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CAREER GUIDE

Reach for the stars

GOPAKUMAR KARAKONAM

Astrophysics deals with the study of physical properties of stars and galaxies. A look at some of the universities that offer higher study opportunities and research avenues in the subject that needs a solid grounding in physics and a good knowledge in mathematics.

Photo: Vipin Chandran

Curious minds:Those who obtain higher qualification including doctorate degree in astrophysics can become astrophysicist or scientist in R & D establishments.

Astrophysics is a good option at the postgraduate level. After successful completion of your Plus Two, you can either opt for a research oriented five-year integrated master of science programme in physical science or a B.Sc. degree course in physics and then further opt for astrophysics/ astronomy for the postgraduate course.

Full-time research in astrophysics/ astronomy can be taken up usually after completion of one's Master's degree with at least 55 per cent marks. While in the final year of the postgraduate course, students can appear for the National Eligibility Test for Junior Research Fellowship and lectureship conducted by CSIR-UGC.

Those who qualify the test will get a monthly fellowship for research in astrophysics leading to a doctorate degree.

Study facilities

Those who complete Plus Two with high marks or grades in physics, chemistry and mathematics as subjects are eligible to pursue the five-year integrated Master of Science course in physical science. The course with an emphasis on research is conducted by the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs) at Thiruvananthapuram, Bhopal, Pune, Mohali and Kolkata.

Websites: www.iisertvm.ac.in, www.iiserbhopal.ac.in, www.iiserpune.ac.in, www.iisermohali.ac.in, www.iiserkol.ac.in.

The National Institute of Science Education and Research (NISER), Bhubhaneswar, and UM-DAE Centre for Excellence in Basic Sciences, Mumbai, also offer five-year integrated M.Sc. programme in physical science for meritorious Plus Two students. The selected students will get a monthly scholarship and annual contingency grant for the study.

The School of Pure and Applied Physics under the MG University, Kottayam, offers M.Sc. degree course in physics with specialisation in astrophysics. Graduates in physics with mathematics as one of the subsidiary subjects and at least 55 per cent marks in aggregate can apply. The selection is based on an entrance test, and the number of seats is 20. More details can be had from the website www.mguniversity.edu.

Some other universities that offer MSc astrophysics or astronomy courses are the following:

Osmania University, Hyderabad, offers M.Sc. course in astrophysics and astronomy.

Swami Ramanand Teerth Marathwada University, Gautam Nagar, Vishnupuri, Nanded, Maharashtra, offers M.Sc. course in astrophysics.

The list is only indicative. Details of more universities that offer M.Sc. courses in astrophysics or astronomy can be obtained from the University Handbook published by the Association of Indian Universities (AIU), New Delhi, available for reference at the university employment information and guidance bureaux functioning under all universities in Kerala.

At IITs

Excellent learning facilities for physical sciences are available at the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) at Delhi, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Madras and Roorkee. The institutes provide M.Sc.-level courses in physics. For admission, meritorious graduates in physics should appear for the IIT-Joint Admission Test (JAM). The JAM is a national-level entrance test organised by the IITs every year for admission to their M.Sc.- Ph.D. programmes in various disciplines including physics. The test will have eight papers including physics. Each test paper is of three hour duration. More details can be obtained from the website www.iitk.ac.in/jam; www.iitm.ac.in.

Integrated Ph.D.

First class graduates in physics can pursue integrated Ph.D. course in physical sciences at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc.), Bangalore. Admission is based on a national level entrance test and interview. Those in the final year of their qualifying examination can also apply.

Students who join the integrated Ph.D. programme are eligible for IISc. scholarships ranging from Rs.8,000 to Rs.14,000.

More details can be obtained from the website

www.iisc.ernet.in/admissions.

The S.N Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences, Salt Lake, Kolkata, conducts an integrated M.Sc.–Ph.D. programmes in physical sciences. Physics graduates with at least 55 per cent marks are eligible for admission (www.bose.res.in)

Other research facilities

Some other major research institutes that offer full-time research facilities in astrophysics and astronomy are the following:

The Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, offers Ph.D. course in astronomy and astrophysics.

The Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune, offers doctorate degree in physics, astrophysics and astronomy.

The National Centre for Radio Astrophysics, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Pune, offers doctorate degree in physics, astrophysics and astronomy.

Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmadabad, offers doctorate degree in physics, astrophysics and astronomy.

Candidates with Master's degrees in the respective disciplines can appear for the Joint Entrance Screening Test for admission to these Ph.D. programmes.

Job prospects

Those who obtain higher qualification including doctorate degree in astrophysics can become astrophysicist or scientist in research and development establishments.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO); Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore; Vikram Sarabahi Space Centre and Space Application Centres are the major centres that provide job opportunities to those with a doctorate degree in astrophysics or astronomy. Those who qualify for the CSIR- UGC lectureship or Ph.D. can become lecturers in universities or colleges.

Another suitable option for meritorious students is to pursue a B.Tech. course in physical sciences offered by the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST), Thiruvananthapuram, under the Department of Space, Government of India.

Along with engineering and technology subjects, physical sciences including astrophysics will be taught thoroughly in the programme.

The selection is based on IIST Admission Test (ISAT) and interview. The students passing out of IIST with a minimum of 65 per cent marks in B.Tech. will be absorbed as scientists/ engineers.

The ISAT consists of two question papers of objective-type, each of two-hour duration covering questions from physics, chemistry and mathematics.

Aspirants must have passed Class XII/ equivalent examination in the first attempt with physics, chemistry and mathematics as subjects.

They should have secured at least 70 per cent marks in aggregate in these three science subjects.

They should have also passed their Class X/ equivalent examination with at least 70 per cent marks in all subjects. SC/ ST and physically-challenged students need only 60 per cent marks. IIST is Asia's first space university that offer undergraduate and doctoral-level programmes in space science and technology.

IIST provides free education at the B.Tech. level with high quality in teaching and infrastructure. An assistantship offered here for all the B.Tech. students to cover the complete cost of education, boarding and lodging.

Besides B.Tech. in physical science, aerospace engineering and avionics branches are also being offered at the IIST. M.Tech. and Ph.D. level programmes are also available in these three disciplines.

Final year Plus Two students can appear for the IIST Admission Test conducted for B.Tech. programmes including physical sciences.

More details can be obtained from www.iist.ac.in.

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