Chances for female interested in astro programs

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fhnsab
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Jul 07, 2011 1:25 pm

Chances for female interested in astro programs

Postby fhnsab » Fri Jul 08, 2011 5:00 pm

Hi, I've looked through the admissions profile threads and found very little data for females interested in astro programs. Since chances are very dependent on gender and program, I figured I would post.

I still have one year left and have no taken the GREs, but this is a rough estimate of my profile based on practice exams and past performance

Domestic Female
School: top 15 private, top 20 reputation in physics
GPA: 3.75-3.80
General GRE: 600V 800Q
PGRE: no idea, guessing anywhere between 700-900
Research: 1 semester materials science research, 2 semesters 1 summer experimental cosmology research in a group with a well known PI. The cosmology research is mostly instrumentation and I'm currently working on a pretty involved and independent project important for the group's experiment.
LOR: I don't want to overestimate these, but I'd say a pretty good (potentially glowing) one from an assistant professor who also serves as my research advisor with huge connections to Princeton, a good one from PI (very, very well known in experimental cosmology), and I haven't found a third writer yet, but most likely a professor whose class I did well in.

My main research interests are in experimental cosmology with a focus on instrumentation and data analysis. I'm looking at schools like Princeton, Columbia, UPenn, Yale, UChicago, Harvard, JHU, Stony Brook, NYU, and Penn State.

I am concerned about my relative lack of research experience. For my first two summers during college, I toured nationally with a performance group that I am very passionate about. To an admissions committee, those two summers add no value to my profile.

How are my chances at these schools, and are there any suggestions to add/delete schools from the list? Keep in mind location is a huge priority for my choice of schools (definitely want to stay on the east coast, but as you see I made an exception for UChicago, so I am a little open to suggestions). I am also open to any other suggestions to improve my chances at these schools (ie gap year for research, etc)

Thank you in advance for your time!

User avatar
grae313
Posts: 2297
Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 8:46 pm

Re: Chances for female interested in astro programs

Postby grae313 » Fri Jul 08, 2011 5:21 pm

fhnsab wrote:Hi, I've looked through the admissions profile threads and found very little data for females interested in astro programs. Since chances are very dependent on gender and program, I figured I would post.


Going through the 4 years of profiles with a cntl+f "female" yielded the following profiles for females applying to at least one astro department:

2008

KB
stardote

2009

valkyrie
meowful
Andromeda
dustdevil
gliese876d
evilclaw2321
coconut
lyra
Synthesize
Perseid

2010

YellowXDart
vttd
meggo
szhang
tme

2011

LoronDotCom
Astro-K
Meow-chan
tconklin
astroKitty!
astrok
tychobrahe_1
shinobi06
vttd
carpediem
aideen
Andromeda


That's a lot of data points. If you look through them I think you'll see that as a female with >700 PGRE applying to astro you'll be looking good. You have over a year and a half of research experience so I don't see why you're concerned about this.

fhnsab
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Jul 07, 2011 1:25 pm

Re: Chances for female interested in astro programs

Postby fhnsab » Fri Jul 08, 2011 6:13 pm

thanks for taking the time to do that. I should've said that I didn't find many female astro applicants with a similar GPA, undergrad institution, as well departments I am interested in.

physics123
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu May 26, 2011 2:43 pm

Re: Chances for female interested in astro programs

Postby physics123 » Fri Jul 08, 2011 7:02 pm

Your success will be determined by your overall application and not any particular score or undergraduate institution you went to (check out the list of where the incoming Princeton class is from: http://www.princeton.edu/astro/news-eve ... e/?id=5044 . Definitely not all top universities.) Also, being a female in astronomy/astrophysics isn't all that impressive or unique as it is for physics departments. We just have a lot more women in our subfield.

The strongest programs you listed for cosmology are Princeton (both astro and physics departments), UChicago (faculty and Kavli institute, basically everything) and Harvard. Cosmology is a hot field not just for astronomers but physicists as well, so you'll compete against both types of applicants at these places.

