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More astronomy program questions

  1. Jul 7, 2008 #1
    Does anyone happen to know anything about the Rutgers Astronomy/Astrophysics and, or the James Madison U. Astronomy program? This is speaking in terms of their undergraduate program, I'll be in California for grad school.

    I'll be visiting JMU and Virginia Tech this weekend with my girlfriend. She booked tours and info sessions for both schools for Graphic Design and I noticed that JMU has an Astronomy program. I'm less than interested in Virginia Tech, this weekend was for her. But, regarding Rutgers, seeing as it's instate and really not far from me at all it seems to be a great convenience. Especially since all my CC credits are transferrable by law. Honestly I wouldn't even consider RU unless it has a really good program. There are reasons behind that but, it's really really not important.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 7, 2008 #2

    I do know that your physics preparation as an undergrad is probably more important than your astronomy preparation once you start looking at grad school. For undergrad, prioritize research experience and technique - a lot of the undergrad level stuff is either very low-depth theory or phenomenology, which are not terribly hard to do without later. Knowing your way around a few things like IRAF could make your life easier later in ways the typical astronomy curriculum wouldn't.
  4. Jul 8, 2008 #3
    Seconded. If you want to go to astronomy grad school, you should be finding ways to do good research as an undergrad, and get a decent physics background.

    I don't know about physics at either of those two schools. I would say that in terms of research projects, the two main ways you can get involved in one are:

    1) REUs
    2) Work for a professor at your university

    I think that number 2 is preferable; your professor will be able to help grease a lot of wheels when you apply to graduate school. From that angle, what you should really be looking at is the strength of the *graduate* astronomy program, as that will determine what sort of professors there are to work with.
  5. Jul 8, 2008 #4
    REUs? im not sure what that means. and by a good physics background, should i focus mainly on physics? im only in CC right now, i didnt do so hot in highschool. im just trying to catch up and by the time i transfer ill be at a freshmen/sophomore level.

    you said working with a professor? how popular are astronomy/astrophysics majors that ill be able to work and research one on one with a professor?
  6. Jul 9, 2008 #5
    REU = Research Experience for Undergrads. Or something like that. Universities and other research centers like national labs put on Summer research programs that you can apply for. They're not required and admission is generally pretty competitive, but it's something you should try to do if you can. It's fun, and you'll learn a lot.

    Good physics skills (and math, but only really through the level your physics courses will require) are essential for graduate-level study in astronomy / astrophysics. Take any astronomy courses that you have time for and interest in, but you might want to talk to the departmental advisors at your target institutions about which courses are important for grad school preparation. The problem is that there is a lot of variation depending on local curriculum decisions as to what material to present, and how to arrange it between the various classes offered.

    At the CC level, you should be looking for a year of physics and a year of calculus at a minimum. Composition / Writing courses are very helpful, and programming courses can be. Linear algebra and differential equations are handy if offered. There may also be engineering courses that are worth looking at.

    The degree of undergraduate research available depends strongly on the institution. My university requires all physics majors to do it and makes it readily available to astronomy majors - but this varies a lot, and some schools won't give you any options here beyond doing a Summer REU at another institution.
  7. Jul 9, 2008 #6
    well the thing with me attending CC right now is just to get up to where i would be considered a college freshmen. i took two years off, forgot a lot and fell behind. i took 10 credits over this summer. two developmental courses, starting from square one algebra. ill be in calculus for spring but i was hoping to transfer out after spring semester. my family is moving next year and i dont want to have to transfer to another CC where credits wont transfer than make it all up and try to transfer to a 4 year school and probably still have to make some stuff up due to the lack of transferring credits.

    i have a meeting with the physics/chem department chair on tuesday, actually. im going to see what she has to say but i heard from many people that she's not friendly at all and will make anyone feel stupid. not a good notion...

    just out of curiosity....

    ill be in calc for spring... ill take calc 2 over the first summer session. calc 3 and differential eq's over the second summer session. if i end up staying one more semester, maybe even the whole year (which i really dont want) fall ill have linear algebra and discreet math. more than likely ill be up to analytical physics 2 or 3 by that time. i just found out that my CC offers gen ed elective science courses. intro to astronomy, planetary astronomy and stellar and galactic astronomy. if i can cram up to calc2 and phys2 as quick as i can and do well in them. whats the chances i get into a program like Boston U's? i should probably be asking an advisor that but the help at my school is minimal and when its offered its quite rude and not very helpful.
  8. Jul 9, 2008 #7
    Admissions...you really need to talk to the school. It depends primarily on the size of their applicant pool compared to the number of new students they can handle in a year, the composition of their applicant pool, and what portion of admissions they want to give to transfer students.

    I can tell you that it's very rare that they care whether or not you have officially completed an AA/AS degree. They're going to look at your preparation and performance, and at other things like the admissions essay(s).

    Those classes like "Intro to Astronomy"...if they interest you and you can't find anything that will contribute to your degree progress, then go for it. Do NOT prioritize it in any way other than as interesting filler, it probably won't count towards an undergrad astronomy degree as this is a non-majors survey course in almost every case. The planetary, stellar, and galactic courses sound more promising depending on the curriculum - you'd need to check.

    One concern as a CC student is that you will get cut off for Federal Aid after a certain number of years total as an undergrad. Five, I think? I'm not sure if they count by quarters or what, but try to be reasonably efficient since you're already likely to be delayed beyond "traditional" students because of the transfer.
  9. Jul 10, 2008 #8
    yea, thats probably why they're gened's. ill probably end up taking the stellar and galactic one if i can, id much rather take that instead of an elective like "evil in literature" or "mythology." as far as transferring goes, im probably better off talking to a transfer counselor or an admission counselor. but yeah, ill keep on working and hopefully i'll have enough physics under my belt to get into a decent/good program when i transfer out. anything else i should do? i was thinking about getting a few books like: intro to astrophysics and intro to quantum mechanics. i forgot by whom they're written by but someone said they might be helpful. any thoughts?
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