Astronomy School Search

uhurulol
Posts: 79
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2014 12:38 am

Astronomy School Search

Postby uhurulol » Sat Nov 01, 2014 2:10 am

*Updated 11/8*

Hi everyone.

I'm finalizing my school list now, and I've decided on primarily Astronomy programs that do research on exoplanets. My secondary interests are extragalactic/cosmological astro and high energy astro, so if there are schools that have more than one of those, that's a plus. Here's my current list:


Reach:
University of Hawaii
Colorado, Boulder
University of Michigan
University of Arizona


Optimistic:
Boston University
New Mexico State
University of Maryland
Georgia State
U Delaware
Clemson
U Texas, Austin
U Va
Ohio State
U Florida
SUNY SB


Possible Reach:
University of Washington
UCLA

Any decent schools I'm overlooking? I'm not looking to apply to any schools that are more difficult to get into, so please let me know if any of the ones I listed are. Thanks everyone!
Last edited by uhurulol on Sat Nov 08, 2014 4:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Catria
Posts: 353
Joined: Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:14 pm

Re: Astronomy School Search

Postby Catria » Sat Nov 01, 2014 10:42 am

For anyone needing to see credentials beforehand...

viewtopic.php?f=24&t=5710&p=47659#p47659

TakeruK
Posts: 812
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Astronomy School Search

Postby TakeruK » Sat Nov 01, 2014 12:28 pm

This is my field :)

I think you've listed decent schools here. Just remember that at some places, you can do exoplanets in both the Planetary Science department as well as the Astronomy department.

One other suggestion I might make is US Santa Cruz.

Also, if you want to work on the observational/instrumentation side, you would probably want to go to places with access to telescopes. So, one thing you should do when checking out these programs is to talk to people about how much access do grad students get to telescopes (either directly or through their advisor).

bfollinprm
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Astronomy School Search

Postby bfollinprm » Sat Nov 01, 2014 1:16 pm

I agree with Takeruk. It's infinitely easier to get good research data in astronomy if the school or group has direct access to a private (not NSF run) observatory, e.g. the Universities of California and Keck. The NSF nights on these telescopes are massively oversubscribed.

uhurulol
Posts: 79
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2014 12:38 am

Re: Astronomy School Search

Postby uhurulol » Sat Nov 01, 2014 1:24 pm

TakeruK wrote:This is my field :)

I think you've listed decent schools here. Just remember that at some places, you can do exoplanets in both the Planetary Science department as well as the Astronomy department.

One other suggestion I might make is US Santa Cruz.

Also, if you want to work on the observational/instrumentation side, you would probably want to go to places with access to telescopes. So, one thing you should do when checking out these programs is to talk to people about how much access do grad students get to telescopes (either directly or through their advisor).


Truthfully I'm not interested in Earth Science schools. I looked up the course track at UCSC and it's very different from the ones I wish to apply to. I want to do exoplanet research, yes, but I also want to learn about galaxies and high energy astro. So the schools I've listed above apply to both =D

DivineHorseCloud
Posts: 16
Joined: Sun Jul 06, 2014 10:07 pm

Re: Astronomy School Search

Postby DivineHorseCloud » Sat Nov 01, 2014 2:01 pm

I know you're not looking for -very- selective schools, but you already have Arizona, Washington, UCLA and Michigan on your list... Isn't Arizona one of the top ~3 schools for planets?

Anyway, maybe look into Penn State, Ohio, Yale, Florida, UVa?

uhurulol
Posts: 79
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2014 12:38 am

Re: Astronomy School Search

Postby uhurulol » Sat Nov 01, 2014 2:18 pm

DivineHorseCloud wrote:I know you're not looking for -very- selective schools, but you already have Arizona, Washington, UCLA and Michigan on your list... Isn't Arizona one of the top ~3 schools for planets?

Anyway, maybe look into Penn State, Ohio, Yale, Florida, UVa?


Yeah I know they're quite selective, which is why I don't want any more "reach" schools.

I just looked up U Toronto... anyone have any information on Canadian schools? Are they harder/easier to get into for Americans? Any reason not to apply? Seems like a good program.

bfollinprm
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Astronomy School Search

Postby bfollinprm » Sat Nov 01, 2014 5:57 pm

It's been my experience that the course offerings have had next to no impact on the directions of my studies--that's not really what a PhD is for. Obviously UCSC has high energy and galactic astronomers.

uhurulol wrote:Truthfully I'm not interested in Earth Science schools. I looked up the course track at UCSC and it's very different from the ones I wish to apply to. I want to do exoplanet research, yes, but I also want to learn about galaxies and high energy astro. So the schools I've listed above apply to both =D

DivineHorseCloud
Posts: 16
Joined: Sun Jul 06, 2014 10:07 pm

Re: Astronomy School Search

Postby DivineHorseCloud » Sat Nov 01, 2014 7:55 pm

uhurulol wrote:
DivineHorseCloud wrote:I know you're not looking for -very- selective schools, but you already have Arizona, Washington, UCLA and Michigan on your list... Isn't Arizona one of the top ~3 schools for planets?

