0811.0311


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 2:19 pm 
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coconut wrote:
I don't know if you guys have seen this, but here are some astronomy rankings from a recent study:
The Science Impact of Astronomy PhD Granting Departments in the United States
Authors: Anne L. Kinney
(Submitted on 3 Nov 2008)

That is the biggest piece of c**p that came out ever: HONESTLY.

The author uses "ISI knowledge website" instead of ADS or Astro-PH database, searches only for papers that states affiliation explicitly in the journal listing rather than for papers by individual faculty in the departments, ignores grad-student publications (!!!), chooses an arbitrary 10 year period ending at 2002, and then uses a scaling that discriminates against having more faculty members!

As for the scaling used, just for example, if Caltech only keeps Kulkarni and fires everyone else, and similarly if OSU only keeps Weinberg and fires everyone else, then they would be ranked equal. And regarding the papers search, let's take Princeton just as an example. According to this article, SUNY Stony Brook had more papers than Princeton, and UC Santa Cruz and Johns Hopkins both individually outdoes Princeton in publication 5:1 !!! What the F***? I can recall 5 Princeton faculty members from the top of my head whose ADS entries together has >400 pubs in those 10 years, and Princeton does not have just 5 faculty and no one else.

In fact, an Astronomer I happen to have met recently at a colloquium asked the author wondering why didn't she search by individual faculty name of each department and use ADS/astro-ph instead, and the author replied to the line of something as "that would be too much work ... why not you do it yourself if you care so much?"

Bottom line: just because something is on Astro-Ph (other than real journal publications) or just because something is on PhysicsGRE (like my first post here) does not make them reasonable. Please apply common sense and judgment when reading stuffs appearing online.


Last edited by shouravv on Tue Nov 18, 2008 11:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 7:02 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 8:18 pm 
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shouravv wrote:
That is the biggest piece of c**p that came out ever: HONESTLY.


Wow, sorry I didn't mean to get you all riled up. Just sharing something that one of my former research mentors e-mailed me, and wondering what other people thought of these rankings.


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 Post subject: Re: Astronomy / Astrophysics Graduate Program Ranking etc.
PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 10:58 pm 
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physicsdude wrote:
I am not quite clear about one point you made, about Caltech keeping one guy etc.?

The scaling used by the author is a function of the number of faculty members, publications, and citations in such a way that -

a. Fewer publications with higher citation is BETTER than higher number of publications with high citations, and
b. Having fewer very senior faculty members is BETTER than having higher number of faculty of all age groups.

So, if you consider only the star faculty member of a reputable department who is older and has had many citations over the years, then that department's ranking would be very high. But, the same department would do poorly if you include younger faculty members who are very productive right now but who have fewer accumulated citations simply because they are younger. Thus, Caltech's Kulkarni or OSU's Weinberg (and so on ...) alone can put their department to the top (rightly or wrongly) using this paper's method, but the institution with younger recent hires will drop down.

But NONE of this even matter: the author was simply too lazy to do her research, and messed up her publications and citations count.


Last edited by shouravv on Thu Nov 20, 2008 12:44 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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