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Programs What features/facilities do good astrophysics programs have?

  1. Jun 14, 2017 #1
    Hi all,
    I am currently deciding which astrophysics/astronomy graduate program to attend. I will like to know what types of facilities, people, environments etc. indicate a strong astrophysics program. Please list them in order of importance. By the way, the universities I am looking at are all large state universities. Thanks a lot!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 14, 2017 #2

    stefan r

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    Gold Member

    I did not do astronomy. But grad schools has some overlap...

    Ask yourself if you want to live in that city. You are going to be stuck there for a few years. Weather effects astronomy so I would go someplace sunny.

    In all work environments I have experienced, including school, the manager/faculty advisor was the most important variable. Once you narrow down your options talk to a student in that department. Does the professor appear to care about his/her students.

    Are they paying for this? Some schools may have higher quality than others. A full ride and stipend will do a lot for your quality of life. Schools with the best reputations draw great students who are frequently successful after school. The same students may have been successful in any program.

    You can split schools/programs into teaching focused and research focused. If you can get a research fellowship you may not have to teach a single class. If your goal is to study astrophysics so that you can then teach astrophysics then you want the opposite. It might be better if the university did not have great astronomy facilities on site if that means the professors focus on their student's becoming better teachers.

    I spent a lot of time on electron microscopes. There were several around. The lower resolution model was frequently available. That meant I could book an enormous amount of time looking at samples. An extremely powerful telescope might make the university look like a good place. However, if PhDs visiting from Europe booked all the time on the telescope before you applied for graduate school then you will not be using it. You can read their results from anywhere. You can develop a lot of skill using a second rank instrument that would otherwise be idle. They will probably not let a student fix/modify a new multi-million dollar device. You can learn a lot working on an old piece that got discarded and auctioned off.
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