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So i want to be a cosmologist.

  1. Jun 5, 2012 #1
    I have a few questions if anyone would like to help?

    What should i major/minor in? I'm thinking Astronomy/physics.

    What careers fit into this feild? I want to go into research

    I dropped out of highschool, in the process of getting my GED now. Getting my associates from a junior college will be easy, but what about after that?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 5, 2012 #2


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    A physics/astronomy major is essentially the same modulo a few classes, so it's largely a matter of taste. I would recommend physics simply because it's a bit broader and you can take all the astronomy courses anyways, but it's not a huge deal.

    The most important thing on this journey is to do research. There's no way to know if you want to be a researcher (for all the years in graduate school and beyond) unless you actually do it. This is one of the benefits to going to a large university, since there's a good chance of a professor doing something close to what you're interested in. Also, you'll need a B.S to go to graduate school for physics/astronomy.

    Re: careers, the story is essentially the same as for all physics. There are very few full time, stable research jobs available and banking too much on getting one of them is likely a poor idea.
  4. Jun 5, 2012 #3
    Well as long as I'm getting to do what i want, i wont care. If i have to work 2 jobs to research the things i want to, so be it.

    For the longest i thought i wanted to be a lawyer, I can BS my way around anything. Then i realized its all politics and paying someone off. After that i thought i would open up an MMA gym but that would be too much of a gamble. As of right now i can see myself being more content researching than i would be doing anything else.

    Some of the things i would like to research are CMBR, black holes, particle physics, space expansion(red-shift), and wave behavior. Just to name a few.
  5. Jun 6, 2012 #4


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    Are saying you don't necessarily want to be a professional research scientist?

    Again I'll reiterate that while you might think you would be happy doing research now, there's really no way to know since you've never actually done any. People tend to seriously glamorize the whole endeavor by severely downplaying the amount of head-on-keyboard banging which takes place. To be sure, many do still enjoy it, but an equal or greater portion find out it isn't quite what they thought or were looking for. My point: Keep an open mind while having goals and avoid tunnel vision.
  6. Jun 6, 2012 #5
    I am very aware that things are not always as they seem, like i said i've changed my mind about 3 times now on what i want to do. Something about this feels right, then again so did opening a gym or being a lawyer. I see your point.

    I have never done any real research but i have taught myself the majority of what i know. Although that isn't research, its learning what other people have researched. It still reflects my yearning to learn and research. I'm sure that if i find a lead on one of my crazy theories, i will spend a lot of time as a recluse banging my head on a keyboard.

    No, I'm saying i want to be a professional research scientist. That if I'm not getting paid enough as one I will work an extra job or two, just so i can be one. Even if its cleaning toilets or flipping burgers.
    Hopefully i don't regret making this claim in hindsight.
  7. Jun 6, 2012 #6
    You can start here:


    Also, "how do I become a cosmologist?" is a question roughly akin to "how do I become a professional baseball player?" or "how do I become an olympic athlete?" There are roughly 1000 cosmologists in the world (according to Turner) whereas TeamUSA alone has about 600 people.

    So when someone asks me "what do I have to do to be a cosmologist" I don't want to discourage people from trying, but you do have to be realistic about your chances.

    The other thing is that there are relatively few cosmologists because most people lose interest once they find out what's involved in actual scientific research. Most research turns out to be "boring." You spend 12 hours a day babysitting computers.

    The place to start would be to talk some intro physics courses, and get some exposure to undergraduate research.

    Also this is a good intro into research

  8. Jun 6, 2012 #7
    As someone who has done some research in cosmology, I'll try to make some contributions:

    1.) I agree with Nabeshin, that it might be better for you to have a major in physics. I work in the area of cosmological perturbations, mostly in the inflation era rightnow. I have the impression that most people who do research well in cosmology these days have solid background in both classical relativity and HEP. Thus having a broader spectrum in your knowledge will definitely benefit your graduate study. And yes I'm assuming that the physics majors will have advantages in this (though it could be a false impression since my major was physics).

    2.) As Nabeshin pointed out, it's better to go to a department with more faculty doing actual research. Not only will this give you a tase of what research really feels like, you will also have more connections with people around the world who are studying the cosmos through seminars and workshops. Reasearch in reallity, especially for young guys, are not just what you do, but also what others are doing. Small departments aren't competetive here. And also if you changed your mind and decided not to continue with cosmology, which is verly likely, a department with faculty doing research in various sub-domains of physics, say plasma physics, could save you some pain.

    3.) Now that you decided to go along with cosmology, there are a lot to learn. To understand inflation itself is some task that could be daunting as your readings of literature progress. It requires you to know QFT, statistical mechanics, statistics, some programming, and a lot more. And this is just inflation. Of course for a phd candidate, no one would be expeccting you to know all of these well. And I think leanring things thourgh research is a good thing.

    4.) Say you finally made it through the 4-6 years of grad school, in your final year you would have to consider your chances of getting a postdoc after phd, as twofish-quant indicated. I'm not sure which country you are in, but here in the US, the chance of getting a postdoc for a fresh phd studying theoretical cosmology should be around 1%, and the positions are usually limitted to several places around the globe. If you did 2.) and 3.) well, namely you have a lot of interesting publications, you know lots of people in this area and your adviser can really help you get a postdoc position, your chances will be higher (but I'm not sure by how much).

    5.) Doing some part time job while doing research is not impossible, but research itself is a demanding job. For theoretical work, you would have to sit down and do lots of calculations, integrals, and these could easily take hours before you can see any result. For experimental work, which I'm not familiar with, I guess pragramming for hours are also required.

    All in all, what I can say is, don't just limit yourself to cosmology, since no real cosmologist does.

    Hope these would help.
  9. Jun 6, 2012 #8
    Wise words. They deserve rereading.
  10. Jun 6, 2012 #9
    Thank you all very much. I'm pretty sure this is what i want to do but I'll keep an open mind.
  11. Jun 8, 2012 #10
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