Astrophysics vs Condensed Matter

In summary: When I finished my undergrad, I was supposed to do national service back in my home country. I was accepted into a Masters' degree programme automatically, due to exam results, so I asked for if it were possible to take two years out. I didn't get drafted, but it was too late to start the year, so I asked if I could come back a year eariler and was told - yes. And then I started my Masters' program a year early.
  • #1
Alex Petrosyan
33
10
Hello everyone, I'm a Physics student on a gap year, doing a bit of work ATM.

I'm going to come back in October this year to do a one-year Masters' at Cambridge, and I'm faced with a tough choice:

A) Specialize in Astrophysics/cosmology, which is something that I'm not as good at, but really feel comfortable doing.
B) Don't specialize, see how it goes, and leave as many doors open for a PhD.
C) Specialize in Condensed Matter Physics, which is something that I'm really good at, but which is also highly competitive, and not something that I could really say I love.

The main problem is that I know for sure that Astro has a set of well-defined, difficult, and somewhat popular problems. Condensed matter is on the other hand a complete mystery. `There are other areas of Physics that I neither like nor do well in, so Particle Physics et al, I won't do more than I have to.
 
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  • #2
Grad school is significantly different from undergrad. It's OK to enter undergrad not entirely sure of what you want to do, explore some options, and then decide. But by the time you complete your undergrad degree, you should have a clear rationale for pursuing grad school ... or not.
 
  • #3
Can you be a bit more specific about
"is significantly different"
beyond the few I know of:
  1. It's more independent.
  2. It's a lot harder.
  3. Motivation is scarce.
I know I'm asking for another snarky comment of the sort "you should have already figured it out by now", and I know that this question is getting asked a lot, but I do genuinely need some advice from people with more experience/academia smarts.

I have done a significant part of figuring out: I've narrowed things down from 10 potential majors to just two. I'm currently asking "is it possible to avoid specialisation at this point or not" and (maybe should have made a different question: "If it isn't, should I go with the one I'm good at, or the one I like?"

Don't mean to sound rude, and definitely don't mean to offend. I am simply asking questions.
 
  • #4
Alex Petrosyan said:
I know I'm asking for another snarky comment of the sort "you should have already figured it out by now", and I know that this question is getting asked a lot, but I do genuinely need some advice from people with more experience/academia smarts.
This will not be the best kind of advice - but Make an Arbitrary Decision, and fake-it. Be careful about this. You do not want to fake yourself into something that you will dislike, because then you may be not so good at what you pick.
 
  • #5
Alex Petrosyan said:
Can you be a bit more specific about "is significantly different" beyond the few I know of:
  1. It's more independent.
  2. It's a lot harder.
  3. Motivation is scarce.

<<Emphasis added>> This item indicates to me that you should re-evaluate your plans. My view is that you should be strongly self-motivated to enter grad school in the first place. Grad school is more focussed: undergrad is the time to explore your options and find yourself.

Alex Petrosyan said:
I'm currently asking "is it possible to avoid specialisation at this point or not" ...

I'll leave it for forum members familiar with the UK university system to answer this; I have direct experience only with the US.

Alex Petrosyan said:
... and (maybe should have made a different question: "If it isn't, should I go with the one I'm good at, or the one I like?"

This question also indicates to me that you should re-evaluate your plans.
 
  • #6
You say, gap year right now, and then you start Masters' degree program? And are you certain that you are or will be accepted into it? (I am not ready to give any advice; I am just interested in understanding your situation.)
 
  • #7
symbolipoint said:
You say, gap year right now,

It's complicated... When I finished my undergrad, I was supposed to do national service back in my home country. I was accepted into a Masters' degree programme automatically, due to exam results, so I asked for if it were possible to take two years out.

I didn't get drafted, but it was too late to start the year, so I asked if I could come back a year eariler and was told - yes.

symbolipoint said:
and then you start Masters' degree program? And are you certain that you are or will be accepted into it? (I am not ready to give any advice; I am just interested in understanding your situation.)

They can revoke my entry, but I don't think that it's likely, nor that planning for failure is useful.
 

Related to Astrophysics vs Condensed Matter

1. What is the difference between astrophysics and condensed matter?

Astrophysics is the study of the physical properties and behavior of objects and phenomena in the universe, such as stars, galaxies, and black holes. Condensed matter physics, on the other hand, focuses on the properties of matter in its condensed state, such as solids and liquids.

2. How do the research methods differ between astrophysics and condensed matter?

Astrophysicists use observational data and theoretical models to understand the behavior of objects in the universe, while condensed matter physicists use experimental techniques and mathematical models to study the properties of matter at the atomic and molecular level.

3. Can the principles of astrophysics be applied to condensed matter systems?

Yes, many principles and theories developed in astrophysics, such as gravity and thermodynamics, have been applied to the study of condensed matter systems. This has led to a better understanding of the behavior of matter in extreme conditions, such as in the cores of stars.

4. How do the career paths for astrophysicists and condensed matter physicists differ?

Astrophysicists often work in academia or at research institutions, studying the universe and publishing their findings in scientific journals. Condensed matter physicists, on the other hand, may work in a variety of industries, including materials science, nanotechnology, and electronics.

5. Is one field more important than the other?

Both astrophysics and condensed matter physics are important fields of study that contribute to our understanding of the physical world. Astrophysics helps us understand the origins and evolution of the universe, while condensed matter physics has practical applications in technology and materials science.

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