Thu, 1 Dec 2022

This course can help you spot aliens

Posted on Monday, December 17, 2018

A physics degree with a touch of astronomy is for those who have always been enamoured by galaxies and want to club it with new-age skills, writes Shivangi Mishra

MPhys Physics and Astrophysics is a full degree course where Physics is taught in the context of Astronomy. At University of Sheffield, UK, the degree entails learning advanced topics in Maths and Physics as well as learning analytic problem-solving skills, numerical and computing skills and data analysis, writing and communication, research skills and practical instrumentation, says Simon Goodwin, professor of Theoretical Astrophysics, Department of Physics and Astronomy at the university.

“Under this course, we use quantum mechanics, nuclear and thermal physics to understand how stars form and evolve. Determine the properties of stars and galaxies and even look for aliens using spectroscopy, and how general relativity explains the structure of the universe,” says Goodwin.

“Along with traditional subject knowledge in advanced Maths and Physics, students are imparted knowledge about computational models and big data skills that are needed to understand what is happening and communicating these findings in talks and reports need an understanding of communication, which is also taught to the students,” he adds.

In order to offer industry exposure, students work on a project with industries where they are expected to provide solutions to real problems. The students can also take part in at least one industry-led project, and can complete a course on 'Physics in an Enterprise Culture'.

Industry exposure

“The university has been collaborating with new industrial partners, recent development includes designing particle sensors to use for nuclear security, calibrating medical fluid flow sensors, and modelling the local public transport network,” adds the professor.

The students have assisted in building new instruments and telescopes to look for short-lived events in space; a group of students recently developed a new statistical analysis tool to trace the binary stars while two students recently discovered the effectiveness ofyoung stars in disrupting young planetary systems.

Students can take part in industrial projects designing control systems, write software to drive equipment, or model and analyse data for a variety of different applications

Real-life applications

According to Goodwin, MPhys Physics and Astrophysics is a useful degree with a wide variety of applications. Many students choose to pursue PhDs in astronomy/astrophysics as well as in various engineering. There are many non-research careers open to students with the data analysis/numerical/problem solving skills that come from the degree.

“We have had students recently follow careers in engineering, patent law, data analysis (both public and private sector), computing, finance, accountancy; any job that requires analytic and numerical expertise is open to a Physics and Astrophysics graduate,” he says.




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