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Do I need Astrophysics for a PhD in Cosmology?

  1. Apr 5, 2016 #1
    Another way to ask is if I can go to my PhD in Cosmology through Astrophysics. Many people will thought that obviously yes, but notice Cosmology isn't a branch of Astrophysics, but of Theoretical Physics.
    Now you'll think this is a completely nonsense, so that Astrophysics is very similar to Cosmology.
    But think for a moment. Almost every Astrophysicist, who isn't also a Cosmologist, does not touch this field in its papers, but every Cosmologist is a Theoretical Physicist, and many aren't Astrophysicists.

    So, can I go to Cosmology into a PhD un Astrophysics?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 5, 2016 #2

    mfb

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    There is theoretical astrophysics. "Theoretical physics" is not a field on its own, there are theoretical elements for all fields of physics.

    Both fields are linked experimentally. If you want to do astrophysics with distant objects, you have to account for cosmology. If you want to measure anything related to cosmology, you have to observe and understand astronomical sources. And even for theorists, knowing about the experiments is unavoidable.

    What do you want to study in cosmology?
     
  4. Apr 5, 2016 #3
    Depends, do you want to study theoretical cosmology or observational/computational cosmology?
     
  5. Apr 5, 2016 #4

    Choppy

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    The question as I read it has a few interpretations.

    1. If you are asking whether you need to do an undergraduate degree in astrophysics to go on to do a PhD in cosmology, the answer is no. You need a solid foundation in physics, including a good foundation in astrophysics and the underlying mathematical methods you will be drawing on for your work, but there's no requirement that you do an undergraduate degree in astrophysics. In fact less specialization is usually better.

    2. If you are asking whether a person who studies astrophysics can go on to work in cosmology - maybe. I don't think there is anything that technically prevents this, but it's important to remember that there aren't a lot of cosmology positions out there (or astrophysics positions for that matter). The competitive people for the positions that do arise are likely to have very specific desired skill sets.

    3. If you're asking whether you can sign up for a PhD in an astrophysics group and then take on a cosmology project for your PhD - this is the kind of specific question you should be talking about with potential supervisors as you explore PhD programs. I'm sure it's possible. A lot will depend on the details of the specific project and the background and goals of your supervisor.
     
  6. Apr 5, 2016 #5

    e.bar.goum

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    This is nonsense, because Cosmology includes both observational and theoretical physics, like pretty much every field of physics. How do you think we know about the accelerated expansion of the universe if not for observational cosmology?
     
  7. Apr 5, 2016 #6

    Vanadium 50

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    e.bar.goum is right - you're spouting nonsense. Also, I don't know why you are worrying about this now. Worry about getting through high school and college first.
     
  8. Apr 5, 2016 #7

    radium

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    I know plenty of people in physics PhD programs who have advisors in astronomy/astrophysics doing cosmology both in theory and observation/instrumental work. Some physics departments include these fields i.e. there is no separation between departments. I would apply to physics departments rather than astronomy if you want more flexibility.
     
  9. Apr 6, 2016 #8
    Ok, so I guess I can make a thesis of Cosmology in a PhD on Astrophysics (right?). I know that I'm still at high school, and to young to worry about this things, but really, many times Astrophysics is confused with Mainstream Astronomy. And some times so much, that Cosmology is kind of another field, and I don't like that. So I wondered if to go through Cosmology I needed to follow another way like Mainstream theoretical Physics, because nearly every cosmologist is a theoretical physicist, but not every is an astrophysicist (for example, Albert Einstein wasn't an Astrophysicist, but we all know is one of the greatest cosmologists ever). Now I understand this stuff better, so thank you guys :)
     
  10. Apr 6, 2016 #9

    mfb

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    There is no "Mainstream theoretical Physics". A theoretical astrophysicist, a theoretical solid state physicists and a theoretical quantum optics physicist will work on completely different things.
     
  11. Apr 6, 2016 #10

    jtbell

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    In the US, physics bachelor's degrees are generally not specialized by field, or by "theoretical physics" versus "experimental physics". There are exceptions to any "rule" in the US educational system, of course. Some universities do offer astrophysics bachelor's degrees, for example.

    In other countries things may be different.
     
  12. Apr 6, 2016 #11

    e.bar.goum

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    I'll say it again: this statement is incorrect. If you don't believe me, look at who has won Nobel prizes for their cosmology. They were all won for observational work.

    Now, it may be that you do indeed want to do theoretical cosmology, but you really need to understand what that means first.
     
  13. Apr 6, 2016 #12

    radium

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    I think if you want to do theoretical work in cosmology (given this is still what you want to do in four years) you should definitely be in the physics department. However, I will emphasize that for observational work etc. you have much more flexibility if you are in the physics department. The basic required coursework will be different but it is (at least at the schools I know of) very easy to do research in another department. I have friends in physics working with advisors in chemistry, neuroscience, etc., even in stats (which can relate to a lot of physical problems). If you apply to astro departments you should really be dedicated to Astro since you can't just switch to AMO for example (which would be possible to do within the physics department).
     
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