An ony mous
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#1
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I’m interested in the more theoretical aspects of astrophysics so I’ve shortlisted the physics with theoretical physics MPhys course at ICL, and I’m applying for astrophysics/physics with astrophysics with my other 4 choices. How is imperial for astrophysics and why isn’t it a course at undergraduate level? Is the astrophysics department small or am I reading too much into this?

Also, my personal statement will show my love for physics and math but with a focus of astrophysics and astronomy, and it will probably be mostly about that. Will that make me less likely to receive the offer from Imperial?
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Sinnoh
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Current student. I'm doing the astrophysics option right now and so far it has involved classical mechanics, thermodynamics, statistical physics and quantum mechanics. If you want to go anywhere or do anything in astrophysics you need to know about that stuff. So in practice, there's very little between a degree called "astrophysics" and a degree called "physics" where you pick all the astro-related optional topics, because you can't just learn astrophysics by itself.

I think that module is taught better than the current 3rd-year core modules, but right now the lectures are online and pre-recorded, so I don't know how relevant my experience with the teaching would be for you.

Here's what I mean. These are two course pages on uni of Edinburgh's website, one of these is a course called Astrophysics, one is called Physics. The compulsory content is almost identical, except that in the astrophysics course you don't do condensed matter physics
https://www.ed.ac.uk/studying/underg...amme&code=F361
https://www.ed.ac.uk/studying/underg...amme&code=F303

So to summarise, it really doesn't matter if Imperial doesn't have a course specifically titled astrophysics if they still have related optional modules that contain the content you want (detailed module info available here)
What you should do is look at the course as a whole, see if it interests you, see if it's the sort of place you'd want to study at.
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An ony mous
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(Original post by Sinnoh)
Current student. I'm doing the astrophysics option right now and so far it has involved classical mechanics, thermodynamics, statistical physics and quantum mechanics. If you want to go anywhere or do anything in astrophysics you need to know about that stuff. So in practice, there's very little between a degree called "astrophysics" and a degree called "physics" where you pick all the astro-related optional topics, because you can't just learn astrophysics by itself.

I think that module is taught better than the current 3rd-year core modules, but right now the lectures are online and pre-recorded, so I don't know how relevant my experience with the teaching would be for you.

Here's what I mean. These are two course pages on uni of Edinburgh's website, one of these is a course called Astrophysics, one is called Physics. The compulsory content is almost identical, except that in the astrophysics course you don't do condensed matter physics
https://www.ed.ac.uk/studying/underg...amme&code=F361
https://www.ed.ac.uk/studying/underg...amme&code=F303

So to summarise, it really doesn't matter if Imperial doesn't have a course specifically titled astrophysics if they still have related optional modules that contain the content you want (detailed module info available here)
What you should do is look at the course as a whole, see if it interests you, see if it's the sort of place you'd want to study at.
That was really helpful, thanks!
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Mr Wednesday
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(Original post by An ony mous)
That was really helpful, thanks!
As Sinnoh says, any “astrophysics” course is mostly core physics with some options courses and project work bolted on. Some universities label their courses “astrophysics” pretty much as a marketing tool TBH. As an aside, Imperial is one of the very few universities in the world capable of actually doing experimental astrophysics in the lab. A 1.4 Megamp, Megavolt Z-Pinch called MAGPIE attached to a multi-Terawatt laser lives in the basement of the Physics building there and can do things like create scale models of black hole accretion disks and the "magnetic tower" plasma jets that young stars shoot across space. There are usually final year project student and summer UROP students working on facilities like this alongside the research team, project work is one of the ways you get to steer your degree in the directions you most enjoy.

