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New MU Astrophysics Program Will Help Prepare Students for a Wide-Variety of Career Options

May 8th, 2013

Story Contact: Timothy Wall, 573-882-3346,

By Jerett Rion

COLUMBIA, Mo. – This spring, three University of Missouri students will graduate with degrees in physics with an emphasis in astronomy, or the equivalent to an astrophysics degree. Until now, the University of Missouri hadn’t offered a degree in the field and had been losing Missouri students to bordering states such as Illinois and Kansas. Studying astrophysics prepares students for jobs everywhere from NASA to Wall Street.

“Now that MU has established this astrophysics degree program, it will be the only college in the state to offer a degree of this type,” said Angela Speck, director of astronomy at MU. “Before, Missouri high school students who were interested in astrophysics were forced to leave the state. Now, MU can hope to not only stop this brain drain, but also attract brilliant physics students from out of state.”

Speck noted a major obstacle prevented MU from developing an astrophysics program in the past. A shortage of astronomy faculty made it difficult for researchers to teach classes and continue their own research at the same time.

“The MU physics department recently hired two new faculty members, former NASA astronaut Professor Linda Godwin and Assistant Professor Haojing Yan” Speck said. “Now, MU can offer a degree in physics with an emphasis in astronomy without overwhelming our faculty.”

Also, with an addition to the astronomy faculty, students who want to study astrophysics at MU can now conduct research with faculty members.

“Because we have more astronomy faculty, students can now conduct research here at MU, which is something that was not possible before,” Speck said. “In fact, one student who is graduating this semester is coming back to the program for graduate school to conduct research in the astrophysics field.”

Speck says that with a degree in physics, a student’s possibilities are unlimited.

“The great thing about obtaining a degree in physics is that the career possibilities are endless and rewarding,” Speck said. “A degree in physics gives a student good problem- solving skills that can be used in many different areas such as work in the financial industry or continuing education in medical school… Unlike some other degrees, a physics degree leaves options open for a student after graduation.”

If students are interested in learning more about a bachelor’s degree in physics with an emphasis in astronomy they can visit —