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Courses What undergrad topics do astronomy grad programs expect you to have taken?

I was speaking with my prof about the requirements for the applied physics major track offered at my school, and she said some very surprising things.
Just for context, I’m interested in pursuing observational astrophysics/astronomy in grad school later.
She said that I can skip diff equations because physicists usually only use one type with their work, and all the additional theory taught in class isn’t necessary.
She also said that I can skip quantum mechanics because it’s very theoretical and isn’t needed to pursue observational astronomy/astrophysics.
What do you all think?
Would an astro grad program care more if I took some courses in data analysis or some advanced physics labs, rather than diff eq. and quantum?
What courses would be really useful to take for an aspiring astrophysicist?
 
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That seems really weird to me - I can't imagine someone getting an applied physics degree without basic quantum and diff eq. I'm surprised he advised you to pass on quantum mechanics when so many observational techniques are the result of quantum effects (e.g., spectroscopy, diffraction gratings, etc.). I'm also surprised that diff eq isn't a prerequisite for other physics courses, like advanced mechanics.
 

Dr. Courtney

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I agree that the advice to skip quantum mechanics and differential equations is really bad.

But I'm not sure a transfer is necessary since the source of the bad advice is only a prof and may not be an official adviser.
 

CrysPhys

Education Advisor
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OP: Let me see if I understand your situation: (1) You are planning to get a BS in applied physics. (2) For this major at your school, quantum mechanics and differential equations are not required, but are optional and, hence, can be skipped. If so, I'd say the program (not just one prof giving bad advice) is screwed up, and cast my vote to transfer [at least to another major, if not another school]. Just out of curiosity, what are the required courses for your degree?
 
Last edited:

jtbell

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Have you looked up some graduate astronomy and astrophysics programs to see what they require or recommend for incoming students? In general, graduate physics programs expect students to have taken upper-division undergraduate courses in classical mechanics, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics and thermodynamics / statistical mechanics.
 

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