Moving from Computer Science to a PhD in Computational Astrophysics

In summary: I live in India.It would be helpful if any astro people from the similar background advise me.In summary, you should beef up your physics, because you need to be successful entering grad school and to be successful in grad school. Your specific question is maybe 20th in important.
  • #1
simba
21
3
Hi I am planning to do phd in computational astrophysics or planetary science or scientific computing simulation (least preferred in case i am not allowed to the other two). Right now I have bachelors in computer science and planning to do masters in the same. My query is should i join computer science or data science ? which is more relevant to my future prospect. I am confused. I would much appreciate if someone guides me. Thanks in advance.
 
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  • #2
If you want a PhD in physics, you can't avoid taking physics classes.
 
  • #3
Thanks. I have a plan to choose physics subject papers along with the degree. But which would be more relevant to the career path I chose? Would it be computer science or data science? It would be helpful if any astro people from the similar background advise me.
 
  • #4
You need to beef up your physics, because you need to be successful entering grad school and to be successful in grad school. Your specific question is maybe 20th in important.
 
  • #5
You have to know physics to do computational physics. Going into more computer science or data science isn't going to get you where you want to be.
 
  • #6
yeah thanks for the input... I also thinking to give a try for GRE physics. I set myself 2 years of preparation. can i get a good score without physics degree? Is my goal realistic?
 
  • #7
How much physics do you know already? Students planning to go into grad school take the PGRE after atleast 4 years of math and physics courses. Self teaching you yourself all the necessary physics in two years is a pretty tall order.
 
  • #8
I have studied physics in my higher school. I can only self taught up to a limit but in my country we have lots of coaching center for competitive exams. I can join there for the physics coaching if I were to write gre physics. Below is some syllabus

Section 1: Mathematical Physics
  • Linear vector space −
    • Basis
    • Orthogonality
    • Completeness
  • Matrices
  • Vector calculus
  • Linear differential equations, elements of complex analysis
  • Cauchy Riemann conditions −
    • Cauchy’s theorems
    • Singularities
    • Residue theorem
    • Applications
  • Laplace transforms −
    • Fourier analysis
  • Elementary ideas about tensors −
    • Covariant and contravariant tensor
    • Levi-Civita and Christoffel symbols

Section 2: Classical Mechanics
  • D’Alembert’s principle
  • Cyclic coordinates
  • Variational principle
  • Lagrange’s equation of motion
  • central force and scattering problems
  • Rigid body motion
  • Small oscillations
  • Hamilton’s formalisms
  • Poisson bracket
  • special theory of relativity −
    • Lorentz transformations
    • Relativistic kinematics
    • Mass-energy equivalence

Section 3: Electromagnetic Theory
  • Solutions of electrostatic and magnetostatic problems including boundary value
  • Problems
  • Dielectrics and conductors
  • Maxwell’s equations
  • Scalar and vector potentials
  • Coulomb and Lorentz gauges
  • Electromagnetic waves and their reflection, refraction, interference, diffraction and polarization
  • Poynting vector, Poynting theorem, energy and momentum of electromagnetic waves
  • Radiation from a moving charge

Section 4: Quantum Mechanics
  • Postulates of quantum mechanics
  • Uncertainty principle
  • Schrodinger equation
  • One-, two- and three-dimensional potential problems
  • Particle in a box, transmission through one dimensional potential barriers, harmonic oscillator, hydrogen atom
  • Linear vectors and operators in Hilbert space
  • Angular momentum and spin
  • Addition of angular momenta
  • Time independent perturbation theory
  • Elementary scattering theory

Section 5: Thermodynamics and Statistical Physics
  • Laws of thermodynamics
  • Macrostates and microstates
  • Phase space
  • Ensembles
  • Partition function, free energy, calculation of thermodynamic quantities
  • Classical and quantum statistics
  • Degenerate fermi gas
  • Black body radiation and Planck’s distribution law
  • Bose-Einstein condensation
  • First and second order phase transitions, phase equilibria, critical point