Anyway, maybe look into Penn State, Ohio, Yale, Florida, UVa?


Yeah I know they're quite selective, which is why I don't want any more "reach" schools.

I just looked up U Toronto... anyone have any information on Canadian schools? Are they harder/easier to get into for Americans? Any reason not to apply? Seems like a good program.


I heard Toronto can be quite hard to get in for non-Canadian students... Apparently they have funding issues for non-domestic? But don't let me discourage you, I don't really know anything about Canadian programs. :D

I heard from my prof that Toronto is very strong in astrophysical theory because of CITA, and also they made several new hires in exoplanets, all of them theorists. I was going to apply there but then he told me about the funding issues he heard about.

TakeruK
Posts: 812
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Astronomy School Search

Postby TakeruK » Sat Nov 01, 2014 8:21 pm

In both Canada and the US, it is harder for international students to get in than domestic students because of the difference in cost to the department. That is, in both countries, both domestic and international students get the same take-home stipend but international tuition costs more.

However, the extra cost in Canada is about $10,000 per year while in the US, this can be $15,000-$25,000 more per year. What I'm getting at is that it's harder for a Canadian to get into e.g. UC Berkeley's Astro program than an American to get into U of Toronto's astro program.

I considered Toronto twice for grad school. The first time, there were very few planets people there -- most of them were really people that study things like stars or protoplanetary disks/dynamics. The second time I met more people but exoplanets in Toronto is still heavily theory based. Likely because of the presence of CITA. However, with the recent opening of the Dunlap Institute and the push for hiring more instrumentation type people, this might be a good thing.

Finally, some philosophy. From the first transiting exoplanet discovered (1995) until about 2010 or so, exoplanets were mostly studied by astronomers as perturbations to stars. That is, we only know about them through their effect on the star's brightness, or the star's radial velocity etc. However, the exoplanets field has changed a lot in recent years and is moving towards actually understanding the planets themselves as physical objects, not just point sources that perturb stars.

We are now able to get spectra of the atmospheres of giant planets (very coarse spectra for now) and even detect things like the composition of comets around other star systems (see recent paper about comets in Beta Pic system published in Science this month). Sure, you can still study it from the astronomer's point of view and do great things. But, we are just starting to know enough about exoplanets that we can really benefit from understanding planets as actual physical systems.

I have a BSc in Physics/Astronomy and a MSc in Astronomy but I'm in a Planetary Science program for my PhD (it's part of the Geological and Planetary Sciences division instead of the Physics/Math/Astronomy division), and I would recommend this pathway for people interested in exoplanets but already have a physics or astronomy degree. My core courses were things like geology 101, geophysics 101, planetary atmospheres, planetary surfaces, etc. and I think having this type of foundation will really help exoplanet students in the long run as we go move on from barely knowing anything about exoplanets other than their existence. That is, in the future, I expect to see exoplanet researchers residing in the earth/planetary science departments, not the astronomy departments.

And if you still miss the other types of astronomy (as I do sometimes), you can usually still do a lot of things like take astro electives, attend astro seminars, etc. I spend a good chunk of my time each week in our school's astronomy department too!

uhurulol
Posts: 79
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2014 12:38 am

Re: Astronomy School Search

Postby uhurulol » Mon Nov 03, 2014 1:33 am

What school are you in, if you don't mind my asking? Sounds like a path I want to be on! Studying the properties of extrasolar worlds... it sounds like such a rewarding experience.

TakeruK
Posts: 812
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Astronomy School Search

Postby TakeruK » Mon Nov 03, 2014 1:40 am

I'm not sure if it actually makes a huge difference, but for anonymity/security, I'd feel better if I only post my school in one place. So instead of answering your question here, I will direct you to my profile back in the 2012 profile thread: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=4274 -- just do a search for my username, my profile is on the first page of that thread.

uhurulol
Posts: 79
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2014 12:38 am

Re: Astronomy School Search

Postby uhurulol » Wed Nov 05, 2014 2:37 pm

TakeruK,

Thanks a lot for all of your help. It's been invaluable.

I'll come back with a more finalized list within the next few days. Off the top of anyone's head, are there any more solid REALLY safe choices I can add to the list that apply to my interests? I mean like the safest possible. I just wanna make sure I get into a school no matter what, and you can never be too safe!

uhurulol
Posts: 79
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2014 12:38 am

Re: Astronomy School Search

Postby uhurulol » Sat Nov 08, 2014 4:56 pm

Updated my list. I want to keep it at 12-15 schools. Here it is. Any last minute suggestions for me? Again, looking for safer schools to get into and exoplanetary research primarily, but also interested in a lot of other areas (extragalactic, high energy etc).

Let me know if anything under "optimistic" is actually not as optimistic as I think :lol:


Reach:
University of Hawaii
Colorado, Boulder
University of Michigan
University of Arizona


Optimistic:
Boston University
New Mexico State
University of Maryland
Georgia State
U Delaware
Clemson
U Texas, Austin
U Va
Ohio State
U Florida
SUNY SB


Possible Reach:
University of Washington
UCLA

Catria
Posts: 353
Joined: Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:14 pm

Re: Astronomy School Search

Postby Catria » Sat Nov 08, 2014 5:19 pm

UT-Austin, UMD are more on the reach side of the scale but still reachable.

