I am a computer science graduate and I have been realizing that my true passion is in astrophysics for the past 6-7 years. I called myself astronomy enthusiasts because I was really interested in reading theories about galaxy formation, exploding stars, solar system evolution, etc. I am really interested in astrophysics/computational astrophysics and started reading some papers on computational astrophysics and found them really interesting even though I couldn’t understand a lot of methodologies, and have decided to pursue it for further research.

My questions are as follows:

  • How do I get started in this career path and approach professors for masters or a Ph.D.?

  • Should I try asking for a research internship first and ask them for guidance?

  • How likely is it for a computer science background student to get into top 20 astrophysics departments in US/Canada/Europe?

Looking forward to your answer.

I’m 53 and have

  1. BSc in electrical and electronic engineer
  2. MSc in Microwave and optoelectronics
  3. PhD in medical physics.

I’m director of a very small company selling consulting services and some electronic calibration kits I design. (I’m the only employee of the company).

I’ve never felt mathematics was my strongest subject, and some of the things I would like the company to do are limited by my mathematical ability to read some very heavy scientific papers. There may be an element of lack of physics education too, despite of course electronics is quite a lot of physics.

I’m giving serious consideration to doing either a maths or maths/physics undergraduate degree.

For practical reasons – needing to earn a living, running a company, being married, having a dog …etc, it is not practical for me to go and do such a qualification full time in a “bricks and mortar” university, and nor do I see a part time course has being practical either, given the traveling time to any “local” university.

The idea of doing an Open University degree is semi-attractive, although I find it very annoying the OU will give me no credit for past experience, and expect me to start right from the basics, since I got my Ph.D more than 16 years ago.

I’m wondering if there are any any viable alternatives to the OU for a UK resident to get a maths/physics degree by distance learning? A few universities seem to do a bit of distance learning, but the choice of courses is limited, and I suspect it might be more poorer done than at the OU, where the OU have specialised in this for years.

I have been giving consideration of studying the course material from MIT OpenCourseWare


and not bothering about getting a degree at all, since I don’t really a bit of paper. But there are obvious advantages in having a lecturer you can ask questions to and get objective feedback on ones work, than if one just studies on ones own.


I am interested in the fields of mathematics, physics, and computer science (broad, I know) but if I had the ideal internship it would be in a quantum computing lab. Really, though, I’m looking for anything this summer. While this may seem like a somewhat normal thing (student looking for internship) I have a small problem in that I’m in middle school.

I am in 8th grade, and I am old enough to legally work (just getting that out of the way). I am located in the United States. I have taught myself some physics and mathematics (the basics of calculus and linear algebra, etc) and I have been told I learn quickly. I’m willing to work hard and do just about anything, but I’d like to start getting experience with research in a lab. (If you need any further information, please ask.)

What are some resources I can use to find an internship? Also, I’ve read that you’re supposed to put together a resume/cv, but reading about it it seems a bit difficult to do when the only things you’ve done are K-8th grade and some personal projects.

If this is off-topic, I apologize; this seemed the place to ask.

I’m in the final semester of my MS in Applied Physics from Norway and I’m not sure how to proceed with my career post-graduation. I really want to do a PhD in quantum computing (preferably solid state quantum computing at Oxford), and I have some paths in front of me, but things are a bit unclear to me on how to proceed. Would really appreciate some input from you guys.

So I have an offer of a 9 month – 1 year internship where I’ll work as a research assistant for a theory physics group based in the University of Oxford. Apparently I’ll be paid at around £35k per annum brutto. While this does sound good at first sight, the problem is though that I think the job will 90% be about coding sub-routines into C. The description does say that I’d get to “learn about computational physics and programming”, however, when I asked the postdoc in charge of the project, he flat out told me that a software engineer with no background in physics or mathematics to speak of could do the job.. This, along with the unusually high salary for an internship, I think essentially means that I’ll be working as a full-time programmer, possibly code-monkey, helping them write up their software… I feel that, for me, this won’t particularly valuable as far as physics grad schools are concerned, (unless they allow me to participate in some research and get my name on a paper – I will ask them). Or what do you think, am I being too cynical?