https://www.imperial.ac.uk/plasma-physics/magpie/

https://www.imperial.ac.uk/plasma-ph...-astrophysics/
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An ony mous
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(Original post by Mr Wednesday)
As Sinnoh says, any “astrophysics” course is mostly core physics with some options courses and project work bolted on. Some universities label their courses “astrophysics” pretty much as a marketing tool TBH. As an aside, Imperial is one of the very few universities in the world capable of actually doing experimental astrophysics in the lab. A 1.4 Megamp, Megavolt Z-Pinch called MAGPIE attached to a multi-Terawatt laser lives in the basement of the Physics building there and can do things like create scale models of black hole accretion disks and the "magnetic tower" plasma jets that young stars shoot across space. There are usually final year project student and summer UROP students working on facilities like this alongside the research team, project work is one of the ways you get to steer your degree in the directions you most enjoy.

https://www.imperial.ac.uk/plasma-physics/magpie/

https://www.imperial.ac.uk/plasma-ph...-astrophysics/
Damnn I didn’t know that, thank you! Could you elaborate on unis using astrophysics as a marketing tool? Do you mean that having astrophysics in the name attracts people because of the pretty pictures and grAnD oUtLoOk lol?
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An ony mous
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(Original post by An ony mous)
Damnn I didn’t know that, thank you! Could you elaborate on unis using astrophysics as a marketing tool? Do you mean that having astrophysics in the name attracts people because of the pretty pictures and grAnD oUtLoOk lol?
(Original post by Mr Wednesday)
As Sinnoh says, any “astrophysics” course is mostly core physics with some options courses and project work bolted on. Some universities label their courses “astrophysics” pretty much as a marketing tool TBH. As an aside, Imperial is one of the very few universities in the world capable of actually doing experimental astrophysics in the lab. A 1.4 Megamp, Megavolt Z-Pinch called MAGPIE attached to a multi-Terawatt laser lives in the basement of the Physics building there and can do things like create scale models of black hole accretion disks and the "magnetic tower" plasma jets that young stars shoot across space. There are usually final year project student and summer UROP students working on facilities like this alongside the research team, project work is one of the ways you get to steer your degree in the directions you most enjoy.

https://www.imperial.ac.uk/plasma-physics/magpie/

https://www.imperial.ac.uk/plasma-ph...-astrophysics/
Also, this isn’t related to my original question but do you know which one of ‘theoretical physics’ and ‘physics and astronomy’ is less competitive at Durham? Because I saw the course pages and it makes no difference to me, the first year is identical and I can declare my course name after the first year sooo statistics like offer rates could be important in deciding where to apply if there’s a huge gap, unfortunately I couldn’t find any online.

Edit- I’m actually more interested in theoretical astrophysics than observational, I love math much more than physics rn, so theoretical physics wouldn’t be bad for me
Last edited by An ony mous; 1 month ago
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Sinnoh
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(Original post by An ony mous)
Damnn I didn’t know that, thank you! Could you elaborate on unis using astrophysics as a marketing tool? Do you mean that having astrophysics in the name attracts people because of the pretty pictures and grAnD oUtLoOk lol?
Re: using it as a marketing tool, it makes it seem like the uni has courses specifically tailored to your interests when in reality they're no different, or barely different to the standard course, the only difference being the degree title. People see a degree just called "physics" they might worry that they don't get to specialise in their favoured topics or that it would have a negative impact on post-grad chances, which it wouldn't. At least with theoretical physics courses there's a difference in that you usually do at least one fewer year of lab work.

About the Durham course, there's probably no significant difference in admissions chances - it'll be very easy to switch programmes once you start anyway.
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Mr Wednesday
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(Original post by Sinnoh)
Re: using it as a marketing tool, it makes it seem like the uni has courses specifically tailored to your interests when in reality they're no different, or barely different to the standard course, the only difference being the degree title.
I think that explains things pretty nicely. There are many many jobs and career paths that you can take with just the “core physics” and very few that actually need the astrophysics elements of an astrophysics degree. Almost no one taking a degree like that is ever going to work in astrophysics research, and many of their colleagues / competition will “just” have a physics degree. When you are recruiting at the graduate level (e.g. for PhD students) what you really care about is overall level of achievement and talent, the exact choice of options up until that point really carries almost zero weight.

Research Associates (post PhD paid research positions) are rather different, there you DO want someone with specific technical expertise so they can hit the ground running. It’s your project work, publications and experience after you graduate that matters here.
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