Forge successful, productive careers

Richard de Grijs, professor, Macquarie University, Australia, talks about the benefits for Indian students in considering a major in astronomy and astrophysics.

Forge successful, productive careers

Richard de Grijs.

A deputy editor of a foremost research journal in the world, titled The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Richard de Grijs has sincerely devoted to recent developments, discoveries, and theories in astronomy and astrophysics.

He is the associate dean (global engagement) at the faculty of science and engineering, Macquarie University, Australia. Recently, he visited India to sign an important MoU with the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi. Excerpts:

Q. What are the benefits for Indian students in considering astronomy and astrophysics as a major?


Astronomy and astrophysics is a core STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics /medicine) discipline. Graduates in this field have a solid grounding in physics and mathematics.

They have acquired a scientific mindset and are thus able to tackle complex questions — both in research and in societal contexts — in a systematic approach.

Astronomy and astrophysics graduates are comfortable handling complex mathematics, computational approaches to problem solving, abstract thinking, and highly collaborative pursuits.

Q. What are the job opportunities for students once they complete their course in astronomy or astrophysics?

With their highly transferable skills, astronomy and astrophysics graduates are well positioned to hit the ground running on the job market.

Time and again, studies by the leading professional societies in this discipline — for example, those in the UK, the US, the Netherlands — conclude that these graduates will either find suitable jobs fairly quickly or enroll in higher degree research such as Master’s or PhD.

Unemployment is typically in the single digit percentages at the benchmark point of six months after graduation.

Q. What is the admission process and scholarship requirement for astronomy and astrophysics course for international students?

The admission process can vary slightly depending on exactly which degree you are applying for, a Bachelor’s degree versus a PhD for example, but we are essentially looking for students with a good ability in maths and physics.

We encourage everyone to apply through one of our agent partners such as IDP, Edwise or Chopras, who can assist with gathering the relevant documents and guide students through the application and visa process. Once students hold a full offer from Macquarie then they can apply for scholarships.

We are currently offering Indian students an annual scholarship of $10,000 for the duration of their coursework degree. This is valid for students accepting their offer by early December and commencing in February next year.

The university uses a selection rank to determine eligibility for undergraduate programmes. This number, which can be found on the university’s course finder website (https://www.mq.edu.au/study/find-a-course) for specific courses, is based on the Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank, a score given to students based on their Australian senior secondary school (+2) exams.

For students from overseas, we translate this rank into equivalent scores from various recognised international high school qualifications and university entrance examinations, including global qualifications like the International Baccalaureate and GCE A-Levels.

All applicants for undergraduate and postgraduate coursework studies at the university are required to provide evidence of proficiency in English (for instance, IELTS of 6.5 overall with minimum 6.0 in each band, or equivalent).

At our university, we recognise each student’s individual strengths, interests and personal circumstances. Through a range of tailored entry criteria, we ensure that students enter university with the appropriate support for success both in their studies and beyond to their careers.

Q. What are the various other programmes offered by the university in the faculty of science and engineering?

We are renowned for our expertise in science across fields such as astronomy, biology, chemistry, microbiology and physics. Our highly regarded science graduates benefit from our interdisciplinary approach and forge successful, productive careers across a broad range of scientific disciplines.

The university’s faculty of science and engineering is home to eight departments — biological sciences, chiropractic, computing, earth and planetary sciences, environmental sciences, mathematics and statistics, molecular sciences, physics and astronomy — and a school of engineering.

We offer Bachelor’s and Master’s level coursework degrees in areas that are valued by employers worldwide. We respond to market demand as required, for example, from the second intake in 2019, we will offer a Master’s in Information Technology (cyber security).

We also engage in higher degree research, through our two year Master of Research programme, PhD studies, and joint higher degrees with a large number of international partners.

Q. Has the interest in astrophysics and astronomy courses grown or reduced in recent years?

Interest in astronomy and astrophysics has increased steadily. Undergraduate and Master’s enrollments have increased slightly over the past four to five years; PhD enrollments have increased significantly.

We expect a further significant increase in the near future, since the university has just acquired the former Australian Astronomical Observatory’s staff complement, now known as Australian Astronomical Optics-Macquarie, a new department within the faculty of science and engineering.

The majority of our new colleagues are instrumentation specialists and engineers, which thus offers numerous exciting opportunities to expand our footprint in this area.

Q. How can the new MoU benefit Indian students?

By signing the MoU with the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi we plan to develop close research linkages, which will result in joint PhD and internship opportunities for students at both institutions.

This will provide international exposure to students, giving them an edge over their peers. The students will also be able to undertake joint projects between the two institutions and learn new, state-of-the-art skills in science and engineering.