Requesting advice on astrobiology/planetary science career path and classes

In summary, the conversation revolves around the topic of pursuing an astrobiology degree and the speaker's career aspirations in the field of astronomy and planetary science. They mention being interested in detecting biosignatures in icy moons and express uncertainty about the availability of research positions and PhD programs in astrobiology. The conversation also touches on the curriculum of an MSc in astrobiology and the potential limitations it may have in terms of specialization and future career options. The speaker is advised to research the backgrounds of current astrobiology PhD students and authors of astrobiology papers to gain a better understanding of the field.
  • #1
simba
21
3

Hello,
I am confused on whether to choose an astrobiology degree. I am planning to apply for planetary science or astronomy with computational intensive programmes in universities. My career aspirations are to work as a researcher/professor in astronomy or planetary science(I am interested in detecting biosginatures in icy moons). Recently a university in my country introduced a program in M.sc in astrobiology and space sciences. I have gone through their syllabus and I have given those below. My questions are if I study this degree, can I pursue a PhD in astrobiology and find a suitable research positions in europe? From my preliminary search I find the PhD positions and research positions for astrobiology are very scarce. If I am not able to go for PhD in astrobiology can I apply for PhD in planetary science with subjects I have studied? or
Are there any other relevant research positions I can apply?
Doing this degree will be risky option for me?!! Please help me by providing your valuable advice.

Term1​

  • Introduction to Geosciences - I
  • Introduction to Space Science/Planetary Science
  • Introduction to Biochemistry
  • Analytical Techniques
  • Practical Course 1 - Geosciences 1
  • Practical Course 2 - Biochemistry

Term2​

  • Introduction to Microbiology
  • Introduction to Geosciences - II
  • Statistics for Biologists
  • Introduction to Planetary Environmental Science
  • Introduction to Planetary Meteorology
  • Practical Course 1 - Microbiology and Geosciences - II
  • Practical Course 2 – Planetary Environmental Science and Planetary Meteorology
  • Research Article Presentation

Term3​

  • Astrobiology Missions - II
  • Extremophile & Deep sea Microbiology
  • Basics of Plant and Animal tissue culture
  • Space Biology
  • Astrobiology Missions - I
  • Research Methodology, IPR and Biosafety
  • Practical Course 1- Space Biology
  • Practical Course 2- Astrobiology Missions - I
  • Term Paper - II
  • Summer Internship

Term4​

  • Dissertation/Project Report Presentation
 
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  • #2
I would be cautious about the pursuit of such a specialized degree. You are correct in that there are not a whole lot of formal astrobiology positions in the world.

Further, there's nothing that says you need a specific education in "astrobiology" to pursue research in it, nor is there any standard curriculum for the the field (at least not that I'm aware of). If there are PhD programs in astrobiology, what background do the current students in those programs have?

In pursuing an MSc like that, it looks like you'll do a survey of courses in a variety of fields, but it won't give you very much specialization in any one of them. I worry that it won't give you too many options for afterward, if the astrobiology route doesn't work out.
 
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  • #3
You might look at ~10 authors from the various astrobiology papers you are undoubtedly reading and seeing what their degrees are in, I bet the number with astrobiology degrees is zero. Maybe one, but most likely zero.
 
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  • #4
Hello,
I am thinking up about the plans of pursuing masters degree in planetary science after doing a degree in masters in astrobiology. Please provide me your suggestion whether it sounds like a realistic plan.

Plan A
Since my background is not in physics and I have been working in industry for last 13 years, maybe if I take up this degree, score good grades, publish some good research paper,(and if possible they allow I can take physics subjects as well along with degree) then I can try for some masters/masters with phd programs in earth and planetary science in ivy leagues or other good universities in europe??!!. It's much cheaper for me to do this method when compared to studying abroad. I have the chances of getting better letter of recommendation.

Plan B
Do well in gre physics. Try publishing research paper( Its difficult here to land in a research project here). Straightaway apply for a masters in an abroad university for physics or planetary science program.(Not sure about the reputation of university or major I would get in). Arranging funds for abroad education is difficult for me. And I need to arrange for letter of recommendation in the same field.Please provide your valuable advise on whether which plan would work out and realistic so that I can get a better perspective. I am unable to decide as I don't have any mentor or guidance relevant to this matter.
 
  • #5
What country are you in?
 
