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Programs Advice needed: Going from a M.Sc in Medical Physics to a PhD in Astrophysics

  1. Jun 9, 2010 #1
    Hello all,

    This is my issue. I did my undergrad in Physics. After finishing I decided I was done with "pure" physics. I wanted to do something more practical so I went into a Masters in Medical Physics. I quickly realized, that although I don't find it un-interesting, I don't feel much of passion for the field of clinical Medical Physics. As part of my degree I have to do research as well and I'm now doing research in a lab which really interests me. I really like the subject, and I really like the group. (It's not in clinical medical physics, it's more so part of Biomedical Engineering)

    However, I'm no longer doing something "practical", I'm back to research. Which, if I like, then why not do it in Physics, which was my passion to begin with?
    I've always been very passionate about Astrophysics but never wanted to go into it because I though I didn't want to do research. But that's what I'm doing now anyway.
    So I'm thinking of switching into a PhD in Astrophysics and going back to my first love, so to speak.

    What do you all think? Do I stand a chance? Is it way too random to go from Medical Physics to Astrophysics? And is it too big a risk to leave a place I like, and could very well continue in to do my PhD, for something unknown?

    I feel like if I go on as things are, I'll be happy, but I'll always feel like I didn't pursue my original dream of doing Astrophysics...

    Is it a complete handicap that I don't have a Masters in Astrophysics?

    Thanks in advance for any advice/insights that you might be able to give me!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 9, 2010 #2
    If you're in Europe you should be able to get onto a PhD with a good bachelors degree. Probably not at the best universities for astrophysics but it should be possible, and the MSc could play to your advantage as it shows you have experience with doing research, which is all a PhD really is.

  4. Jun 15, 2010 #3
    Thanks for the reply. I guess I should add that I'm in North America at one of the top universites. I did both my B.Sc and M.Sc at the same university and have reasonably high grades in both degrees.
  5. Jun 15, 2010 #4


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    If you've got good grades, you can get into some PhD programs for astrophysics. However, they will probably require you retake a good deal of the coursework (and you'll almost certainly be missing some classes) and possibly even redo the masters in some cases before moving on to the PhD. My university requires that of incoming physics/astrophysics students, and we're not even a top school.
  6. Jun 16, 2010 #5


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    I think it's a good idea to put a lot of thought into where you want to go in moving from MSc work to PhD work. Certainly it is risky to go from a known field to an unknown one - especially when you're doing something you already like.

    My advice would be to invest a little bit of time into defining specific PhD routes. Rather than the broad field of "astrophysics" sit down with potential supervisors and outline what a PhD project would look like. You may want to do the same with supervisors in your current field. What specifically would you work on? What would you define as an end-point? What will you do with the skills you've earned afterward? What opportunities are available for post-doctoral work? That would at least reduce some of the uncertainty in the matter.
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