How much less competitive is astrophysics/cosmology theory compared to high energy?

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Cow
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Joined: Fri Nov 12, 2021 11:16 pm

How much less competitive is astrophysics/cosmology theory compared to high energy?

Post by Cow » Fri Nov 12, 2021 11:32 pm

In comparison to high energy, how competitive is astrophysics/cosmology theory? I'm a freshman in university and exploring research options right now. I currently go to a Canadian university that does a lot of astrophysics theory (pretty much gives it away there but whatever), but we did have a senior here that does high-energy theory at MIT now.

When I say cosmology I'm talking about more phenomenological stuff, not like quantum gravity or string theory. I found this thread from 2013, viewtopic.php?t=5017, and wondering if the field has changed since then.

geekusprimus
Posts: 140
Joined: Sat Jun 08, 2019 1:10 pm

Re: How much less competitive is astrophysics/cosmology theory compared to high energy?

Post by geekusprimus » Sat Nov 13, 2021 5:52 pm

"Astrophysics/cosmology theory" is a very broad term. It covers everything from high-energy astrophysics (GRBs, supernovae, etc.) to astroparticle physics (neutrinos, some cosmology stuff) to gravitational wave physics to computational cosmology and everything in between. Generally speaking, all of these fields will be less competitive than HEP-theory or quantum gravity, but that's not saying much.

Secondly, you're waaaaaaay too early in your undergrad to be concerned with how competitive a particular research field is for graduate admissions. It's much more important to get quality research experience than it is to get experience in a specific area of research. It's actually really common for people to change fields when they get to graduate school. As a particularly extreme example, there's a guy in my graduate cohort who did condensed matter experiment in his undergrad who is currently working in particle theory.

My advice is to pick an interesting-sounding research group (sooner rather than later, too) with a good advisor that will give you the chance to make meaningful contributions. Don't fret over the possibility that it's not related to what your long-term interests are (which are likely to evolve over the next three or four years) or that you might not have a long-term career in that field.

Barsik
Posts: 16
Joined: Sun Oct 10, 2021 9:57 am

Re: How much less competitive is astrophysics/cosmology theory compared to high energy?

Post by Barsik » Tue Nov 16, 2021 7:51 am

Any advice on how to identify a good advisor? thank you

Cow
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Nov 12, 2021 11:16 pm

Re: How much less competitive is astrophysics/cosmology theory compared to high energy?

Post by Cow » Tue Dec 21, 2021 1:25 am

geekusprimus wrote:
Sat Nov 13, 2021 5:52 pm
"Astrophysics/cosmology theory" is a very broad term. It covers everything from high-energy astrophysics (GRBs, supernovae, etc.) to astroparticle physics (neutrinos, some cosmology stuff) to gravitational wave physics to computational cosmology and everything in between. Generally speaking, all of these fields will be less competitive than HEP-theory or quantum gravity, but that's not saying much.

Secondly, you're waaaaaaay too early in your undergrad to be concerned with how competitive a particular research field is for graduate admissions. It's much more important to get quality research experience than it is to get experience in a specific area of research. It's actually really common for people to change fields when they get to graduate school. As a particularly extreme example, there's a guy in my graduate cohort who did condensed matter experiment in his undergrad who is currently working in particle theory.

My advice is to pick an interesting-sounding research group (sooner rather than later, too) with a good advisor that will give you the chance to make meaningful contributions. Don't fret over the possibility that it's not related to what your long-term interests are (which are likely to evolve over the next three or four years) or that you might not have a long-term career in that field.
Thanks for the reply. I wasn't really aware of the field at the time, but I'm interested in early universe inflation. But I'm unsure about the approach, as there is both the standard cosmology model and the quantum cosmology string theory stuff. Are most high energy theorists also working on early universe cosmology, or is string cosmology a separate area of research? Does standard cosmology theory not study "initial conditions"?

As for research I was thinking about waiting until I did took a computational physics course/learn to code so I can do grunt work for profs working on theory. I'm already doing biochem research for my university so I feel like I would be jaded doing experimental physics.

geekusprimus
Posts: 140
Joined: Sat Jun 08, 2019 1:10 pm

Re: How much less competitive is astrophysics/cosmology theory compared to high energy?

Post by geekusprimus » Wed Dec 22, 2021 1:31 am

Are most high energy theorists also working on early universe cosmology, or is string cosmology a separate area of research? Does standard cosmology theory not study "initial conditions"?
It depends. String cosmology is actually a very new area of research, as far as I understand it, and only one of a very large number of quantum gravity approaches to cosmology. I don't work in string theory, so I'm not an expert on what most of them are looking for. I'm also not in cosmology theory, but there is a lot of research going on in the field. Some examples going on right now at my university are alternatives to inflation theory, such as approaches based on loop quantum cosmology or thermodynamic considerations, dark chemistry (i.e., chemistry with dark matter), primordial gravitational waves, etc.
As for research I was thinking about waiting until I did took a computational physics course/learn to code so I can do grunt work for profs working on theory. I'm already doing biochem research for my university so I feel like I would be jaded doing experimental physics.
Unless a professor specifically won't work with you until you've done certain classes, don't wait. And far more important than learning to code (which most physicists are terrible at, anyway) is getting a strong math background. That being said, 95% of what you need is stuff that you'll learn on the way. Additional coursework will likely be guided by what you're currently working on, not what you'd like to work on.



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