In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we speak with astronomy graduate student Eric Edelman ’13, who is one of 16 BA/MA students at Wesleyan.
Q: You’re one of only a few who pursue the BA/MA option — it seems like a lot of work. But it seems tailor-made for work in the sciences… Are you still happy with your choice?
A: Absolutely. The BA/MA program provided me with the possibility to realistically pursue astronomy as a late bloomer in the field. I entered Wesleyan with the plan to major in English, and focused my efforts on that path for my first two years here. I took my first introductory course in astronomy and physics as a junior, switched into the astronomy major that semester, and was barely able to complete the bare minimum requirements to receive a BA degree.
Even though I was able to get a degree, the amount of classes I had taken in astronomy and physics in only those two years would not have made me very competitive for Ph.D. programs, which tend to be the next logical step when pursuing a career in astronomy. With the flexibility provided from the BA/MA program, I have been able to stick around for an extra year and really sink my teeth into some incredibly difficult and worthwhile upper level physics and astronomy courses.
Q: The Class of 2018 is getting their admission letters this week. If a prospect is interested in studying sciences, what would you say are the bonuses of studying at Wesleyan?
A: My answer when it comes to physics and particularly astronomy is the student to faculty ratio. It really does literally approach the golden ratio over here. There tend to be around a total of 10-15 graduate and undergraduate majors in the astronomy department per year, with five professors and one postdoc to go around. While trying to land a research position with a professor at larger universities can sometimes feel like being part of a crazy rat race, the astronomy department here at Wes has more than enough space to accommodate any and all students who want to invest themselves in a worthwhile research project. It is an incredibly open and welcoming department. (more…)