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Astro Academics

  1. Jan 9, 2009 #1

    I have posted here a few times but lately I think I have been refining my interests somewhat so I want to compare my goals up against the reality.

    I think I would like to work in a field of study exasolar planets in particular terrestrial ones that may harbor earth like life. Now some you engineer types might find this sort of pursuit naive, but I would like some feedback on a few things.

    I figure this would be a pretty good time scale to study such things since when roughly when I am getting out of grad school or toward the end the Terrestrial Planet Finder or a similar mission will probably be close to being launched.

    1. The current school I am in has only a pure physics program with no real astronomy or astrophysics courses. I know I wanted a degree in physics and not astronomy but Does this hurt my chances of getting into a program to do this sort of work? Furthermore, which schools are on the forefront of such research anyways?

    2. Getting an internship in this sort of field, be it something like SETI or something else, what is out there for undergrad research opportunities in this field.

    3. I hear the term astrobiology used a lot, and while I find biology interesting I don't really want to have to take a bunch of courses in it and I don't really see how general biology applies very well to this sort of field, the type of stuff a premed or something takes. What sort of biology background if any is needed for someone who would like to work in this field.
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  3. Jan 9, 2009 #2


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    1. Not really. As long as your background in physics is sufficient the sub-field you study for grad work is your choice and you can pick up the extra stuff you need as you go. The only caveate is that in a competative situation, the more specific experience you have, the better. To learn who's at the forefront, you have to do you own reading. By the time you get to your fourth year you should be able to identify different groups that are involved in research you find interesting and then you can decide for yourself. (That's always better than getting info from an anonymous internet source anyway).

    3. Astrobiology, in my opinion, is an emerging field that attempts to define the extremities under which life can exist and identify areas where there exists a high probablility of finding extra-terrestrial life, and in what form it might be. I would think that general biology would be imperative for anyone considering this field.
  4. Jan 9, 2009 #3


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    1. No, this won't hurt you. My dept is physics and astronomy, so everyone gets a physics degree, but many of us work in astronomy - and many incoming students have only studied physics. What you can do to really help yourself is spend your summers doing research in astronomy. The AAS maintains a list of REU (research experience for undergraduates) programs you can apply for - even after your first year in college. Deadlines are in early Feb.

    As for which schools to go to, find out who is involved in the Terrestrial Planet Finder and Kepler (which schools, who are the PI/CIs) and look into their programs. You're more likely to get access to the data that way.

    2. http://aas.org/education/REU.php [Broken]

    3. http://astrobiology.nasa.gov/ask-an-astrobiologist/faq [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
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