Columbia's strengths are currently in theory and computation, not experiment unfortunately (source Columbia astronomy professor).

UPenn is not a very mainstream nor well known graduate program for astronomy research (although cosmology would be their relative strong point) (Source NRC, and their department website is quite focused on cosmology).

Yale is not a terribly high-ranked program (NRC), but they have young faculty now and it will likely get better in a few years (their website). But they only seek to enroll THREE non-Chilean students a year (their website), though, so you won't likely get in simply by the numbers. Wouldn't hurt to apply if you can spare the application fee.

JHU isn't as reputable as Harvard, Princeton and UChicago, but it's quite a strong program with some notable faculty, especially in cosmology (NRC, their website e.g. Adam Riess and Chuck Bennett). They don't care about the PGRE as much, so you'd likely get in there more easily if you don't bomb it.

Stony Brook and NYU are decent programs, but won't be incredibly competitive to get into. Yale is usually ranked at the bottom of the top US programs (top 20 or 25 or so). Stony Brook and NYU usually don't show up.

I don't know much about Penn State. It is very well regarded by the NRC. I can't say how justified it is.

I'm probably going to get hated on for citing the NRC so much, but that is the general consensus about the prestige of the programs, whether it's individual faculty or the NRC that says it. All the schools she mentioned are at least good, but some are more notable. Your chances will vary as such.

negru
Posts: 308
Joined: Wed Oct 13, 2010 3:49 pm

Re: Chances for female interested in astro programs

Postby negru » Fri Jul 08, 2011 9:10 pm

grae313 wrote:
fhnsab wrote:Hi, I've looked through the admissions profile threads and found very little data for females interested in astro programs. Since chances are very dependent on gender and program, I figured I would post.


Going through the 4 years of profiles with a cntl+f "female" yielded the following profiles for females applying to at least one astro department:

2008

KB
stardote

2009

valkyrie
meowful
Andromeda
dustdevil
gliese876d
evilclaw2321
coconut
lyra
Synthesize
Perseid

2010

YellowXDart
vttd
meggo
szhang
tme

2011

LoronDotCom
Astro-K
Meow-chan
tconklin
astroKitty!
astrok
tychobrahe_1
shinobi06
vttd
carpediem
aideen
Andromeda


That's a lot of data points.

Indeed. I wonder what useful info can be extracted from the profile names of all these women.

pqortic
Posts: 398
Joined: Fri Aug 29, 2008 9:24 am

Re: Chances for female interested in astro programs

Postby pqortic » Fri Jul 08, 2011 9:42 pm

you GPA is not bad and being female is a bonus. try to acquire more research experience and do your best on PGRE. in general, as far as the application goes, you are in a good shape. one thing that I would worry about is your SOP! make sure to get someone to correct that for you.

cryingsun
Posts: 60
Joined: Wed Apr 07, 2010 2:59 pm

Re: Chances for female interested in astro programs

Postby cryingsun » Sun Aug 14, 2011 9:16 pm

If everything goes as you expect, you have a great chance at top notch schools. The two summers with performance group should help your application, you might want to at least mention this in your SOP if not emphasize it.

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

Re: Chances for female interested in astro programs

Postby bfollinprm » Mon Aug 15, 2011 12:03 am

I would add UCSD to your list of instrumentation schools. They have a PECASE award winner (that's like a CAREER winner on steroids) putting together a group making bolometers for the BICEP2 and POLARBEAR experiments (I think the other source is JPL at CalTech, so that too). As of this admissions season, he (Brian Keating, by the way) was heavily recruiting.

To answer your question, you'll be fine, though I wouldn't count on JUST top 10 schools (but, of course, you aren't). See you around in the field, and good luck! PM me if you need any advice, but you probably have plenty of that from your PI/recommenders.




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