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View Full Version : Advice please - Astro-Physics Degree



efanton
2016-Jan-23, 12:32 AM
Here's the situation.

I am 40 something years old. An IT security specialist by profession. Did reasonable well at school , 2 A levels 6 O levels (Irish equivalents)
Currently I cannot work as the doctor has me on disability. I have developed a fairly rare form of insomnia which without treatment can mean 40 to 60 hours without sleep on a reguular ongoing basis. Typically three or four of these no sleep episodes in a two week period. Years of shift work, 24 hours on call, and stress and pushing myself beyond what was sensible have destroyed my natural Circadian rhythm and sleep cycles.


Currently on a medication treatment that is trying to force my body back into a daily cycle.
The doctors and specialists have been fairly blunt, I am never going back to the type of work I was in, nor a job that involves shifts and it could be two or three years before they will sign me fit for work. Not good news :(
The good news is the mediation is helping and I am getting 5 or 6 hours sleep most nights. Unfortunately my body doesnt want to tell me to sleep at an appropriate time, nor does it allow me to wake at an appropriate time without the medication.

In the mean time the only options for me is sit at home, that's not working, was never out of work and hobbies can only fill in so much time, or the other option opened up to me is study. I have been told that if I apply for a 3rd level course I will almost certainly get it as a mature student and one who is on disability. The state will pay all tuition fees, I only have to pay registration fees, student Union fees and buy the books required.

I have been toying with the idea of doing an astro-physics degree. I have had long talks with both the university staff and the mature students office and they seem to think everything will be fine, except the need to brush up on the maths that I have long forgotten since leaving school twenty odd years ago. I am currently working through all the past exam papers and studying calculus which was really only brushed over when I was attending school. I have 6 months to get myself back up to speed before September if I am accepted. I will be applying for the course in the next two weeks with the view that if my sleep programme and medication hasnt worked or if I feel I will lag behind form the get go I can cancel the application in the next 5 months.


So what am I asking for?

Some of you, will have done physics degree's or astro physics. What should I be concentrating on with regards the mathematics to ensure I am totally up to speed for this course. What particular sections of maths should I really be studying, or to phrase it another way could you list in order of importance what mathematics I should be studying or revising.

What was the 'homework' like with regards to number of hours required? I need to ensure that I can stick to my sleep regime without compromising my studies.

Any advice or comments are welcome

Solfe
2016-Jan-23, 04:28 AM
Here's the situation.

I am 40 something years old. An IT security specialist by profession. Did reasonable well at school , 2 A levels 6 O levels (Irish equivalents)
Currently I cannot work as the doctor has me on disability. I have developed a fairly rare form of insomnia which without treatment can mean 40 to 60 hours without sleep on a reguular ongoing basis. Typically three or four of these no sleep episodes in a two week period. Years of shift work, 24 hours on call, and stress and pushing myself beyond what was sensible have destroyed my natural Circadian rhythm and sleep cycles.


Currently on a medication treatment that is trying to force my body back into a daily cycle.
The doctors and specialists have been fairly blunt, I am never going back to the type of work I was in, nor a job that involves shifts and it could be two or three years before they will sign me fit for work. Not good news :(
The good news is the mediation is helping and I am getting 5 or 6 hours sleep most nights. Unfortunately my body doesnt want to tell me to sleep at an appropriate time, nor does it allow me to wake at an appropriate time without the medication.

In the mean time the only options for me is sit at home, that's not working, was never out of work and hobbies can only fill in so much time, or the other option opened up to me is study. I have been told that if I apply for a 3rd level course I will almost certainly get it as a mature student and one who is on disability. The state will pay all tuition fees, I only have to pay registration fees, student Union fees and buy the books required.

I have been toying with the idea of doing an astro-physics degree. I have had long talks with both the university staff and the mature students office and they seem to think everything will be fine, except the need to brush up on the maths that I have long forgotten since leaving school twenty odd years ago. I am currently working through all the past exam papers and studying calculus which was really only brushed over when I was attending school. I have 6 months to get myself back up to speed before September if I am accepted. I will be applying for the course in the next two weeks with the view that if my sleep programme and medication hasnt worked or if I feel I will lag behind form the get go I can cancel the application in the next 5 months.


So what am I asking for?

Some of you, will have done physics degree's or astro physics. What should I be concentrating on with regards the mathematics to ensure I am totally up to speed for this course. What particular sections of maths should I really be studying, or to phrase it another way could you list in order of importance what mathematics I should be studying or revising.

What was the 'homework' like with regards to number of hours required? I need to ensure that I can stick to my sleep regime without compromising my studies.

Any advice or comments are welcome

I can't advise you about mathematics, especially for Irish graduate schools. But you would want as much as possible. Compare what you already have to what is in the curriculum and either pick up where you left off or take a refresher course.

