Astro vs Physics

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Unnatural Log
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Astro vs Physics

Postby Unnatural Log » Thu Oct 09, 2008 11:51 pm

Anyone have any insight on the difference between applying to physics departments and astronomy or related departments? I know most people here are pure physics, but a quick scan through the applicant thread last year shows there are a few astro people.

My research on gradschoolshopper shows that for the few schools that list the information for both, pGRE averages are significantly lower for incoming astronomy classes than for incoming physics classes. The sample size is really small though, so is it fair to say this holds true for all schools? Also, it seems that it's harder to get into a program to do theory than to do observation. Does that break down any further? As in say, extragalactic observing vs planetary science vs instrumentation.

Also, because I feel the need to say this somewhere on these boards: screw you Colorado for requiring four rec letters.

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Helio
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Re: Astro vs Physics

Postby Helio » Fri Oct 10, 2008 1:28 am

Depends on on the school. UIUC is a good example if you do computational astrophysics it is physics if you do observational astrophysics it is astronomy. all a bit weird. personally i would go by research and look at the faculty and then decide... i have a couple schools with astronomy and physics.... i am in for solar physics/astroparticle physics

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Unnatural Log
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Re: Astro vs Physics

Postby Unnatural Log » Sun Oct 12, 2008 8:40 pm

Oh yeah, I've researched the departments already. Got a list of 15-20 possible schools right now, planning to cut that down once I see my pGRE score. Some are astronomy departments, others are named things like planetary science, earth and space science, etc. I'm just trying to figure out my chances of getting into some of these places are so I can narrow down my list more intelligently - frustratingly few schools list their average GPA and test scores, even on gradschoolshopper.

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Helio
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Re: Astro vs Physics

Postby Helio » Mon Oct 13, 2008 2:49 am

The problem of the difference between astronomy and physics degree you have should not be too much of a problem. Astronomy undergrads are rare to be honest compared to physics. You can easily switch between the two because most classes are the same at the undergrad level.

I would just look at what people here got. it is usually a good indicator i would say. then again i looked at a couple and say things that off set the numbers and give a false indication for most of us.

valkyrie
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Re: Astro vs Physics

Postby valkyrie » Mon Oct 13, 2008 7:10 pm

I'm applying for Astrophysics/Astronomy programs, and from what I've heard, if you apply to a department strong in theory (or indicate you want to do theory) they will care more about your PGRE score than departments that focus on observations. (Basically because your Physics GRE score is more relevant for the theory-based departments than it really is for the observation-based ones.) That does not really mean that it's easier to get into observation programs, except for that a lower PGRE will hurt you less than if you apply for Physics/Theoretical Astro. Don't know much about any break-downs within observational fields, though.

good luck :)

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gliese876d
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Re: Astro vs Physics

Postby gliese876d » Tue Oct 14, 2008 7:12 pm

I too, am curious about this topic. On a similar question, I found, to my surprise, on graduateschoolshopper.com (or whatever it's called :)) that apparently some astronomy PhD programs don't require the PGRE for admission. For instance, UC Santa Cruz only lists it as "strongly recommended." Yet UC Santa Cruz's astronomy dept website says, regarding admissions, that they give "quite a bit of weight" to the PGRE. So my question is, if I do really poorly on the PGRE would it look worse to submit low PGRE scores or not submit them at all???

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Helio
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Re: Astro vs Physics

Postby Helio » Thu Oct 16, 2008 2:18 pm

here the problem with astronomy and pgre is that they do not take all the classes that you are supposed to for physics. for example, no EM B, no second lab, maybe no QM B, not sure, so they might not know some of the stuff in so much detail. the pgre is therefore of less of an importance to them. penn state says that 680+ is considered as a strong score

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gliese876d
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Re: Astro vs Physics

Postby gliese876d » Fri Oct 17, 2008 1:32 pm

I know what you're saying; I've taken several courses that are not required for astro major that are for physics majors (QM, Thermo/Stat. Mech, though I didn't take the second level of lab, I did take the honors version of the intro lab, etc.), just so that I'd be more prepared as a graduate student. But an additional problem I've had is that I'm actually an older student earning my second Bachelor's (the first was in music education, so related in no way whatsoever to physics&astronomy), and since I'd like to begin my career some time before I have to retire :wink: I have crammed the four year program including all the "extras" that most astronomy students don't take into 2 1/2 years, and I had absolutely zero background in physics or calc in high school ("knowing" as a senior in high school that I was going into music, I opted out of taking physics and calc that year, even though I could have and should have). Thus my very first exposure to an integral of any form was a little over 2 years ago, and my very first exposure to any physics was a little less than 2 1/2 years ago. :oops: So I think in my case a lot of this stuff just hasn't had time to solidify as much as most senior undergrads. As in, it's not that I don't understand it, it's just not as automatic for me. I still have to think about things a lot and am often not confident in my intuition (even when I should be). I try to remind myself that I've gotten fairly good grades and have proven myself in other ways, because I know the PGRE score will not be the strong point of my application...

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Helio
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Re: Astro vs Physics

Postby Helio » Fri Oct 17, 2008 2:14 pm

what i see also as the problem is that the astro major varies from school to school. here they need to take TD/statmech and both semesters of QM, but only one semester of EM. all a bit random...

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gliese876d
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Re: Astro vs Physics

Postby gliese876d » Sat Oct 18, 2008 4:19 pm

Yeah, I don't know if other schools categorize their intro level and intermediate level classes this way, but we only have two semesters of intro physics, then two semesters of "modern physics" which is just like intro to intro level quantum, considered an intermediate level class. Astro majors have to take the first semester of intermediate E&M, but neither physics nor astro majors have to take the second semester of it. And no one (phys or astro) has to take QM 1 and 2. But all of those are considered to be for those pursuing the "honors degree." I guess the logic is you get some quantum in modern, and some thermo in modern, and for us astro folk, also in stellar structure.

But yeah, it's weird how different the programs are from school to school. Glad the PGRE is done, btw!

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Ren
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Re: Astro vs Physics

Postby Ren » Sat Oct 18, 2008 9:50 pm

Unnatural Log wrote:
Also, because I feel the need to say this somewhere on these boards: screw you Colorado for requiring four rec letters.

seriously? why would they ever need more than 3 recs. I'm still deciding if i wanna apply there.

Good to see there're some people applying for astro here.
I've been looking at the previous year profiles (way too many times) and wonder the same thing. I cannot find much statistics on astrophysics applications. :|
Guess i'll have to take my chances and hope my app would be good enough for some programs i wanna get in.

I actually hope PGRE would be considered important for astronomy/astrophysics since my small department does not offer much upper level physics classes. I hope solid PGRE score would help.
This worries me a bit. I took all of the physics courses offered though, except for advance lab. And in additions there are 2 astrophysics and observational astronomy, also independent study on upper level physics.

any of you actually take all the EnM II, Quantum II, optics, or grad-level courses like some physics majors?

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gliese876d
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Re: Astro vs Physics

Postby gliese876d » Mon Oct 20, 2008 2:16 pm

We have to take optics as astro majors (which sux at my school because the prof is all burnt out and the only one who ever teaches it), and I plan to take QM 2 next semester.

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Helio
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Re: Astro vs Physics

Postby Helio » Tue Oct 21, 2008 1:40 am

I never had any optics since about sophomore year high school, so i was pretty screwed with the question on the GRE

shouravv
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Re: Astro vs Physics

Postby shouravv » Tue Oct 21, 2008 6:34 pm

You might find some info on this thread helpful, I just did not want to re-post stuffs here -
viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1536




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