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Applying to grad schools

  1. Aug 26, 2009 #1
    like many of you I'm sure, I am at an academic career crossroads. I graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 2008 with a bachelor's in economics (though in actuality I was pre-med just couldnt finish the major on time) After realizing med school was not for me, I have moved onto physics/astronomy as my career goal.

    It seems clear that I will have to go to a masters/phd physics program to complete this path. It also seems clear that I'm at a disadvantage, due to my lack of a physics major, and overall situation.

    Basically I'm hoping to find out what the best schools/programs to apply to are, and what I need to do to get there. I have taken Calc 3 and other upper level math classes (I was a math major for a year before switching to econ) and Mechanics/E&M but I feel convinced that most programs would wish that I take more classes first.

    Information concerning anything and everything about the application process would be greatly appreciated, and pretty much anything else that anyone thinks would be helpful. Thanks.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 27, 2009 #2
    I would highly recommend you take a year and pick up a couple of modern physics and undergraduate astronomy courses before you make the move to grad school. Since you don't mention any experience with non-Newtonian mechanics (IE Quantum interactions, Solid State, Relativity) which are all very important parts of a physics/astronomy career.
  4. Aug 28, 2009 #3
    thanks. are there any specific classes you would recommend?
  5. Aug 28, 2009 #4
    You need 3-4 quantum courses, thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, the second year E&M, the third year classical mechanics, optics and mathematical physics (unless you already covered that stuff). I'd say that's the minimum.
  6. Aug 28, 2009 #5
    The students I know entering astrophysics would have the following relevant courses (and I would highly recommend you take as many as possible):

    E&M 1 and 2
    Advanced Mechanics (Lagrangian mechanics)
    Modern Physics (Intro to Quantum & Special Relativity)
    Quantum 1 & 2 (Wave equations, Spins-Spin, perturbation theory)
    Introduction to Nuclear Physics (Nuclear Models, Fundamental particles, Particle-Particle Interactions and Probabilities)
    Themodynamics (with statistical mechanics ideally)
    Solid State Mechanics (depending on your astro course you might not need this)
    General Relativity (or intro at the very least)
    Optics (Would be very good for Astro)
    Mathematical Physics (Vector calc, ODEs, PDEs, Numerical Methods, Fourier Analysis, intro to linear algebra)

    I would have trouble taking an astrophysics student seriously without most of those courses at an undergrad level (even though you could still do a lot of work without some of them).

    Depending on what you want to research you may be able to get away with out some of them (for example computer modeling of galaxies / universe). Best thing to do would be contact some groups you would be interested in working with and ask them what courses that they think are most relevant to their research.
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