Advice for the Academic Track

Michigan Astronomy undergraduate alumnus Greg Salvesen (right), now a PhD student at the University of Colorado, shares his advice for getting the most from your undergraduate experience and preparing for graduate school.

1. Get on a Research Project Right Away

It shows you can be given a project and go from playing around with the data to writing it up in a way someone else could repeat — and it’s critical for getting into grad school and winning fellowships….More

2.  Join SAS

The Student Astronomical Society is a big part of the undergraduate astronomy experience. It’s a club that virtually all astro majors join. We took classes and did homework together. Everyone had research projects and bounced ideas off each other. We also tutored intro-level classes and ran open houses for the public — then we’d all go out afterward. We became friends, and I keep up with them even now.

3. Get an REU

A Research Experience for Undergraduates gives you a summer to explore a new research project and institution. It’s great experience and allows you to get a reference letter from another group…. More

4. Learn Computer Programming

For anyone going to graduate school in astronomy, a computer programming class is essential. It’s something you’re assumed to know, and it’s foundational to doing research. I use it every day.

5. Consider a Physics Double Major

U-M provides a strong astronomy background. I felt ahead of people from many physics and combined physics-astro departments, where they may have had only one or two intro-level astro classes as an undergrad. I had eight, which gave me a foundation for every aspect of the field. But with only three extra classes, you can double major in astronomy and physics…. More