  • #6
India
 
  • #7
I'm not sure I completely understand your plan options. Because as I'm reading it, I suspect you're putting the cart before the horse.

First off, what is your existing education level? You're talking about taking the physics GRE, and/or publishing a research paper in physics. These require a solid foundation in physics... i.e. an undergraduate degree in physics. This isn't the kind of thing you can just pick up in your spare time.

I *think* your plan A is proposing to take this master's degree in astrobiology and then from there, using a solid performance in that to leap over to planetary science or astronomy or physics at the graduate level. But the problem is that the physical sciences graduate programs aren't likely to accept an astrobiology MSc as a substitute for the physics background you're going to need.
 
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  • #8
Choppy said:
I'm not sure I completely understand your plan options. Because as I'm reading it, I suspect you're putting the cart before the horse.

First off, what is your existing educatio7n level? You're talking about taking the physics GRE, and/or publishing a research paper in physics. These require a solid foundation in physics... i.e. an undergraduate degree in physics. This isn't the kind of thing you can just pick up in your spare time.

I *think* your plan A is proposing to take this master's degree in astrobiology and then from there, using a solid performance in that to leap over to planetary science or astronomy or physics at the graduate level. But the problem is that the physical sciences graduate programs aren't likely to accept an astrobiology MSc as a substitute for the physics background you're going to need.

Thanks for the response. My bachelor's degree is in computer science and I took physics at school. The reason to prepare for GRE physics exam is to showcase my knowledge in physics for university and provide evidence that I have the capability to understand university level physics concepts. Also my intention is to get into a astronomy or earth and planetary science programs like the similar programs given here.

https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/education/study-programmes/master/astronomy/astronomy-and-data-science

https://www.geo.fu-berlin.de/en/geol/fachrichtungen/planet/MSc_Plan_Sci_Space_Expl_FAQ/index.html

https://aase.iiti.ac.in/?page_id=33

Publishing a research paper is a long shot, but I want to gain some research experience related to physics/earth and planetary science. So that I can add weightage to my profile. Thats what I meant.

The reason I want to choose msc astrobiology is I am getting desperate to join a science program that anyhow provides me the necessary background because I'm wasting years by not studying and not progressing where I intend to proceed. So I thought of joining this program (if possible take physics subjects along with it) which can provide me the background I lack for some best programs/universities.

I have one year to prepare for gre physics and in lndia we have jam/gate coaching centres that teach physics for entrance examination. I can study there.

If my plan doesn't sound reasonable I acknowledge and ready to change.

Please help me by providing the advise and guidance. I would gladly accept.
 
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  • #9
simba said:
My bachelor's degree is in computer science and I took physics at school.
Which physics courses?

simba said:
Try publishing research paper( I
And who will be supervising this research?
simba said:
I have one year
Writing a paper in one year when you haven't even started is unrealistic.

simba said:
I have one year to prepare for gre physics and in lndia we have jam/gate coaching centres that teach physics for entrance examination.
There are more than a few people who tr ied to learn all of a physics BS in one year. Most - perhaps all - of them are unhappy.

I assume you need someone else to pay for your graduate education?
 
  • #10
Okay so your goal is to get into an astronomy or planetary science graduate program. You have a degree in computer science that's 13 years old and you "took physics at school."

From your first link, if you look on the admission requirements:
...you are eligible to apply under the condition that you have in-depth knowledge (comparable to undergraduate courses of the Leiden Astronomy curriculum) with:
  • a theoretical and mathematical emphasis, including quantum physics, electrodynamics, statistical physics, and complex analysis.
  • courses in the field of Astronomy.
  • and with proficiency in programming, preferably in the Python language.

This basically means they're looking for someone with a physics degree, who also took enough astronomy and programming options they can keep up to the course and project work in the program.

Unfortunately, even a stellar performance on the physics GRE is not a substitute for a physics degree. In my experience, graduate admissions committees tend to view it as a mitigator... a means to compare graduates from different schools, with different evaluation criteria, different degrees of grade inflation, etc.

The issue is that graduate programs will generally expect you to dive into graduate-level course work that includes core physics topics like statistical mechanics, quantum mechanics, E&M, etc, and you're expected to do exceedingly well in these. At the PhD level, you can expect comprehensive and candidacy examinations as well. As much as possible, they don't want people to fail these. So, among their applicants, they take the people who have already excelled in the necessary prerequisite courses. Simply having done will in a single exam won't do much to elevate an applicant to be competitive with those who systematically did well in a comprehensive program over years of formal study.

