1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Becoming an Astrophysicist

  1. Nov 15, 2012 #1
    I am currently studying my last year in England, I am studying creative digital media. I found out in my second year while studying creative digtal media that I wanted to become and Astrophysicists.

    The reason why I'm finishing up this course is because I need this bachlor degree in order to get loan for my future studies. I never finished high school I got into this creative digital media because I had a little experience from before.

    I am planning on applying in February in 2014 to study Astrophysics at the University of Austin in the Texas. Currently now on my free-time I am training on math and physics. I recently got an id on http://www.mymathlabglobal.com/login_hedmaths.htm through a math teacher that I have known for a little while now.

    I have also been in contact with the school at Austin they then told me about the applying process in which that I need to write 2 essays, take a math test online, and a physics test.
    Has anyone taken any of math or physic tests that might know something about them.

    I recently also found that its a good idea to have a programming knowledge about different programming languages as and Astrophysicists. I only have basic programming knowledge, When I head back to Norway this may when I'm done with my studies here in England I plan to start training more on programming.

    I was looking for some tips on how I can better learn more about physics, I am doing things on Astronomy And Cosmolgy in KHANACADAMY they are pretty good, I have seen some courses on Coursera around Astronomy but my math is not that strong yet. but maybe there are some other good sites as well.

    In math I am doing currently fractions now, the math teacher that I know tells me that I can get up to the calculus level if I just prioritize my math good.
    Currently now in physics I am doing mostly about distances and speed,
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 15, 2012 #2


    User Avatar

    Re: Becoming And Astrophysicist

    The exams they want you to take are probably placement exams to figure out which classes you should start in. Some schools write their own, some farm them out to various companies that run them. It sounds like improving your math skills is a good place to start, and then get a copy of an introductory textbook (something called 'university physics' for the calculus-based version) and start working through that to prepare yourself for college classes. And don't limit yourself to one school; UT Austin is hard to get into. You'll need to apply to many.
  4. Nov 16, 2012 #3
    Re: Becoming And Astrophysicist

    Thanks for all the great info, I dident know that about Austin now that I know I will defiantly be applying to more Universitys. Thanks for the info on that textbook also.
  5. Nov 16, 2012 #4
    Re: Becoming And Astrophysicist

    Getting your maths up to par is going to be incredibly helpful. Try your best to do a lot of mechanics problems in maths. A good grasp of trigonometry and calculus will go a long way. I don't know any astrophysics-focused textbooks but I'm sure you can look up some university level textbooks to have a look at what you should know.

    From what you've said you're on the right track though.
  6. Nov 16, 2012 #5
    Re: Becoming And Astrophysicist

    Small world, I happen to be a physics major (and likely doubling w/astronomy) at UT. I wish you the best of luck getting in; Austin is a great town to live in, and I have nothing but good things to say about the physics and astronomy departments. You might even occasionally catch a glimpse of Steven Weinberg, though I haven't mustered up the courage to attend any theory group seminars yet. :tongue:

    With that said, make sure you understand what you're getting into. It's one thing to think astrophysics is cool and interesting; it's quite another to spend 4 years struggling to master difficult concepts in mathematics and physics. You really have to be dedicated, and it's probably naive to think that you'll be fascinated by everything you need to learn, especially in math and at the lower levels of physics, etc. (at least I wasn't). The most important thing you can do is get a solid math foundation, as it'll make the rest of your life (i.e. physics and astro courses) much easier and more manageable.

    I can't speak to the placement tests personally, as I didn't take any, although to do well you would certainly want to focus on getting a very solid math/physics foundation, as I just mentioned. I think they must take good personal essays into account as well, because I was out-of-state and my high-school GPA was a little lower than the average, but I thought my essays were very well written, and I had a high ACT score.

    Don't worry too much about programming, since you can take classes on it later, if and when you need it. If you want to learn some though, I recommend starting with Python because it has a simple, readable syntax but will still give you some valuable intuition about how computer programs work.

    Finally, I second eri on the need to apply to more schools. Generally, you want to find a few "reach" schools (that you probably won't be accepted to but are worth the trouble because you just might), a few mid-range schools (that you can probably get into, but you're not certain), and a few "safety" schools (that you are pretty certain you can get into). Then apply to all of them, that way you cover all of your bases, so to speak.
    Of course, to do this you need to find out what the admissions standards are, and how the admissions committees might look at an unconventional route such as yours. If you contact the admissions offices they should be able to help with this, and there's also a lot of more general information online.

    Best of luck to you!
  7. Nov 16, 2012 #6
    Well, it looks like you need to know much more mathematics before you can go to university to study astrophysics. When you say "fractions" do you mean fractions in algebra? How much mathematics exactly do you know?

    Maybe you should get some Norwegian (or English) school textbooks and try to complete the school curriculum. Then you should be fine. Knowing the mathematics will be more important than learning programming, or even trying to learn physics, because physics really starts once you know calculus anyway.

    And have you considered universities in Norway, or Europe? American universities tend to be very expensive, and from what I gather they generally don't give bursaries to foreign students, unless you are truly exceptional. Also, of course, if you study in Norway you won't have to worry about the language, if that matters to you.
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2012
  8. Nov 16, 2012 #7
    Re: Becoming And Astrophysicist

    Thanks I really appreciate all these kind words, this summer me and my dad visited the University but it was closed on a Saturday. But I got to see allot of other things around the University also. I have also been thinking about Texas Tech University which allot of people recommend also.
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2012
  9. Nov 16, 2012 #8
    Yeah I know I have allot of math practice to do, I mostly want to go somewhere around closed to Houston because my dad lives there. Its only like 160 minutes from Houston where my dad lives to Austin. I defiantly plan to look at more University's in around Texas as suggested above.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook