AST 185C - FALL 2011

Dinerstein, Wed. 2-3 PM, RLM (Evans Lounge)

Philosophy of this course: AST 185C is a professional development seminar designed for incoming graduate students in the UT Astronomy Ph.D. program. It consists mainly of informal sessions consisting of information, advice, and discussion. The main activity is attendance and participation. We will address issues are important to your progress and success in our graduate program and in astronomy as a profession but don't generally come up in conventional courses. It complements the offerings of UT's Graduate School, which includes regular courses, as well as one-day workshops on topics such as grant proposal writing, applying for academic jobs, etc.

Topics: One goal of this course is to give you an overview of research activities at UT Austin in the areas of stellar, interstellar, extragalactic, planetary, and theoretical astrophysics. This may be particularly useful if you have not yet picked a research area and advisor, but even if you do think you know what your area of specialization will be, it is still a good thing to know what is going on in the department. We will also discuss issues such as: What does it really take to succeed in graduate school and beyond? What are the prospects of finding a job in astronomy, what kind of jobs are available, and how does one prepare for various career paths? These questions will be addressed by a variety of guests with various backgrounds and experiences.

What is expected of you in this class? To attend regularly, except in case of illness or legitimate conflicting activities. A couple of sessions may require a little bit of preparation (e.g. one round of short oral presentations, and possibly a brief survey or reading for other sessions).

Books, Resources: A few relevant books are:

1. "A Ph.D. is Not Enough! A Guide to Survival in Science," Peter J. Feibelman (1993);
2. "To Boldly Go: A Practical Career Guide for Scientists," Peter S. Fiske (1996), or (2001) revision, "Putting Your Science to Work: The Take-Charge Career Guide for Scientists," and
3. "Building a Successful Career in Scientific Research: A Guide for PhD Students and Postdocs," Phil Dee (2006). These and a few other books (mostly on oral and written communication) are in Peridier Library: if you stand facing the "glass wall" into the student computer lab, see the top two shelves on the bookcase to your right.

There is much material on the Web, e.g. the AAS Career Services and the career advice website of the AAAS's Science magazine,

Topics for discussion in Ast 185C (not necessarily in this order):

  1. Introduction to research at Texas: Overview of the five major research areas and information about how to obtain observing time and supercomputer access
  2. Survival and success in the UT Astronomy program: the Official version (e.g. A-Z), and perspectives from a panel of graduate students who are further along in the program
  3. Survival and success in an astronomy career: career trajectories, non-traditional jobs and strategies, how UT astronomy Ph.D.'s have fared, advice from a panel of post docs
  4. Professional and communication skills: how to publish in refereed journals, write successful proposals, understand professional norms, & ethical issues, give effective oral presentations
orion nebula


Harriet Dinerstein

RLM 16.324 · (512) 471-3449 · email

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