So what I'm saying is that to get there from where you're at, the best bet is to figure out how complete the necessary prerequisite coursework.
 
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  • #11
Choppy said:
So what I'm saying is that to get there from where you're at, the best bet is to figure out how complete the necessary prerequisite coursework.
^^^. OP: Yes, this. Instead of blowing 2 yrs on some spurious workaround, why don't you enroll (whether for a second degree or not, depending on how things work in your universities) in the undergrad courses (physics, astronomy, planetary science, math, ...) that will directly prepare you for your target graduate programs?
 
  • #12
Thanks for the response people. Along with your responses and I went through some of the applicant profiles in some forums. It seems getting into well reputed university or good universities without right background is almost impossible.
I will review my plans. Just one more question.
Is this the applicable for earth and planetary science programs as well?
 
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  • #13
CrysPhys said:
^^^. OP: Yes, this. Instead of blowing 2 yrs on some spurious workaround, why don't you enroll (whether for a second degree or not, depending on how things work in your universities) in the undergrad courses (physics, astronomy, planetary science, math, ...) that will directly prepare you for your target graduate programs?
The problem here is, in our country most universities are not supportive to older students. There are age restrictions and there is a very huge competition for good universities. That's the reason I plan to pursue the program abroad.
 
  • #14
simba said:
The problem here is, in our country most universities are not supportive to older students. There are age restrictions and there is a very huge competition for good universities. That's the reason I plan to pursue the program abroad.
I understand that your longer term goal is a graduate program abroad. But in preparation for admission to a graduate program abroad, you wrote:

simba said:
Recently a university in my country introduced a program in M.sc in astrobiology and space sciences.
<<Emphasis added>>

This is what I'm referring to when I wrote:
CrysPhys said:
Instead of blowing 2 yrs on some spurious workaround, why don't you enroll (whether for a second degree or not, depending on how things work in your universities) in the undergrad courses (physics, astronomy, planetary science, math, ...) that will directly prepare you for your target graduate programs?

Are you able to enroll in your country for the undergrad courses you need, even if you don't earn a second degree? I.e., instead of pursuing a master's in astrobiology in your country, in preparation for a graduate program abroad.
 
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  • #15
CrysPhys said:
I understand that your longer term goal is a graduate program abroad. But in preparation for admission to a graduate program abroad, you wrote:<<Emphasis added>>

This is what I'm referring to when I wrote:Are you able to enroll in your country for the undergrad courses you need, even if you don't earn a second degree?
I think I didn't explain it clearly. The maximum age limit for undergraduate program is 25 years in almost all of the universities. If I need to pursue a degree in my country I need to pursue a masters degree. Some universities allow older students to pursue master degree. One such university is mentioned above.
 
  • #16
simba said:
I think I didn't explain it clearly. The maximum age limit for undergraduate program is 25 years in almost all of the universities. If I need to pursue a degree in my country I need to pursue a masters degree. Some universities allow older students to pursue master degree. One such university is mentioned above.
Ah, that's useful information I was totally unaware of. A terrible restriction; but it does clarify why you are considering the option that you are. You would have gotten different responses if you had let us know this constraint in your first post. But you still need to carefully consider whether the master's program in India will adequately prepare you for the master's program abroad.
 
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  • #17
simba said:
The problem here is, in our country most universities are not supportive to older students. There are age restrictions and there is a very huge competition for good universities. That's the reason I plan to pursue the program abroad.
Hey, Indian physics undergrad here. When you say good universities, do you mean JEE-accepting institutes? While afaik you aren't eligible to take the tests for IITs/NITs/IISERs, have you looked at state universities? I'm not sure what the age limit for those is, but I don't remember reading about one while taking admission here at Mumbai University. Even if there is one, distance learning is always an option (IGNOU, IDOL here at MU, etc) but you should make sure foreign universities accept our distance-ed degrees.

One more thing, the astrobio program you're describing is Amity, right? Might genuinely be biased by my hate for private unis but I wouldn't really go for an Amity degree, man.
 
