How old is the Universe? How do galaxies develop? What is found between the stars? How are planetary systems formed? Are you fascinated by questions like these? Then Astronomy is right for you!
If you are interested in natural sciences, this international programme will appeal to you. You will study the physical processes in the universe, which means that physics and mathematics are an important part of the programme.
Our three-year programme has been frequently voted as a top-degree Astronomy programme in the Netherlands and has a regular intake of more than 70 students, ensuring many contact hours and availability of excellent facilities. You still have the opportunity to switch to (Applied) Mathematics in the first semester and you can still switch to (Applied) Physics in the first year. This means you can never go wrong!
Nearly every year sees spectacular discoveries in the field of astronomy. These are largely driven by technological advances. In Groningen you can concentrate on a wide range of topics such as our milky way, the structure and dynamics of galaxies, the universe itself and the formation of planetary systems, as well as the development and improvement of instruments. Our broad programme even offers a specialization in instrumentation and informatics in the minor phase as an alternative to the general Astronomy minor.
Groningen astronomers belong to the top of the world. Astronomy research has been carried out at Groningen University since 1883. They have been heavily involved in the construction and use of the Westerbork radio telescope (WSRT). At the moment they play a key role in the development and use of the LOFAR network of radio telescopes and the future Square Kilometer Array, while leading the development of instruments for the upcoming Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) in Chile. They also have key roles in space projects, such as leading the development of the HIFI detector in the Herschel satellite, the data processing center of the upcoming Euclid cosmology satellite, while having a leading role in the Gaia satellite mapping of our Milky Way.
There is so much to discover
Oh so you know my star sign? Am I a moon rising? Jokes like that would often be made when answering the question “what do you study?”. After the difference between astrology and astronomy has been established, I often describe astronomy as the mathematics and physics of the universe (plus loads of programming).
Many things interest me. So until the last moment I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to study. But now that I am here, I enjoy every bit of it. Lots of people around me had their 5-year plan for their future set out and knew what they wanted to study for years. Contrast to me being so unsure until the last moment. I encourage you to choose something you really like and are willing to work hard for.
That moment when you have been working on something for a bit and suddenly grasp it, it clicks, and you fully start to understand something, is the most amazing feeling. Whether that is in a lecture, a tutorial, or working at home, really starting to understand these remarkable subjects is what I like the most. Which isn’t that surprising since the only reason I chose to study astronomy is because I find it highly interesting. There is so much to discover and so many unexplored wonders are lying in the silent dark space soup.
Even though the study has a lot of contact hours, with good time management I am still able to do other activities next to my studies; I play the cello, do competitive rowing, am the chair of the faculty council, and lastly I am part of the astronomy team.
For anyone that is considering studying astronomy: the study is objectively hard. It consists of a lot of programming, mathematics, and physics. It’s not a romantic image of stargazing and looking through a telescope, sadly enough.
Every day something new and exciting
Ever since I was little, I had a fascination for the world around me and for everything beyond it. In secondary school, I enjoyed physics, mathematics, and chemistry, so it was clear to me that I wanted to find a degree programme related to at least one of those three subjects. What's more, I wanted to follow a degree programme taught in English.
At the annual Student Fair in Luxembourg, I came across a University of Groningen brochure and realized quite quickly that this would be my city of choice. Initially, I was unsure whether I should choose Physics or Astronomy. Yet, after visiting the University during the Bachelor’s Open Day, I eventually decided on Astronomy since the subject also concerns itself with the field of physics in which I was most interested.
What I like most about the programme is the fact that I get to learn something new and exciting about astronomy almost every day. Of course, the programme is challenging at times, but for me that is an extra stimulus to do my best.
Aside from my studies, I do competitive running (mid- and long-distance). When choosing the city that I wanted to study in, it was important for me to be able to continue my running. I find having a good work-life balance essential and for me, running and studying have to go hand-in-hand. I am glad to say that I have achieved this balance here in Groningen. I am also part of the Sirius A study association. After missing out on many social aspects of student life last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, I am very eager to spend more time with other Astronomy students and to make new friends.
When it comes to my future, I am yet not focusing on a specific path, as I am open to any opportunity that may present itself. I could actually see myself occupying a teaching position either at a secondary school or even a university later in life. But firstly, I can say that after obtaining my Bachelor’s degree in Astronomy, I will stay here in Groningen for my Master’s degree.
Fascinated by the Universe
My name is Grigore-Leon Rațiu. I grew up in a town on the coast of the Black Sea, Constanța, in Romania. I have always wanted to study Astronomy and Physics.
Wait, I'm actually spinning things around: I've always wanted to study Physics, but I have also always been fascinated by the Universe. A natural consequence of being interested in physics. The University of Groningen has given me the opportunity to study both degree programmes simultaneously. Perhaps the best thing about studying these programmes, is the fact that they keep me challenged.
I decided to study in Groningen because I believe that the University of Groningen is a great university, but I also truly enjoy the city. It's nice to bike through, quiet outside of the city center, very clean, and safe!
There's plenty to discover and develop, and that's what I find most important in a job
After obtaining Bachelor's degrees in Physics and Astronomy, I thought I wanted to become a researcher but, during my Master's, I decided to look beyond the academic world. I still find astronomy and physics very fascinating topics. It's exciting to study the world and the universe. Someone from the company Nedap came to hold a talk for my study association and I ended up doing a traineeship with them. They gave me further training to become a software engineer.
Nedap works on technological solutions for various markets. I work in the retail department, in which we make anti-theft tags for clothes shops, for example. These tags work through small antennas and chips that are worked into every piece of clothing. Each piece of clothing has a unique number that can also be used for inventory management and data analysis.
I work on the software for these tags and the corresponding anti-theft gates, which actually has a lot more to do with physics and astronomy than you might think because this software uses radio antennas. We might not be picking up signals from light years away but many principles are the same. What I like about this work is the fact that it’s useful and can be used in the real world. There’s plenty to discover and develop, and that’s what I find most important in a job.
My tip for prospective students: make sure to go on company visits. Many companies are looking for science graduates but they don’t always know how to get in touch with you. So, if you see an interesting company, just give them a call and I’m sure you’ll be invited to come around for a chat.
The work I do now isn't vastly different from the studies I did at Groningen
After my Bachelor's degree I worked for my PhD at Groningen and went on to a postdoc position in Los Angeles. I am now Professor of Astronomy at Yale University. I research the formation and evolution of galaxies. My degree prepared me perfectly for this job. The basic set-up of the work I do now isn't vastly different from the studies I did at Groningen.