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What should I volunteer in to gain Astro experience for PhD?

  1. Jun 11, 2015 #1
    So here is the gist. I just completed my 3rd year of a 4 year Phys and Astro Masters at the University of Exeter, and for the second year in a row, me and all my course mates were passed over for internships because we lack experience (which we cant get because no one will pick us for internships). I perform very well academically and several of the companies said I was one of the highest academic candidates, but I am out of luck job wise. I now have other plans to fill some other holes in my CV (I will be volunteering for the National Trust this summer).

    The question is, how do I inflate my CV with experience, considering I am hoping to do an Astro PhD in the UK or in the States when I finish next year? Many internships wont allow me to apply next year as I wont be a student, and with plans to start a new section of my education in September 2016, I cant apply for a job that summer either.

    There isnt a whole lot in my home area (Wiltshire) but I am willing to relocate. Last year I was able to get a job for an oil well sensor company but TBH I am not an engineer and I didnt enjoy it very much. There doesnt seem to be a lot of astro based jobs around.

    Is there anything you would recommend volunteering for next academic year that could run concurrent with my studies and would fill out some holes? Anything that is a MUST DO for Astro students looking for a PhD? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 11, 2015 #2


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    For an astro PhD, industry experience isn't going to help much. What you need is research experience. At my university, the undergraduates can replace a course with a research unit for a semester (and students often do several), can do a research project over the summer, or can do an internship at a telescope run by the university. Is there anything like that at the University of Exeter? That's the kind of thing you need to do.
  4. Jun 13, 2015 #3
    Exeter Master's students automatically do a 2 year research project. Mine is into HCO+ as a star formation tracer in Serpens. So I think I have that covered. Ill try to do more if I can but I dont think that option is available. Its the equivalent of 3 full time modules and the final report forms my masters thesis. There is also the chance to get published at the same time.

    On another forum, someone suggested getting heavily involved in the astro soc and maybe doing tutoring for undergrads. Does that sound about right?
  5. Jun 13, 2015 #4


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    The thesis sounds like just what you need. Having a good relationship with your supervisor is important - I've yet to see and phd program that doesn't ask for references. Getting involved with the asto soc and tutoring can't hurt either, but I don't think it's the most important thing.
  6. Jun 16, 2015 #5
    Agreed - the other thing I would suggest is that even if you don't get a publication out of the project you should certainly try to present the results at say an IAU conference or a smaller topical conference. Most of these conferences have grants for students that help defray some of the conference/travel costs. Networking in that manner is more likely to be important for a PhD application than an industry internship. Otherwise, make sure your physics and programming skills are advancing and push as hard as you can for a paper that does good science (optimally you'd submit to a journal, but even a preprint of your work on arXiv might be worth it) - that's eventually what your future will be like during your PhD and it doesn't hurt to start now!
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