Would you like to explore the most fundamental questions in the universe? Or learn about the formation of stars and planets, or the evolution of our Milky Way? Do you want to learn all there is to know about building large telescopes and the data science behind them? A Master's degree in Astronomy is a gateway into a wide world of science and technology.
Students are trained by astronomers from the world-renowned Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, a centre leading in astronomical research on the structure and dynamics of our Milky Way, on the structure and dynamics of galaxies, galaxy formation and evolution, cosmology and large scale structure of the Universe and star and planet formation, and in the design and development of new astronomical instrumentation.
Astronomy research has been carried out at Groningen University since 1883, and Groningen astronomers belong to the top of the world. They have been heavily involved in the construction and use of the Westerbork radio telescope (WSRT). Currently, 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 developments 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.
The two-year curriculum of the Master's degree can be tailored according to your own interests and capabilities. The wide range of options include the possibility to focus on observational astronomy, theoretical astronomy, astronomical instrumentation and informatics, as well as data science.
Dutch Astronomy graduates in general, and Kapteyn graduates in particular, have excellent career prospects, within and outside of science. The Master's programme has been frequently voted as a top-degree Astronomy programme in the Netherlands. We have outstanding facilities, and the quality of the lecturers, the research component as well as the preparation for the professional field through e.g. internships are also very good.
To enable students to gain additional experience in business and policy as well as to follow a company internship, the special Master's track 'Science, Business and Policy' has been designed.
The Master's in Astronomy definitely gives me plenty of options for a range of different career paths
In the Master’s programme in Astronomy, I really get a chance to dive deeper into certain topics I find interesting and to look more closely at astronomy specifically, rather than the basic physics and mathematics that are on the surface of a subject. What I enjoy most about the programme is the amount of freedom you get in selecting your courses. There are four mandatory courses you have to follow, but most of the degree involves free selection. I chose the Theoretical and Observational Astronomy (TOA) track. My favourite course was an observational one where we got to use the Isaac Newton Telescope in La Palma.
I am currently working on my Master’s thesis about Earth-like exoplanets. I am trying to generalize what we know about the carbon and water cycle on Earth in order to make assumptions about exoplanets. For example, we are looking into the effect of plate tectonics or the amount of ice on the partial pressure of carbon in the atmosphere.
As for my future plans, I am still unsure about what I want to do after my Master’s. I could go and work at a data science company or continue in the world of academia by doing a PhD, but my passion lies in education and science communication. The Master’s in Astronomy definitely gives me plenty of options for a range of different career paths.
The most valuable thing I learned by now is that you can learn a lot from seeing how other people work
I did the Bachelor's programme Astronomy in Groningen, with the educational minor in my third year to become a mathematics teacher. Currently, I am doing the Master’s programme Astronomy, with the Data Science track. I've always enjoyed the programming part of the bachelor programme, and the Data Science track would be able to give me more knowledge on the different aspects of the whole data science world, and perhaps a way to make my job of it later. For me, it was a logical step to continue with Astronomy in the master's as I liked my bachelor’s programme, and also did not want to leave Groningen yet. Thus far this master's programme is what I expected it to be, significantly harder than the bachelor's programme, but also with more interesting, focused courses in Astronomy. I am currently taking the Particle Physics Phenomenology course, which is more physics (as in the name), Star and Planet Formation, and the La Palma course. This last course is an observational course where you go to La Palma to work with the Isaac Newton Telescope, which should be a lot of fun!
My next career step is to perhaps find an internship to get some more hands-on experience in data science. As there is no internship within the Data Science track I will have to find it outside of the programme, but I do think that my master's thesis would give me some insights into where to go next. The most valuable thing I learned by now is that you can learn a lot from seeing how other people work, albeit your friends, a professor, or a random person on the internet; it is always nice to see different approaches to problems and learn from that. At the moment I am mostly looking forward to finishing my last exam, it is nice to learn new stuff but at some point, I prefer doing that without having an exam attached to it ;)
I have the greatest interest in observational astronomy
Before starting my Master's, I followed a Bachelor programme in Astronomy as well. After doing the Bachelor, I wanted to continue in Astronomy, so choosing the Master was a logical choice. The Kapteyn Institute for Astronomy has a great environment and good atmosphere, so I liked to continue my studies here in Groningen. The programme here has a lot of courses to choose from. I was already familiar with the environment of Astronomy in Groningen due to the bachelor’s programme, but taking both programmes into account, I would say it is quite clear what kind of courses you should be expecting (mathematics/physics/programming) and the level that is needed for it. I chose the “Theoretical & Observational Astronomy” track over the “Data Science” and “Instrumentation & Informatics” tracks. This is mostly because I have the greatest interest in observational astronomy. I am also interested in data science, but I still prefer to learn more about it by just following some optional courses. I am currently taking the courses “Star and Planet Formation” and “La Palma Observation Trip”. The course Star and Planet Formation consists of different lectures going in depth of different subtopics with the physics behind it, while we go through problem sets in the tutorials. The course La Palma Observation Trip is quite interesting as this course is more of a practical focused course, where we go to La Palma to observe with the Isaac Newton Telescope.
Right now, I look most forward to doing my Master thesis and spending an entire year going in depth on a project with the help of a supervisor. As for the future, I would love to pursue a PhD in Astronomy.