And what did you dislike about Penn State? (Not a safety, I know, but still worth looking into as far as exoplanets are concerned)

bfollinprm
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Astronomy School Search

Postby bfollinprm » Sat Nov 08, 2014 6:39 pm

I don't see any TMT partners on this list. That's probably a mistake.

http://www.tmt.org/about-tmt/partners

uhurulol
Posts: 79
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2014 12:38 am

Re: Astronomy School Search

Postby uhurulol » Sun Nov 09, 2014 8:32 pm

You mean CIT and U Cal? I'll look into them.

So this got me thinking a little bit. I must admit, I hadn't considered going international (aside from Toronto). Above all else, I think I'd be interested in living in Japan. Are Japanese universities harder to get into than the domestic ones I'm considering? If the financial situations were similar to domestic universities, I would seriously consider applying. I've always been fascinated by Japanese culture.

TakeruK
Posts: 812
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Astronomy School Search

Postby TakeruK » Sun Nov 09, 2014 9:57 pm

For cases where I have a thought, I'll add what I know about exoplanet research at these places:

Reach:
University of Hawaii -- Excellent access to all Mauna Kea telescope; good choice if you are doing observational things
Colorado, Boulder -- No access to telescopes, as far as I know
University of Michigan -- I hear good stuff about protoplanetary disk research here, particularly cosmochemistry stuff
University of Arizona -- Decent access to telescopes, partner with GPI I think, which is pretty cool!

Optimistic:
Boston University
New Mexico State
University of Maryland -- Drake Deming is a big name; does exoplanetary atmospheres, I think?
Georgia State
U Delaware
Clemson
U Texas, Austin -- Has decent access to spectrographs, would be good for radial velocity studies of exoplanets
U Va
Ohio State
U Florida -- I would actually recommend Joe Harrington's group at University of Central Florida instead? I don't think U Florida does a ton of exoplanet astronomy stuff
SUNY SB

Possible Reach:
University of Washington -- I would definitely add this to my list!
UCLA -- Add this to your list too!


Other schools you might consider:
Arizona State University
Caltech (why not)
UCSC Astronomy (Jon Fortney has a great group)


Finally, you could consider to applying to both planetary science AND astronomy departments at some of these schools (i.e. only in cases where there are exoplanet people primarily in the earth/planetary science department) if you are worried about a low GPA and low PGRE in the physical science type courses.

bfollinprm
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Astronomy School Search

Postby bfollinprm » Sun Nov 09, 2014 10:54 pm

uhurulol wrote:You mean CIT and U Cal? I'll look into them.

So this got me thinking a little bit. I must admit, I hadn't considered going international (aside from Toronto). Above all else, I think I'd be interested in living in Japan. Are Japanese universities harder to get into than the domestic ones I'm considering? If the financial situations were similar to domestic universities, I would seriously consider applying. I've always been fascinated by Japanese culture.


And the AURA schools. And the UC participation is system-wide--in practice this means a separate pool of nights that only researchers associated with the UC system can apply for.

As for Japan in particular, I know of two people who did their PhD there who weren't Japanese citizens (both were from Europe). They were both funded with fellowships, one with an additional (funded) year before school began to learn Japanese and understand the culture. Which, I agree, sounds pretty sweet. Like in Europe, the question of funding is considered independently from the question of acceptance, so it's totally possible to be accepted without funding, which should not be very appealing. Also like Europe (and Canada for a PhD), you generally apply with a research group in mind, so be prepared for that. I think most people get a Masters first for this reason.

uhurulol
Posts: 79
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2014 12:38 am

Re: Astronomy School Search

Postby uhurulol » Mon Nov 10, 2014 4:25 am

TakeruK wrote:University of Washington -- I would definitely add this to my list!
UCLA -- Add this to your list too!


My hesitation stems from my GPA and probable PGRE scores... looking at possibly 30th percentile and 3.2 GPA. U Washington and UCLA seem a bit more selective.

TakeruK
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Astronomy School Search

Postby TakeruK » Mon Nov 10, 2014 9:47 am

You labeled those two schools as "possible reaches" and I agree with that assessment. I think if you are going to apply to that many schools and only have 4 reaches, then you are not aiming high enough! In your shoes, I'd likely apply to 6 reach schools and 6 from your "optimistic" list.

uhurulol
Posts: 79
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2014 12:38 am

Re: Astronomy School Search

Postby uhurulol » Mon Nov 10, 2014 2:39 pm

TakeruK wrote:You labeled those two schools as "possible reaches" and I agree with that assessment. I think if you are going to apply to that many schools and only have 4 reaches, then you are not aiming high enough! In your shoes, I'd likely apply to 6 reach schools and 6 from your "optimistic" list.


Hahaha well thank you for your confidence. I'll definitely add at least one to my final list =D

Would you say UCSC Astronomy is more of a reach or an optimistic for me?




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