What I can offer advice on is how much to take on as a course load. I work full time and take 4-5 courses (12-15 credit hours). People look at me funny because this is apparently hard to do. I can take as many as 6-7 (18-21 credit hours) and have done that in the past. Don't try it. It is a very low quality life, especially if you have family.

Healing up is equivalent to working full time, except your health is on the line. I would suggest 9-12 credit hours or 3-4 courses as a maximum. You need to plug in all the time you need for rest and treatment and treat it like a class or two. Maybe you want 6 credit hours.

Personally, I'd shoot for six to 9 and really partake in the whole school experience. It has nothing to do with learning and everything to do with networking, mentoring and being mentored, being social and actually enjoying your school and classmates. There is a lot of value in it.

If there is no clock on when you graduate, assume slower is better. You will understand all aspects of the field in a more comprehensive fashion.

Cougar
2016-Jan-23, 04:51 AM
I have had long talks with both the university staff and the mature students office...

That's certainly the right thing to do. Make an appointment to talk to a physics or astronomy prof...


...except the need to brush up on the maths.... What particular sections of maths should I really be studying....

I didn't do physics or astrophysics, just math, so I can't really tell you. But as you imply, math is a very large area, as is astrophysics, and you'll want the courses to apply to the area you want to focus on. I'm sure someone will be along with experience in this area. Best of luck with this endeavor!

efanton
2016-Jan-23, 05:01 AM
Its a four year degree course and as far as I am aware full time. I have asked for a sample time table but havent got that yet

Here's a link to the course details

http://www.ucc.ie/en/ck408/astrophysics/

There appears to be a whole load of electives and am unsure what is the recommended amount to take. I will probably worry about that once I am on the course and will probably take the advice of the course tutor. My IT background will give me a distinct advantage over other students in the computer and software electives so I will probably do them to 'lighten the load' so to speak

Doctor thinks I'm mad, but he's known that for years. I've always been one to push myself, and go full throttle, and suppose I am going to have to learn to ease up where I can.
He laughed when I told him Im putting another motorbike on the road to get to uni. I used to race a motorbike side-car outfit and saw him way too often.

What concerns me at the moment is getting my maths back up to speed. Going through all this past exam papers I'm shocked at how much I have forgotten, but then again most of it I never used at work. Most of it I vaguely remember and doing the past exams at home is helping a lot. I've got 6 months to get back up to speed, but I want to make sure I'm concentrating on what is most likely to be used. No point doing the course if you are struggling from the start.
.

Cougar
2016-Jan-23, 02:03 PM
What concerns me at the moment is getting my maths back up to speed. Going through all this past exam papers I'm shocked at how much I have forgotten....

Yeah, you're going to have to kick-start your brain. :D

Solfe
2016-Jan-23, 02:30 PM
You could check out some open courses via the internet.

I had the opposite problem with returning to school and dealing math, they tested me and I landed in calculus I. After struggling for a while, my teacher pulled my transcripts and discovered my last math class was "business math" in high school. Balancing checkbooks and using rulers/measuring cups does not help in calculus.

I had been attached to an engineering team at work and I must have been regurgitating stuff I saw engineers doing for the test. I have no aptitude for math at all, just a good memory. I managed to pass calculus II on the condition that I go back and take the more basic college math courses. I worked backwards, I ended up taking 8 progressively lower level math classes in college.

I can't say I helped my understanding but I could teach that high school business math class like a champ. :)

efanton
2016-Jan-23, 03:14 PM
You could check out some open courses via the internet.

I have done a few EdX courses and Chris Impey's (university of Arizona) Astronomy - State of the Art free online course.

The way I am looking at this is I have 20 years to retirement, I cant go back to what I was doing so a career change is in order, and I might as well be spending this time out of work getting me a qualification that opens up more career choices but more importantly allows me to work in a field that I'm interested in.
The alternative is to take a much lower level job in IT, such a crappy support centre role where the money is crap, or probably a job that doesn't really interest me.
Given the choice, I'd sooner push myself a bit now and end up doing something I have a real interest in for the next 20 years even if the money is not as great as what I was previously on. The key is to end up in a job where shift work is not involved.
I was toying with the idea of developing my modelling hobby (aircraft not pouncing down a catwalk :p ) into a job, but the demand for scale models (architecture or indeed anything else) is not there here in Ireland and I failed to find a single company here in Ireland doing it.

So it looks like a full time degree is the only option at the moment. I know it will be tough going for the first year or two, (not just the academic side but ensuring I also don't bugger up the progress I have made with my sleep condition), but twenty years is a long time doing something you really don't enjoy.
Obviously the more prepared I am for the course, and I have six months to prepare myself, the easier it is going to be to achieve that degree which is why I was requesting help in determining where I should concentrate my studies in that time.