I ama grade 9 student and I would like to pursue a career in astrophysics. Please advise on its scope and which are the best universities in India that offer this course. NAME WITHHELD ON REQUEST Popularised by the characters on the TV show, The Big Bang Theory, this fascinating subject can be studied at the undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD levels.
Another alternative would be to study physics during the bachelor’s course and then specialise in astrophysics at the Master’s level. If you have your sights on research, then you must aim at doing a PhD as well. However, before you do so, it is important to realise that while it may be a branch of astronomy, astrophysics is a completely specialised field.
If you are looking at pursuing this course in India, you will typically be doing a Bachelor’s in either physics or engineering followed by a Master’s in astrophysics. The Indian Institute of Astrophysics, (Bangalore) offers an integrated MSc-PhD programme in physics and astrophysics. The Indian Institute of Science, (Bangalore) has a bachelor’s programme in physics. Beyond the undergraduate level, it has research programmes and MSc engineering. Physical Research Laboratory (Ahmedabad) offers Junior Research Fellowships leading to a PhD degree. Raman Research Institute (Bangalore) also offers excellent opportunities for research in astronomy and astrophysics.
The other top institutes in this field are InterUniversity Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCCA) in Pune and Tata Institute of Fundamental Research Mumbai. To apply to the Phd programme, you will have to appear for the Joint Entrance Screening Test (JEST) that is held once a year and consists of multiplechoice objective questions.
While at school, it is important that you focus on physics and maths. Most of your studies will involve the core concepts of these subjects.
Subscribe to one of the many journals on the subject to keep up to date with the field. Participate in outreach programmes, attend lectures and workshops conducted by these institutes. For example, The Indian Institute of Astrophysics organises summer programmes with the aim of acquainting students with research in astronomy and astrophysics. Similar workshops and public programmes are also conducted by IUCAA on a regular basis.
Careers in this field could be based in governmental research organisations, universities, observatories and planetariums, aerospace industries (such as Boeing) etc. Of course, the best thing would be to be employed by NASA.
With the expanding space programmes of countries such as China and India, as well as the advent of private space companies such as Virgin Galactic, there is a lot of potential in this field as well as career growth.
Should astrophysics not turn out to be your calling, do not fret. A degree in this subject will help you attain strong transferable skills in numeracy, computation, data analysis, research and problem solving – skills you can apply to a successful career in many fields.