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Aerospace engineering student who wants to get into astrophysics

  1. Jul 5, 2014 #1
    Hello all,

    This fall, I will be entering my freshman year at the University of Michigan, where I intend to study aerospace engineering. It has always been my dream to work in the space industry, and as such I've been considering the possibility of expanding into astrophysics to satisfy my interest in the theoretical side of physics. I've been thinking of ways to do this, either through a double major, a minor, or trying to be admitted to graduate school in astrophysics with a theory-intensive undergraduate course load. Regardless of the way I do it, by the time I'm done with college, I'd like to be an aerospace engineer with the ability to think like or even work as an astrophysicist, which I understand will require at least a Ph.D.

    I'm a bit overwhelmed with my options here, so I'd appreciate any advice you all may have regarding the best course to get to my goal, or if you think that I'd be wasting my time by pursuing this, I'd appreciate hearing that as well.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 5, 2014 #2
    UM is a good school for aero if you are interested in space propulsion. They have very good groups in ion thruster research and other plasma based propulsion. Check out Drs. Gallimore and Foster.

    As far as becoming an astrophysicist goes, that is a very different track from becoming an aerospace engineer. Your engineering degree will focus a lot on applied classes like CAD design and you will spend a lot of time working on projects in the lab. Even the "shared" courses between engineering and physics like thermodynamics are taught from very different points of view in each field and the engineering side of things will not do much to prepare you for grad school in physics. You could double major but most engineering degrees do not leave much room for electives, so by double majoring you could be looking at another year or two to finish your undergrad.
  4. Jul 5, 2014 #3
    That's a significant part of the reason I chose Michigan. Thanks for the references, I'll definitely try to look into them.

    The possibility of staying another year or two is one of the biggest things warding me against choosing a double major, although I would be prepared to take summer courses if necessary. What about a minor? Would the limited courses I would take completing one give me enough preparation to gain admittance to a grad school in astrophysics if I found that I wanted to do that?
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2014
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