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I have a masters degree in Computer Science & Engineering (and currently employed in s/w industry in India), but have no degree in physics. For long, I've been interested in doing research in physics, especially in astronomy, astrophysics or in particle physics.

  1. Are there good institutes or universities in EU, US or India which accept students without any degree in physics to PhD program in astronomy or astrophysics? If so, do they also offer financial assistance or some form of scholarship to such students to meet at least one's tuition fee expenses?

  2. I checked with an institute in Germany that offers PhD in physics but I was told that a masters degree in physics is a mandatory prerequisite. Does this apply to all leading German institutes? What about other leading institutes in EU or in the US?

  3. What are the pros and cons, if any, between doing PhD in US versus in EU, especially in the field of physics (in the subdomains I mentioned, if that too matters)?

  • In the US, direct entry from undergrad to PhD is pretty common in physics. – virmaior Aug 23 '14 at 15:15
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    Separately, can you indicate how many physics courses you took in your undergraduate program? If you demonstrate an especially strong background with the degree, that's quite different than wanting to switch areas on a whim for graduate school. – virmaior Aug 23 '14 at 15:16
  • @virmaior Only 2 physics courses during my undergraduate program :( , and unfortunately I have forgotten most of what I learnt in those courses, largely because of several years of working in and/or studying a different domain. There wasn't any option for engineering stream students to take electives during the first 2 years; besides the CS course program was intensive and students hardly got time to even attend class lectures of other department – so2 Aug 25 '14 at 17:58
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In Sweden there is no hard requirement. (In Spain, for that matter, there isn't either, but I don't recommend going for a PhD there). You just need to convince a professor that you are a good asset for the team. The way it works here (and in some other countries in Europe) is that the PI gets funding and hires whomever he wants, based on whatever criteria. Other countries make the decision at a department level, usually putting stress on the marks. Anyway, the difference is convincing one party or a few.

It is true that all the people I know in the closest related department, are physicist, but they do a lot of programming and data analysis. Your strong points are:

  • You can improve code quality. (I have seen code that gives me nightmares.)
  • You can implement new algorithms.
  • You can learn the physics along the way.

CS backgrounds are, by the way, quite common in Bioinformatics and, to a lesser degree, Biophysics.

References:

I am in Sweden working in Biophysics, and my girlfriend is doing a PhD in Astrophysics.

  • Thanks for the information! Is there any website where I can get the list of Swedish institutes offer PhD in physics and their rankings? I'm presuming that knowledge of Swedish is not a requirement for PhD. What are the typical criteria of getting scholarship for PhD in Sweden? While I am aware that Sweden is historically been well-known – so2 Aug 24 '14 at 9:58
  • @so2 List here. Not all of them have Astronomy. Probably the top institution is the Oskar Klein Center. I'd say rankings are not so important, it is more relevant to find a good research group. – Davidmh Aug 24 '14 at 10:03
  • @so2 the requirements are high level of English and a number of university courses (with a MS you have it more than covered). The funding is provided by the PI, every now and they they open positions, fully funded. You should also email the profs that do things interesting for you. – Davidmh Aug 24 '14 at 10:06
  • Thanks for the quick response. My earlier follow-up question was truncated. Wanted to ask this as well: Is a PhD from a top-ranking university in Sweden viewed on par with a PhD from good universities in the US, UK or Germany (in the sciences field)? I'm asking this specifically because I haven't heard of many Indian students doing PhD in Sweden, despite Sweden being traditionally well-known for its contributions to science and mathematics. Is it the case that career opportunities within Sweden are limited for foreign students after their PhD? – so2 Aug 24 '14 at 10:25
  • @so2 that is a new question, and you should post it as such. – Davidmh Aug 24 '14 at 10:57

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