Where to apply?

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Joined: Thu Mar 08, 2007 5:58 pm

Where to apply?

Postby qanx » Mon Mar 12, 2007 3:28 pm

I want to go for school in Astrophysics/Astronomy/Cosmology (you get the idea). While I was always interested in the subject, my love did dwindle after being kicked around in undergrad (having *that* professor you need to go to the department head about, and they know and he has tenure or being in NY where there are too many clouds to have fun observational nights), but I really think I want to do it. Even though the GRE has me terrified. But that's another story.

I keep asking around about figuring out where to apply. Most of the people I've talked to tell me to "email the grad students" and etc., but in order to email the current students I need to know which institutions first. For the most part I have been looking at schools via this site, or gradschoolshopper.com to find schools with Astro., but does anyone here have something more direct to offer? (e.g. I go to school X and like/hate it because ____.)

Sorry for the rambling, the longer I do this the more my brain fuzzes in agony.

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Joined: Mon Aug 28, 2006 5:53 pm

Postby kdub » Tue Mar 13, 2007 8:33 pm

It really depends on what area of astrophysics you want to go into. Theory? Instrumentation? Observation? Something else? If you have that figured out, then look deeper. Say you want to do observational work. Do you want to do stellar astronomy? Planetary? Extragalactic? All of these will factor into your decision.

Personally, I don't know which area I want to go into yet (though I'm leaning more toward observational), so I applied to schools with large departments that will have a wide breadth of research areas that I can try. Off the top of my head, I am pretty sure you can go to places like Caltech, Harvard, Arizona, Berkeley, Santa Cruz, or Hawaii and do almost any subfield of astrophysics. Some places are more focused, such as Princeton and Chicago (theory) or Colorado (instrumentation and planetary science).

The best source for figuring out where to apply is to talk to the astrophysics faculty at your undergrad institution about it. That's how I figured out (mostly) where to apply. They will likely name schools that suit their own individual research interests, so keep that in mind and talk to multiple faculty members in different subfields if possible.

Hope that helps, and good luck.

Posts: 7
Joined: Thu Mar 08, 2007 5:58 pm

Postby qanx » Thu Mar 15, 2007 8:30 pm

I thought I was sure what I wanted to go into, but then there was so much stuff. Actually my undergrad experience was so awful that I almost completely lost interest (but how can you fall out of love)?

Basically when I entered I was so sure that I would sit around all day and think of ways to make interstellar travel possible in some way that would get rid of those nasty relativistic side effects (twin paradox, anyone?). Perhaps I'm too hopeful that something like StarGate/Babylon 5/Star Trek will come out of it all, but I really wanted to try.

Then I realized that there were other goals I wanted to pursue, and the fact is that for me experimentation and data analysis takes far less time than theory (I'm not sure if this is always the case?). So then I thought that I'd go into some form of observational, and then I'd have "free time" to found a school and do other side projects.

The thing is that as much as I love Physics some of those side projects are more necessary for me to accomplish than the Physics research! But if I could have both, I want both. So I'm going to give grad school a year or two to see how I feel about it and if it helps or hinders my other goals. But until I know that, I want to make sure my grad school is much better than my undergrad!

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