Software Engineering and Astronomy/Physics

In summary, the conversation discussed the speaker's interest in developing software for the scientific community and their potential pursuit of a graduate degree in order to do so. They expressed curiosity about the opportunities for software developers to work with physicists and astronomers, and mentioned their interest in high performance computing as a specialization. They also acknowledged the need for a strong background in math and science in order to write new software for current research, using protein folding as an example. However, they encouraged the speaker to pursue this path if they find it interesting, but to keep in mind the amount of learning that would be required.
  • #1
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I am 26 years old and I recently went back to school to study computer science - I hope to graduate by 2019 with a BSci. I'm currently interning as a software engineer as well. I was curious what opportunities there are for software developers to work around physicists, astronomers, etc. My dream job would be developing software for the scientific community. Certainly there's more money to be made elsewhere, but I like the idea of contributing to the advancement of science and knowledge than deepening somebody else's pockets.

I assume I would need a graduate level education, but I'm wondering if it is worth it to go as far as getting a PhD. I know in the scheme of things I am still young, but it seems most people in the field are finishing their PhD at my age rather than half-way through their undergrad. In any case, I could see myself pursuing a masters at some point, but I don't know what I could specialize in coming from a Computer Science background that would help. Maybe high performance computing?
 
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  • #2
If you want to get into scientific computing, the biggest hurdle will probably be getting a sufficient background in math and science. In order to write new software applicable to current research, you need to have a solid understanding of what the problem is, what has been done thus far, and what the limitations are for both hardware and current numerical methods.

As an example of some modern big-computing problems, take a look at protein folding. The molecular dynamics of protein molecules is a very difficult simulation for even the fastest super-computers. The software frameworks commonly used are CHARM https://www.charmm.org/charmm/?CFID=ed7f238d-065c-4379-9553-3b71e3299333&CFTOKEN=0 , NAMD http://www.ks.uiuc.edu/Research/namd/ , and MODELLER https://salilab.org/modeller/ . Developing software for scientific computing would generally mean that you would be working to improve platforms and libraries such as these. This means, you would have to understand the math and physics that goes along with these types of problems. No easy task!

If this seems interesting then go for it! Just keep in mind the amount of learning that would come with it.
 

Related to Software Engineering and Astronomy/Physics

1. What is the relationship between software engineering and astronomy/physics?

The relationship between software engineering and astronomy/physics is crucial as software plays a significant role in collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data from astronomical and physical observations. Software engineers develop and maintain the programs and algorithms used to process and analyze data from telescopes, satellites, and other scientific instruments.

2. What specific skills are needed for a career in software engineering and astronomy/physics?

To work in the field of software engineering and astronomy/physics, one needs to have a strong foundation in mathematics, computer science, and physics. It is essential to have knowledge of programming languages such as C++, Python, and Java, as well as experience with data analysis and visualization tools.

3. How do software engineers contribute to advancements in astronomy/physics?

Software engineers contribute to advancements in astronomy/physics by developing advanced algorithms and software tools that help scientists analyze and interpret large datasets from telescopes and other scientific instruments. They also work on designing and improving the software used to control and operate these instruments.

4. Can software engineering principles be applied to astronomy/physics research?

Yes, software engineering principles can be applied to astronomy/physics research. The principles of software development, such as requirement gathering, design, testing, and maintenance, are equally important in developing software for scientific research. These principles ensure that the software is reliable, efficient, and easy to use.

5. What are some current challenges in the intersection of software engineering and astronomy/physics?

One of the current challenges in this intersection is the increasing volume and complexity of data being collected from telescopes and other scientific instruments. Software engineers are constantly working on developing new techniques and tools to handle this large amount of data efficiently. Another challenge is the integration of different software and data from various sources, which requires careful coordination and collaboration among software engineers and scientists.

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