Section 6: Atomic and Molecular Physics
  • Spectra of one- and many-electron atoms
  • Ls and jj coupling
  • Hyperfine structure
  • Zeeman and stark effects
  • Electric dipole transitions and selection rules
  • Rotational and vibrational spectra of diatomic molecules
  • Electronic transition in diatomic molecules, Franck-Condon principle
  • Raman effect
  • NMR, ESR, X-Ray Spectra
  • Lasers −
    • Einstein coefficients
    • Population inversion
    • Two and three level systems

Section 7: Solid State Physics & Electronics
  • Elements of crystallography
  • Diffraction methods for structure determination
  • Bonding in solids
  • Lattice vibrations and thermal properties of solids
  • Free electron theory
  • Band theory of solids −
    • Nearly free electron and tight binding models
  • Metals, semiconductors and insulators
  • Conductivity, mobility and effective mass
  • Optical, dielectric and magnetic properties of solids
  • Elements of superconductivity −
    • Type-I and Type II superconductors
    • Meissner effect
    • London equation
  • Semiconductor devices −
    • Diodes
    • Bipolar junction transistors
    • Field effect transistors
  • Operational amplifiers −
    • Negative feedback circuits
    • Active filters and oscillators
  • Regulated power supplies
  • Basic digital logic circuits, sequential circuits, flip-flops, counters, registers, A/D and D/A conversion

Section 8: Nuclear and Particle Physics
  • Nuclear radii and charge distributions, nuclear binding energy, electric and Magnetic moments
  • Nuclear models, liquid drop model −
    • Semi-empirical mass formula
    • Fermi gas model of nucleus
    • Nuclear shell model
  • Nuclear force and two nucleon problem
  • Alpha decay, beta-decay, electromagnetic transitions in nuclei
  • Rutherford scattering, nuclear reactions, conservation laws
  • Fission and fusion
  • Particle accelerators and detectors
  • Elementary particles, photons, baryons, mesons and leptons
  • Quark model

attachment is the syllabus for different examination
 

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  • #9
If you want to argue "things are different in my county" that's fine, but if you want good advice, you need to tell us what country that is. And what country you intend to get your PhD in. Don't leave us to guess.
 
  • #10
That is quite an extensive syllabus. What is that in reference to? If that is the list of physics undergrad or masters subjects, then you may have to pass a fairly tough cumulative test on all of that to be accepted into a Ph.D. program. In addition to that, there might be a requirement to pass some significantly more difficult exams in some specialties.
If your goal is to work in the field of computational astrophysics, your best bet may be to stay in computer science (IMHO, not data science) and become one of their programmers. A good knowledge of the relevant physics would be very helpful there.
 
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  • #11
Vanadium 50 said:
If you want to argue "things are different in my county" that's fine, but if you want good advice, you need to tell us what country that is. And what country you intend to get your PhD in. Don't leave us to guess.

my country is India. The portion in the pdf is the syllabus for JEE exam which is eligibility criteria for bachelor's in elite universities(IIT, NIT). The portion in copy pasted belongs to GATE exam, which is master's eligibility criteria , and also used as criteria to enter into government jobs. We have lots of coaching center here for both.
I intend to get into an university in India as much as possible, but the eligibility, flexibility to choose majors are rigid here mostly. So I also have some consideration for US or european universities.
 
  • #12
FactChecker said:
That is quite an extensive syllabus. What is that in reference to? If that is the list of physics undergrad or masters subjects, then you may have to pass a fairly tough cumulative test on all of that to be accepted into a Ph.D. program. In addition to that, there might be a requirement to pass some significantly more difficult exams in some specialties.
If your goal is to work in the field of computational astrophysics, your best bet may be to stay in computer science (IMHO, not data science) and become one of their programmers. A good knowledge of the relevant physics would be very helpful there.

Those are in reference to entrance exams for JEE (pdf syllabus) and GATE which is the eligibility criteria for elite universities. My assumption here is maybe if I get trained on this I could face GRE physics?!

May I know which difficult exams are you mentioning?

