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Courses Undergraduate in university with no astronomy

  1. May 7, 2016 #1
    Hi everyone,

    I'm matriculating at a local university in Physics in a few months and my ultimate goal is to do a PhD in astronomy/astrophysics at a reputable US university after I graduate.

    I am aware research experience as an undergraduate is paramount in securing a good PhD spot and I have plans to conduct research. However, my school does not have an astronomy department at all and only basic introductory modules are taught such as general relativity, cosmology and black hole physics etc. I believe there are a few lecturers knowledgeable in these areas but I don't think much meaningful research that is worth citing in my PhD application can be done.

    Although I have some opportunities to do overseas research attachments/a final year project as part of a research program, which I will in a university that is strong in astronomy, I need some advice on what fields in Physics I could research on back at my home university that is closely related to astronomy and will be useful to me. Areas of research the department is strong in are biophysics, condensed matter, quantum technologies and optics/lasers, fluid dynamics, complex systems, nanotechnology and computational physics (I don't actually fully understand what some of the fields are about honestly).

    Thanks so much for your time!
  2. jcsd
  3. May 7, 2016 #2


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    Computational physics would be very useful, but frankly any research experience is good. You're not locking yourself into anything by your choice of research as an undergrad.
  4. May 7, 2016 #3
    Would the lack of research in the same field as your intended PhD area of study significantly affect the way the admission committee view your application? As far as I could tell, when I took a look at publicly available CVs of PhD students in top US programs like Caltech, most if not all did some form of astronomy research as an undergrad, if not outright majored in astrophysics.
  5. May 8, 2016 #4


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    Well, it's not optimal, but it's tougher to fight the reality of the situation. The work around you have is significant: to ability to some type of research at your school and the ability to do a final year abroad doing astronomy research. When you apply to graduate school your statement of research , if done properly, will be written in such a way as to make it look like you spun turned straw into gold.

    But I should have first asked why you didn't apply to a school with an astronomy program since, after all, this is where your interest lies.
    Last edited: May 8, 2016
  6. May 8, 2016 #5
    I come from a small country (Singapore) and there are only two main universities that offer Physics. One I am in, and while the other does have a small astrophysics group, it is nothing spectacular and if I am not wrong, there are no telescopes or any astronomical facilities anyway. Singapore's universities are tailored to industrial needs for very good reasons and we are strong in 'practical' research like engineering and medicine while theoretical areas such as astrophysics/string theory etc, which arguably has no tangible benefit for our economy, are neglected. This is the reason why I am looking abroad to the US for opportunities in astrophysics instead as the field is virtually non-existent back at home.

    Even so, the reason I am not in the latter university instead is that the former offered me a bond-free scholarship which covers quite a large sum of money, and with opportunities to still do research overseas, I thought the trade-off was a no-brainer.
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