Further, I interviewed for a Quantum Computing DPhil at Oxford and, after informal post-interview chats, I feel like I have a very, very high probability of a DPhil offer from this group, but with an uncertain funding situation. I might get funding from the University of Oxford, or I might not, but honestly I doubt I’ll get it because Norwegians are usually considered as overseas students, and funding for overseas is very competitive. Anyway, I’m going to ask for an internship in case of no funding for DPhil, but I’m not sure if they can fund one that’s longer than a couple of months…

So if I get funding for the Quantum computing DPhil, or a reasonable internship offer, I will obviously take this route, but I don’t think I will.. So in case I fail at that, as far as I see I have two choices:

(1) Do the programming internship, hope it looks good on the CV and apply to Oxford DPhil, and that time hope for a funded offer. Thing is that since I’m Norwegian, I’m considered “overseas” as far as tuition is concerned (which makes funding difficult), however if I work in the UK for a year, I can get “worker” status and thus be eligible for Home/EU tuition according to the rules at UKCISA, which makes funding much more likely.
However, I feel like this internship won’t teach me much physics, but rather just menial coding…

(2) Stay in my current uni for one extra semester while taking heavy-weight physics courses and working as a teaching assistant, while applying for less competitive PhDs all over Europe.

What do you guys think? Do you think I should take the internship with the hope that it strengthens my CV for grad school applications next year, or not take it and instead spend the time trying to find PhD programs immediately?

Really appreciate if somebody could share their thoughts with, I’m having a hard time deciding what to do. My gut feeling says stay in uni for one semester more and use that time to find less competitive PhDs than those in Oxford.

I’m interested in nuclear physics, and I’m building a cloud chamber. Because I’d like to do science fairs and (eventually) go to college and publish papers in the field of physics, I thought it would be good practice to keep a lab journal. (For reference, I’m in the U.S. and am currently, of course, an amateur.)

I am currently doing some research into how I want to construct part of the cloud chamber and also into which parts I wish to purchase. Is it best practice to record which parts I picked and why I picked them?

Note: If there’s any information I should add, please let me know; this is the first question I’ve asked on Academia.SE.

In American universities, when a STEM research topic can be studied experimentally, computationally, and theoretically, do PhD programs in this research topic only focus on one of the three approaches or a combination of the three approaches?

For instance, consider physics. If I find a PhD program called “Experimental Physics PhD” at University X, and if I get accepted and go there for my PhD, will I miss out on computational physics and theoretical physics training…and be trained only as an experimentalist?

I am writing a report on Fusion energy as an assignment. It contributes to a sperate qualification in Physics which is simply a Pass/Fail. Further studies will often not accept students who do not pass this section.

In this report, I have briefly looked into the current state of electricity generation, including the emissions from coal power plants, and the mining of coal. I found some excellent sources, but also one that had been deleted from the state.gov website. It was available here. It is still available on archive.org here.

Archive.org shows it was removed sometime between 12:45 and 19:54 on the 20th of January 2017. This does not seem to be a coincidence as many news sites reported on Trump ordering the EPA to remove climate change data.

Personal politics aside, I feel attempting to remove/removing any data from the internet is disgraceful, and I want to express that in my report. Currently, at the end of my bibliography I have this text:

Note on Citation 30: UNITED STATES CLIMATE ACTION REPORT 2014. The Available URL provided is from archive.org’s WaybackMachine, a project which aims to archive public facing sites for the future, protecting them from removal. On the 20th of January 2017, this report was removed from the state.gov website. This appears to have been under the instruction of President Trump, as news sites reported data on the EPA website was removed. The provided archive.org link is the most recent version, from 23 December 2016.

Is this appropriate in the bibliography, or should I simply leave it at the first 2 sentences?