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Astrostatistics or Astroinformatics?

  • Thread starter koh94
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  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

Astronomy has always been my passion (you guys probably here this hundreds of times on this forum), but I was always afraid to studying it in undergrad or grad school because of the very limited academic job openings in astronomy/astrophysics. However, I recently came across a research area in astrostatistics/astroinformatics on the internet, and it appears that CMU and Penn State are researching this area currently. What is the difference between astrostatistics and astroinformatics? I understand that this a is a relatively new area of study, and I was wondering if any members on this forum could shed some light and give their perspectives on the subject.

If one wanted to study or conduct research in astrostatistics/astroinformatics, what should one study as an undergraduate student? I am currently finishing up my first year as an applied mathematics major. I recently thought of minoring instead of double majoring in physics because I haven't taken any physics courses yet, and I'm afraid I won't graduate on time. Should I stick with applied math and minor in physics (I could choose my electives in astrophysics, if this is recommended), or should I major in statistics and minor in physics? Maybe even major in statistics and double minor in math and physics?

What should I study in graduate school if I wanted to get into astrostatistics/astroinformatics? I was thinking of applied mathematics or statistics. And finally, how are the academic job opportunities in this field?

Thanks in advance for your input!
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
Education Advisor
To the OP:

From what I understand after looking at the CMU site, astrostatistics is a research field within the Statistics department. The field itself deals heavily with the analysis of "big data" as it relates to astronomy/astrophysics, so further graduate studies in statistics is probably the best way to go.

I do not believe that to pursue this field you need to have too strong of a background in physics (although minoring in physics wouldn't hurt at all), since the statisticians researching this field work in close collaboration with the physicists and astronomers. I would suggest continuing with your major in applied math (while making sure to take courses in statistics) and apply for grad school in statistics. Of course, make sure to take some programming courses if you haven't done so already and see if you can fit in courses in data mining/machine learning if offered in the undergraduate program.

I can't answer any questions about academic job opportunities, but again from what I understand, statisticians who conduct research in astrostatistics tend also to work on many other research areas, such as bioinformatics/biostatistics and machine learning, all with relatively good job prospects (at least compared to other STEM fields -- academic jobs are still competitive, of course). In addition, statisticians have good job prospects outside of academia, at least for the moment, and I don't see that changing any time soon.

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