If your interests revolve around the mysterious world of planets, galaxies, black holes, dark matter and celestial objects, astrophysics is your calling. As an astrophysicist, your job involves applying the laws of physics and chemistry to understand the universe-related phenomenon and formulate theories about the properties of small and medium-sized structures in this universe. The branch of science is interrelated to cosmology and astronomy and in the course of study, lines often become blurred. However, each is vastly different from the other. According to astrophysicists at NASA, tasks within the discipline can be sub-divided into three broad areas: how the universe functions, origin and evolutionary journey of galaxies, and potential of other stars to sustain life.
While everyone is enthralled by the fascinating range of topics that astrophysics entails, it is a profession that requires rigorous academic and professional experience. Studying to become an astrophysicist requires dedication and passion. It is an intensive process that includes many years of studying, research and training.
How to nurture an interest?
The primary pre-requisite for considering a career in astrophysics is that the individual must have studied science and math in Class 12. They must be thorough with mathematics and physics and should confident about basics. This is the foundation of the journey and simply non-negotiable!
According to educational counsellors, a student doesn’t have to wait till college to explore astrophysics or exhibit an interest. Colleges appreciate it if potential candidates have participated in science camps, advanced calculus classes or international Olympiads. Of course, they look great on your application but most importantly, such extra initiatives sharpen your skills and give you a global perspective.
Do’s and don’ts in college
Post school, students have two options for college. Since mathematics and physics are the core of astrophysics, students should choose either of the two for undergraduate studies. Generally, it is better if budding astrophysicists opt for a bachelor’s degree in physics. It gives them an edge and prepares the groundwork for a master’s and doctorate. Whichever you choose, the other must continue to be your secondary focus. For streamlined exposure, students should be careful while selecting a minor. Interact with professors who are involved in hardcore research and have relevant professional experience. They will guide you in matters of choosing a minor that is likely to enhance intellectual growth.
At this point, it is essential to address a frequently asked question. Does it make sense to pursue an undergraduate degree in astrophysics? Most people who are presently successful researchers, professors and professional astrophysicists do not recommend it. Studying math and physics, particularly the latter, builds a solid foundation of every concept that astrophysics is based upon. By jumping into a professional course, there is a chance that fundamental concepts will be glossed over and covered hurriedly. One needs a base in pure science when seriously considering astrophysics.
Going that extra mile
College isn’t only about textbooks and assignments. It is the perfect time to participate in internships and research programs. During semester breaks, volunteer for different organizations or academicians who require assistants or interns. If you find an additional course in an area of interest or even a field that you know little about, college is the appropriate time to go for it. Such endeavours will help you understand which aspect of the astrophysics you enjoy the most and expose you to different topics in which you can pursue research in the future. And let’s not forget how good it looks on a resume.
Why do you need a Master’s?
After your bachelor’s, a master’s degree in physics is imperative. Don’t think of this as just another qualification to complete. This is the time when students truly narrow down on their sphere of interest and study complex subdivisions such as statistical mechanics, nuclear and physical physics, spectroscopy, electrodynamics and quantum mechanics. After finishing their master’s, students are well-equipped with the knowledge and skills to go down the doctorate path.
The importance of a PhD…
Whether they are academics or employed by space research organizations, leading astrophysicists come armed with PhDs. The most coveted jobs belong to those who have excellent experience and have received their doctorates from reputed institutions. Here, your previous grades and additional knowledge play an important factor in helping you crack the best PhD programs and work under a supervisor of your liking. During your doctorate, ensure that it is in the topic you are passionate about and not something you’ve settled for.
In the end…
Astrophysics is a vast subject, and conquering the field takes some time. Especially doctorates that are incredibly time-consuming and intensive. However, dedication and passion will take you a long way. At the core of your hard work must be a genuine love for science. Try your best to achieve good grades and always search for avenues of gaining additional experience.
At Jamboree, we specialize in guiding students towards their dream career. Connect with us if you want latest and accurate information on courses and colleges, application procedures, extracurricular activities that will enhance your profile and set you on the right track to working as an astrophysicist.