Chances at Astronomy Graduate School

ccj1
Posts: 24
Joined: Mon Dec 13, 2010 3:41 pm

Chances at Astronomy Graduate School

Postby ccj1 » Mon Dec 13, 2010 5:08 pm

I am posting some of my profile and inviting comments on what you think about my chances to Astronomy graduate school and the schools that I am looking to apply next year.

I have a B.S. in physics and a B.S. in Astronomy from Univ. of Arizona.
GPA: Astro: 4.0, Physics: 3.32, Overall: 3.65
I have 2.5 years of research in HEP, Spectroscopy, and computational modeling of stellar interiors.
One published paper in Jcomp and one in prep.
I have an advanced knowledge of programming in many laguages including MPI and high performance computing.
I did very well on my GREs, total: 1400, but I did poor on the pGRE: 550.

How will my poor pGRE hinder my chances?

I am looking to apply to the Astro PhD in the following schools and want to know what chances I have.

Top Picks:
1.UCSC
2.Hawaii
3.UC Boulder
4.Umass-Amherst
5.UT Austin
6.Indiana

Safeties:
1.SDSU (masters)
2.U Florida
3.Arizona State
4.New Mexico State Univ.

Any comments/criticisms?

Astro-K
Posts: 32
Joined: Sun Apr 11, 2010 11:37 pm

Re: Chances at Astronomy Graduate School

Postby Astro-K » Wed Dec 15, 2010 2:31 am

You and I actually have pretty similar profiles (I'm applying this year as well--my profile is posted on the 2011 sticky). My adviser suggested I don't waste my time applying to the super-high reach schools (Berkeley, UCSC, Arizona, etc.), but thought I had a good shot at most of the schools just below that tier. So, long story short, it sounds like you have a pretty good list of schools. Good luck to you!

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InquilineKea
Posts: 301
Joined: Sun Mar 21, 2010 9:07 pm

Re: Chances at Astronomy Graduate School

Postby InquilineKea » Fri Dec 24, 2010 8:38 pm

Wow I see. Do both of you have excellent programming skills? And do professors REALLY value them? There was a recent article about how poor programming was actually the main bottleneck to scientific research.

http://weareallinthegutter.wordpress.co ... ttlenecks/

ccj1
Posts: 24
Joined: Mon Dec 13, 2010 3:41 pm

Re: Chances at Astronomy Graduate School

Postby ccj1 » Sat Dec 25, 2010 3:41 pm

Since I am mainly interested in computational astrophysics, all I do is write/modify code. I will spend a good 5-6 hours a day on my laptop writing little functions or modules that may be useful in the future somewhere. Every single prgram description of a PhD that I have looked at includes some class like "Computational Physics" which usually teaches in a Java or Fortran. I have learned (and been using for a couple years now) mainly Fortran 77/90 every day. I also know Java, C/C++, Python, Matlab, Cocoa, and about 3 or 4 more that I am familiar with. Every prof. whom I have ever asked told me to learn a language or TWO and know how to compile them and execute them. This is also on top of knowing a bunch of UNIX/LINUX commands to navigate through your comp. What I am saying is that even if your are doing observational astronomy, there will be data collected and it will be analyzed with a comp. program that you yourself may have to write. So the best bet is to learn either Java, Fortran, or both. In my undegrad. (Univ. of Arizona) there is a lower level "intro to scientific computing", then another lower level comp. science class "Computer Programming in Java/Fortran", and then an upper division in the Phys./Astro Dept. called "Computational Physics" and all are required for the B.S. degree. Hope this helps a bit.

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InquilineKea
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Joined: Sun Mar 21, 2010 9:07 pm

Re: Chances at Astronomy Graduate School

Postby InquilineKea » Sat Dec 25, 2010 3:48 pm

Oh nice. How did you use high performance computing (and where did you learn it)? Would you mind if you PM me your personal statement? Thanks! =) I'd like to see it since I'm also really into the same field.

Does computational astrophysics seem to have lower or higher demand relative to other fields? Do you also have some CS courses?

And is Java even useful? Most scientists seem to look down on it since it's slow.

Are you going for generic computational astrophysics, or for a particular subfield within it? What do you think of N-body simulations?

astroaspirant
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Joined: Sat Dec 25, 2010 4:41 pm

Re: Chances at Astronomy Graduate School

Postby astroaspirant » Sat Dec 25, 2010 5:47 pm

Sorry for the thread hijacking. I'm in a similar situation as OP, except my credentials are substantially worse, so I thought this thread would be a good place to ask for evaluations.

I should mention that I'm in a bit of a weird situation. I did my Physics BS at a US university but I'm an international student, so I'm not sure if I need to get a 990 or if the admissions committee would be more lenient with me.

Undergrad Institution: Some Midwest State U
Research Experience: None, since a lot of NSF-funded REUs are not open for international students.
GPA: Overall: 3.488, Physics: 3.275
PGRE: 510
GRE: I haven't taken the general GRE yet, but I'm not too concerned with it.
Awards/Hons: Dean's List (haha)

It seems like I don't have much to offer. There's isn't a particular part of my application that shines or can help me make up for my low PGRE and lack of research experience. Does the personal statement even matter, or would it sound like I'm making up excuses if I try too hard to explain my circumstances there?

While I would like to get into places like Hawaii or Boulder, could I even realistically make it into OP's safety schools?

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InquilineKea
Posts: 301
Joined: Sun Mar 21, 2010 9:07 pm

Re: Chances at Astronomy Graduate School

Postby InquilineKea » Sat Dec 25, 2010 5:50 pm

Unfortunately, you have no chance at all *right now*. However, you could substantially increase your chances later. Do a gap year or two, and try to do volunteer research with a professor. And work REALLY hard on it. Show him that you really WANT to go to grad school. And take steps to retake the Physics GRE. It really isn't that hard to study for - try the resources on this site.

ccj1
Posts: 24
Joined: Mon Dec 13, 2010 3:41 pm

Re: Chances at Astronomy Graduate School

Postby ccj1 » Sat Dec 25, 2010 7:39 pm

Oh nice. How did you use high performance computing (and where did you learn it)? Would you mind if you PM me your personal statement? Thanks! =) I'd like to see it since I'm also really into the same field.

Does computational astrophysics seem to have lower or higher demand relative to other fields? Do you also have some CS courses?

And is Java even useful? Most scientists seem to look down on it since it's slow.

Are you going for generic computational astrophysics, or for a particular subfield within it? What do you think of N-body simulations?


I am using MPI (message passing interface) on a 12 core processor at the School to simulate metallicity of hydrogen and carbon monoxide in late-type brown dwarfs. I will PM you soon but since it is christmas I have a alot of fam in town and not enough time today to even be on the comp lol but I will answer a couple things. I am mainly interested in stellar astronomy and simulating stellar interiors. Eventually I will adapt my code to galactic structures since I am also interested galactic astronomy as well.

I have taken two Comp. Sci. classes (lower level) and I mainly learned the rest on my own. I did a year of HEP research using FLUKA which is a particle transport code and learned alot about UNIX and Fortran from there.

As for Java, it is slow and more useful in animation and graphics, whereas Fortran is essentially the primary language for numerical computations.

I will PM soon with a more detailed background.

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InquilineKea
Posts: 301
Joined: Sun Mar 21, 2010 9:07 pm

Re: Chances at Astronomy Graduate School

Postby InquilineKea » Sat Dec 25, 2010 7:47 pm

Wow, nice! :) Have a merry Christmas. :) I'll really look forward to your PM (I'm also extremely interested in your research - it sounds quite fascinating).




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