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Last Post 3/31/2017 7:05 AM by  Claire Raftery
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lena s


3/30/2017 6:24 AM
    What schools offer really good choices for education to become a scientist, like an astronomer?
    Tags: research, education, schools, universities, major, field of study, undergraduate, graduate, degree

    Christina Cohen

    Basic Member

    Basic Member

    3/30/2017 8:23 AM

    The short answer is that there are literally hundreds of schools throughout the US that will give you a great science education. Generally if you want to be a scientist you'll want to go to graduate school, probably to get a PhD. It is in grad school that you focus on what specific area of research (within Astronomy/Astrophysics or Space Physics or Solar Physics, etc) you are interested in, so that's where it matters most what school you go to - you'll want to pick a school(s) where there are good scientists doing good work in the area you want.

    Since you can go to good graduate schools from a variety of types of good undergraduate schools (i.e., college) and even different majors, it is less critical to pick 'the best college for becoming a scientist'. Sometimes being at a bigger college or a university will allow you more opportunity to do some research as an undergraduate, but I've seen those opportunities even at small colleges (the variety of options are usually fewer though). All schools have their good and bad teachers.

    The main thing is to pick a college/university that has an environment (size, location, options of majors, options for extracurriculars) that you will enjoy, embrace and thrive in. Then do your best work and you'll be fine.


    Kris Sigsbee

    Basic Member

    Basic Member

    3/30/2017 8:34 AM
    Christina is correct that there are a lot of good schools for students interested in STEM degrees. Making sure that you can afford a college, that they provide an environment in which you are comfortable, and that they offer a degree program in your desired major are very important when you chose a school for your undergraduate degree. Small liberal arts colleges may not offer as many opportunities for undergraduate research experiences as large universities, but you can also participate in summer programs at NASA, at corporations, government labs, or other universities. Choosing a graduate school is a bit more difficult, because if you are interested in a very specific field (like magnetospheric physics or solar physics), then you need to check out whether or not there are faculty at that university who do research in this field before you apply.

    Information about NASA internships (some may be available to high school students)

    Laurel Rachmeler

    New Member

    New Member

    3/30/2017 12:29 PM
    Hi Lena! There are many many schools in the US that are great for people who want to be a scientist. One useful piece of information is knowing what past graduates have gone on to do, and which graduate schools they have gone to. This helps you to know if the school is successful at teaching it's students in that subject. I went to one of those small liberal arts colleges (Bryn Mawr College), it has a strong science curriculum, which includes research for its undergraduates. In fact, I don't have a Bachelor of Science degree, I have a Physics Bachelor of Art!

    If you want to become a researcher, you will most likely need to go to graduate school, and there are several factors which will help you get in: Taking classes that are in the field of study that you want to do (physics, math an astronomy for your example), getting good grades in those classes, participating in research as an undergraduate (at your school or somewhere else, like an REU--Research Experience for Undergraduates), knowing more than one faculty well enough that they can write you a recommendation letter, and GRE test scores (the GRE is like the SAT but for graduate schools). I would also recommend that you don't ONLY take science and math classes at college. Enjoy that time to explore the world of learning and take a few classes may be out of your comfort zone, like Russian, sculpture, political science, literature, etc. Who knows, you might love them!

    Claire Raftery

    New Member

    New Member

    3/31/2017 7:05 AM
    Thats a great question. Its one that can be answered in many ways. As Christina, Kris and Laurel said, there are lots of institutions across the nation that will give you an excellent education in astronomy. However, there are ways you can put yourself ahead of the pack, regardless where you go to school. One in particular is a Research Experience for Undergrads program (REU) where you can go to different labs and schools and get to do research in a whole variety of topics (check out the NSF webpage with all their programs:
    You can apply for an REU any summer during your undergrad career, but most students are accepted the summer after their sophomore year or junior year (note: you can't apply after you've done your senior year).

    The other thing to consider waaaaaaay down the line is graduate school. Recently, we made a list of some schools that have great SOLAR astronomy programs specifically. Of course, if you go to one of these schools as an undergrad, you might also be able to do some research projects within solar physics as an undergrad. This is not an exhaustive list, but these are some of the more active schools in solar physics, ordered by state (feel free to add to my list if I'm missing anyone!)

    AK: University of Alaska Fairbanks
    AL: University Alabama Huntsville
    AZ: Arizona State University, University of Arizona
    CA: University of California Berkeley, University of California Los Angeles, of California Santa Cruz, University of California San Diego, University of Southern California
    CO: University of Colorado Boulder
    DE: University of Delaware
    GA: Georgia State University
    HI: University of Hawaii, Manoa
    KY: Bowling Green State University
    MA: Boston University, Harvard-Smithsonian
    MD: Catholic University, University of Maryland College Park
    MI: University of Michigan
    MN: University of Minnesota
    MT: Montana State University
    NH: University of New Hampshire
    NJ: New Jersey Institute of Technology
    NM: New Mexico State
    TX: Rice University, U of Texas Austin, University of Texas San Antonio
    VA: George Mason University

    Hope this helps!
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