Friday, 21 May 2010

Master of Astronomy update

My first semester enrolled (part-time and via distance education) in the Master of Astronomy course at James Cook University (JCU) is drawing to a close - the final tutorials and prac assignments for 'Modern Astrophysics' have been submitted and the final exam is only two weeks away. I'm currently in that transient period where I can still fantasize about acing the course - so far I have averaged around 90% on the tutorials and prac assignments, and there seems to be a good prospect of getting a High Distinction for this first course and a 'perfect' GPA of 7.0 (the final exam is 'open book' - every ones favourite!) - at least until next term.

This is definitely a severe case of counting my chickens before they've hatched - I haven't even sat the final exam yet (which is worth 40% of the course assessment), and I have NO idea how well the other 18 students enrolled in this course are doing. As the final mark will be scaled, my final grade depends somewhat on the standard of the other student's work and how 'the curve' ends up. It's possible that all the other student's have been getting high marks and we're all having pipe dreams of getting an HD for this subject!

Anyhow, for the moment I think I can reasonably (?) anticipate getting a HD or D this semester, and I think I can also do well in next semester's course (Astronomy Instrumentation) as I have considerable background in instrumentation from my previous post-grad chemical engineering and applied chemistry studies. If I manage to get a GPA of 6.0 or above for the whole of 2010 I may even get a 'Letter of Commendation' from the Faculty Pro-Vice Chancellor, which would be a first for me. In my previous studies I've tended to alternate between D/HD or P/CR results (and the occasional F) depending on how interesting I found a particular course*. Paradoxically, doing a course of no practical use (so the results really don't 'matter') but for which I have great interest, I'm finding it much easier to remain continuously motivated and producing consistently high quality work. Since there are only 6 subjects in total (done over three years part-time) for the MAstron degree, at this early stage I can even day-dream about doing well in ALL the subjects and possibly being eligible for a university medal (it requires a GPA of 6.5 or above - basically nothing but HD or D grades). After finishing the MAstron degree I'd like to be able to progress on to the Doctor of Astronomy (via coursework & research) or preferably PhD (original research) candidature, and a university medal would certainly increase my chances of being accepted into the PhD program (a lot will depend on the quality of my work in final two MAstron subjects - 'Literature Review' and 'Pilot Research Project').

As I said, this is just the pleasant 'day dreaming' stage that often comes at the start of a new university enrollment - so far, so good, with nothing but blue sky ahead. I'll enjoy the sensation while it lasts.

* I can strongly recommend you don't ever enrol in Partial Differential Equations or Mechanics or Solids unless you really like the topic! Attempting a compulsory course that is both difficult and boring is a recipe for disaster.

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