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  • #18
haider said:
Hey, Indian physics undergrad here. When you say good universities, do you mean JEE-accepting institutes? While afaik you aren't eligible to take the tests for IITs/NITs/IISERs, have you looked at state universities? I'm not sure what the age limit for those is, but I don't remember reading about one while taking admission here at Mumbai University. Even if there is one, distance learning is always an option (IGNOU, IDOL here at MU, etc) but you should make sure foreign universities accept our distance-ed degrees.

One more thing, the astrobio program you're describing is Amity, right? Might genuinely be biased by my hate for private unis but I wouldn't really go for an Amity degree, man.
Thanks for the response. I am not interested in distance learning programs as it leads me nowhere. I tried few state run programs and they have age limit for masters degree itself. I want to pursue not the best but atleast a good university. But I take into consideration of your suggestion of Amity university.
 
  • #19
simba said:
Thanks for the response. I am not interested in distance learning programs as it leads me nowhere. I tried few state run programs and they have age limit for masters degree itself. I want to pursue not the best but atleast a good university. But I take into consideration of your suggestion of Amity university.
I am not sure that is true for all (if not most) state universities, but I might be wrong. To clarify, by state university I mean universities run by state governments (Mumbai University, Pune University, etc.) as opposed to central universities (JNU. BHU, Pondicherry University, U of Hyderabad, etc.).

Also, I feel like I have to emphasize this as an Indian: do not rely on a JAM coaching class to teach you 3 years of undergraduate physics. People who go to those are already enrolled in a BSc program or have graduated from one, not to mention the pedagogy in these places is just horrible. You will not gain even a fraction of the competence that someone who has rigorously worked for 3 years will have.
 
  • #20
haider said:
I am not sure that is true for all (if not most) state universities, but I might be wrong. To clarify, by state university I mean universities run by state governments (Mumbai University, Pune University, etc.) as opposed to central universities (JNU. BHU, Pondicherry University, U of Hyderabad, etc.).

Also, I feel like I have to emphasize this as an Indian: do not rely on a JAM coaching class to teach you 3 years of undergraduate physics. People who go to those are already enrolled in a BSc program or have graduated from one, not to mention the pedagogy in these places is just horrible. You will not gain even a fraction of the competence that someone who has rigorously worked for 3 years will have.
I have searched for the age criteria for the universities you mentioned but it's not available in their website or in the circular. I will try to contact them through mail id or phone.
I agree with what you said about the coaching centres. One question I have about what you said, why amity university is not worthy enough to pursue a degree?
 

Related to Requesting advice on astrobiology/planetary science career path and classes

What are the essential courses I should take during my undergraduate studies to prepare for a career in astrobiology or planetary science?

To prepare for a career in astrobiology or planetary science, you should focus on courses in biology, chemistry, physics, and geology. Additionally, coursework in mathematics (especially calculus and statistics), computer science, and astronomy will be highly beneficial. Interdisciplinary courses that combine these fields, such as planetary geology or biochemistry, can also provide a strong foundation.

Is it necessary to pursue a graduate degree to work in astrobiology or planetary science?

Yes, pursuing a graduate degree is typically necessary for a career in astrobiology or planetary science. Most positions in these fields, especially research and academic roles, require at least a master's degree, with a Ph.D. being highly advantageous. Graduate studies allow you to specialize in your area of interest and gain valuable research experience.

What kind of research experience should I seek out during my studies?

During your studies, aim to gain research experience in laboratories, fieldwork, or through internships related to astrobiology or planetary science. Look for opportunities to work on projects involving microbial life, planetary geology, atmospheric science, or space missions. Participating in research programs, such as those offered by NASA or other space agencies, can provide hands-on experience and valuable networking opportunities.

Are there specific skills that are particularly important for a career in astrobiology or planetary science?

Important skills for a career in astrobiology or planetary science include strong analytical and critical thinking abilities, proficiency in scientific writing and communication, and experience with data analysis and computational tools. Familiarity with laboratory techniques, remote sensing, and instrumentation used in space missions can also be highly beneficial. Additionally, interdisciplinary collaboration skills are crucial, as these fields often involve working with experts from various scientific backgrounds.

What professional organizations or societies should I consider joining to advance my career in astrobiology or planetary science?

Joining professional organizations or societies can provide networking opportunities, access to the latest research, and career development resources. Consider joining the American Astronomical Society (AAS), the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the Astrobiology Society of America (ASA), or the International Astronomical Union (IAU). These organizations often offer conferences, workshops, and publications that can be valuable for staying informed and connected within the field.

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