What is an astrophysicist?
An astrophysicist is someone who studies the physics of space and how and why different physical processes happen. Their aim is to understand how the universe was formed and why, and how it's changing over time. The study of astrophysics is pretty fascinating as it helps us understand the context of the world around us and the stars we see at night. Furthermore, the study of astrophysics has helped us develop and refine communication satellites and GPS.
What are the typical responsibilities of an astrophysicist?
Day to day responsibilities of an astrophysicist include: applying existing theories to physical phenomena, identifying and evaluating hypotheses, utilising complex scientific instruments to collect data, building computer models to analyse large data sets and presenting findings to others via research papers and conferences. However, alongside their independent research, many astrophysicists work for government agencies or universities. This means that their responsibilities extend beyond data collection: supervising PhD students, lecturing, meeting with government officials.
What skills do I need to be a successful astrophysicist?
You’ll need strong analytical skills. This will allow you to interpret and analyse the data to collect, and apply your findings to different situations.
IT skills are also valued. Astrophysicists work with a lot of technical software and complex computer systems to collect data. It’s a good idea to get to grips with how these work, so your data collection is accurate.
Written and verbal communication skills are also important. This will allow you to collaborate effectively with other researchers. Communication skills will also help you explain complex data and your findings in a way that non-astrophysicists can understand.
How do I become an astrophysicist?
To become an astrophysicist, it’s recommended that you have a PhD. This will allow you to gain valuable research skills, and network with those already working in the industry. Many universities and independent organisations offer fully funded PhD programmes, so don’t let funding be a barrier to your ambitions.
Not currently pursuing a PhD? There’s still so many ways you can develop your interest in astrophysics. You can read books and watch YouTube videos about astrophysics, attend public lectures about astrophysics, or network with astrophysicists to learn more about the industry.