Whenever I go home for breaks and visit my old high school or see my parent's friends they always ask, "How are you doing? Have you decided what you're going to major in yet?"
And luckily, my answer is yes. I'm studying astrophysics. Now, I've already somewhat written a blog about this (about how declaring your major is not really a big deal), but this post will be different. I want to talk about the uniqueness of the Tufts Astrophysics Department.
You might be thinking to yourself right now, "Tufts has an astrophysics major??" (And I say you're thinking this because I know a lot of people here who actually don't know this is a major). But yes, yes we do. There are approximately eight undergraduate astrophysics majors spread from the Class of 2016 to the Class of 2019. This means, I know everyone in the major, which could be a good thing or a bad thing, but in this case, I believe it is a good and useful thing.
Having upperclassmen friends who have already completed most of the path I plan on taking is great because they're always willing to help me with homework assignments or lend me their textbooks to use for studying or even just there to talk about concepts learned in some of the astrophysics classes. I find this last point the most exciting because whenever I bring up astrophysics with non-astrophysics people, they tend to shy away from the topic, since everything about space seems scary. (It's not scary, it's just big... REALLY big). We get to toss around really big (pun intended) ideas and just have an overall fun time talking about all the crazy stuff that happens in the universe.
Another great thing about the astrophysics department is there are two professors, Professor Marchesini and Professor Sajina, and they both happen to be, in my opinion, amazing professors. By the end of this semester, I will have taken a class with both of them and I can honestly say I am very much looking forward to taking more classes with them in the future. They are both great lecturers and explain the material with clarity and detail. And, they both also are able to keep the class engaged by asking us many questions and having us do group work in class to determine the answer. This type of technique, I feel, is common in high school and not so much in college, but I really appreciate it. Because astrophysics is so small and not many people (besides astrophysics majors and engineers) take upper level astrophysics courses (AST10+), the class sizes are very small and you get to know the professor and your classmates really well, compared to bigger introductory level physics courses.
What can you do with an astrophysics degree? Well, pretty much anything a physics major can do, but more, because you know about space. Astrophysics gives you a background in physics, mathematics, and even some coding. Really, you could go on to do anything from finance to a start-up in San Fransisco to working for NASA (the dream!). What do I plan to do with the astrophysics degree I will hopefully receive in May of 2018? I will hopefully pursue a PhD and eventually go into academia, because I am a huge fan of research and we will never run out of questions to ask about space.