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Working for NASA

  1. May 12, 2009 #1
    Is it possible to be a theoretical physics and astrophysicist and still do independent research while working for NASA?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 12, 2009 #2
    If you have the willpower and work ethic to do it all, by all means.
  4. May 12, 2009 #3
    lol, a theoretical physicist and astrophysicist while being productive at NASA....lol!!!!

    unless you've got the brain of Enrico Fermi, that sounds reallllly tough. then again, I tend to think that I'm a theoretical and an astrophysicist. all i need to do is get a job at NASA.
  5. May 12, 2009 #4
    From my studies so far I find that astrophysics isn't al that diffrent from normal physics, I know I could do both, I'm just not sure abought the NASA part.
  6. May 12, 2009 #5

    Why's that?
  7. May 12, 2009 #6
    To answer both your first question, and this one:
    Yes, you can work for NASA while being an astrophysicist/theoretical physicist. They employ people from a variety of professions, not just aerospace engineers and astronauts.

    Look: http://astrophysics.gsfc.nasa.gov/

    Plus, if you are an astrophysicist, you can also become an astronaut, because they choose people from various professions, such as biologists, for example.
    As far as I know, there are a multitude of people with careers in theoretical physics and astrophysics. They don't all have the brain of Fermi, trust me.

    I also want to be a theoretical physicist/astrophysicist, most likely going to work for NASA. I hope my answer helped you. :biggrin:
  8. May 12, 2009 #7
    Maybe one day I will meet you. :biggrin:
    Last edited: May 13, 2009
  9. May 13, 2009 #8
    Maybe one day I will meet you fine gentlemen also.
  10. May 13, 2009 #9

    Andy Resnick

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    Having 'worked for' NASA in the past, may I offer the following perspective?

    First, there are lots of ways one may 'work for' NASA. Being a civil servant (government employee), a contractor/subcontractor, a research grant recipient, etc.

    Civil servant: The answer to your question is 'no'.
    Contractor/subcontractor: The answer to your question is likely 'no'.
    Research grant recipient: The answer to your question is possibly 'yes'.
  11. May 13, 2009 #10
    Andy has the gist of it but he is not completely correct either. I fall into the 3rd category listed above (Research grant recipient) and my grant allows my office to be housed within NASA. So, I am in close contact with civil servants, contractors and other grant recipients.

    I have some colleagues and friends who are civil servants (who are also theoretical physicists, as am I) and they spend the vast majority of their time doing either bureaucratic work (paperwork, forms, meetings) or engineering. They do, however, fit in some basic science from time to time when the need arises and they have the time in their schedule to do it. How much of it depends on the person really. Typically, though, any major research project is granted out.
  12. May 13, 2009 #11
    So as a theoretical physicist and astrophysicist what would I do working for NASA?
  13. May 13, 2009 #12

    Andy Resnick

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    Novel propulsion schemes, exoplanet searches, human spaceflight issues (water management, radiation protection, dust, etc.). Stuff like that.
  14. May 14, 2009 #13


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    Youre probably not going to be working on inflationary theory.
  15. May 14, 2009 #14
    Would I need to be an observational astrophysist or a theoreticle astrophysics?
  16. May 14, 2009 #15
    It depends on what you like.

    Observational Astrophysicists: extracts physical information from astronomical observations which can be directly compared with the models, and uses theoretical models to suggest unambiguous observational tests.

    Theoretical Astrophysicists: use theoretical models and computer simulations to understand a variety of fundamental astrophysical phenomena such as: the formation and dynamics of planets in the solar system and around other stars, the physics of accretion flows and jets around black holes and neutron stars, the role of supermassive black holes in galaxy formation, the growth of the first stars and galaxy halos, the cosmic microwave background and ionization history of the universe, the nature of dark matter and dark energy, and the properties of the primordial seeds responsible for the growth of structure in the universe. (from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics).

    If you are going for NASA, I'd say choose theoretical astrophysics, it's the one that encompasses more information, and objects that are further out in space. Personally, I like theoretical astrophysics more, but this is your choice.
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