Yes my goal is to get into computational astrophysics or computational part in (earth and planetary science). Anyway thanks for the advise to direct me to choose computer science. I will pursue with it. If possible can you refer me what kind of jobs I need to look for and the introductory level books for that. Google provides me lots suggestions but don't know which one to pick for beginner level.
 
  • #13
simba said:
My assumption here is maybe if I get trained on this I could face GRE physics?!
May I know which difficult exams are you mentioning?
It may be good for you to investigate the Ph.D. candidate acceptance process at some universities that you are interested in. I assume that universities, even in the same country, can vary a lot.
I can only tell you what it was like for me at a Math department in the U.S. I am sure that physics is not any easier. In order to be accepted into a Ph.D. program, there may be tests to verify that you have mastered general physics subjects at the level expected of a Ph.D. recipient. They may also have more advanced tests on the specialty that you pick. A lot of people who are able to get a Masters degree may not be able to pass these tests.
 
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  • #14
FactChecker said:
It may be good for you to investigate the Ph.D. candidate acceptance process at some universities that you are interested in. I assume that universities, even in the same country, can vary a lot.
I can only tell you what it was like for me at a Math department in the U.S. I am sure that physics is not any easier. In order to be accepted into a Ph.D. program, there may be tests to verify that you have mastered general physics subjects at the level expected of a Ph.D. recipient. They may also have more advanced tests on the specialty that you pick. A lot of people who are able to get a Masters degree may not be able to pass these tests.

Is this applicable to scientific computing , Earth and planetary sciences specialty too?
 
  • #15
Although universities can be very different, there is one thing that you can probably count on. When a university gives a Ph.D. degree in a subject like physics, they want that person to be able to teach virtually any physics subject at the undergraduate college level. Otherwise, their degree program would not be respected. So you should assume that you will have to know all the normal undergraduate physics subjects like the back of your hand. You will not be able to just pick a particular specialty in physics and be weak in the other areas. If that does not appeal to you, you might look for a joint program between the computer and physics departments where you can specialize in the applications of computer science in some areas of physics.
 
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  • #16
FactChecker said:
Although universities can be very different, there is one thing that you can probably count on. When a university gives a Ph.D. degree in a subject like physics, they want that person to be able to teach virtually any physics subject at the undergraduate college level. Otherwise, their degree program would not be respected. So you should assume that you will have to know all the normal undergraduate physics subjects like the back of your hand. You will not be able to just pick a particular specialty in physics and be weak in the other areas. If that does not appeal to you, you might look for a joint program between the computer and physics departments where you can specialize in the applications of computer science in some areas of physics.
Thanks for the advise. Actually I have already been teaching physics, data science for school level. Now I just need to level up on my teaching.
 
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Related to Moving from Computer Science to a PhD in Computational Astrophysics

1. What is the difference between computer science and computational astrophysics?

Computer science is a field that focuses on the study of computers and computational systems, including their theory, design, development, and application. Computational astrophysics, on the other hand, is a subfield of astrophysics that uses advanced computational techniques to study and analyze astronomical data and phenomena.

2. What skills are required for a PhD in computational astrophysics?

To pursue a PhD in computational astrophysics, you will need a strong background in mathematics, physics, and computer science. You should also have strong programming skills, as well as experience with data analysis and visualization. Additionally, a strong understanding of astrophysical concepts and theories is necessary.

3. Can I transition from computer science to a PhD in computational astrophysics without a background in astrophysics?

While a background in astrophysics is helpful, it is not always necessary to transition from computer science to a PhD in computational astrophysics. Many programs offer courses and resources to help students without a background in astrophysics catch up and succeed in the field.

4. What are some potential career options with a PhD in computational astrophysics?

Some potential career options with a PhD in computational astrophysics include research positions at universities or government agencies, data scientist roles at tech companies, and positions at space research organizations. Additionally, many graduates go on to become professors, teaching and conducting research in the field.

5. What are some current research topics in computational astrophysics?

Some current research topics in computational astrophysics include simulating galaxy formation and evolution, analyzing data from gravitational wave detections, and studying the dynamics of black holes and neutron stars. Other areas of interest include cosmological simulations, exoplanet detection and characterization, and the use of machine learning in astrophysics research.

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