Starting my Internship:
Over the past month and a half I’ve had the distinct honor of being able to work alongside world renowned astronomer Dr. Boyajian (though I’m mostly working alongside her grad students because she’s so busy going places, hah). You might know her better as Dr. Tabby, as in Tabby’s star. If you’re not familiar with this star, I HIGHLY encourage you read its wikipedia page and find out what makes it special. In working with her, I’ve also gotten to know her grad students, and the newest ‘proto-grad’ student, all of whom are equally as amazing and impressive. (I’ve put circles around all the heads of those I work with in the picture below).
Though my time has only been short so far, I’ve already learned a lot not only about astronomy but also about life in the astronomy field. For example, it involves coding. A lot of coding. I actually had to learn Python and SQL entirely (Codecademy was a great resource), and beyond that I have to learn and constantly look up documentation for dozens of different packages and API’s. I’m still a little rough, but I’m getting the hang of it and I’ve already coded a few things that have really come in handy as I do my next type of work; documentation and data analysis.
Being the only undergrad student and so new to the field, I’ve been stuck with the boring work like reorganizing and documenting every observation, star observed, and information about each star observed including brackets, magnitudes, parallaxes, notes, filters, etc… all making sure both databases are easy to reference with eachother and easy to understand. I’m not complaining in the slightest! I accept that I need to start somewhere and I’m still thrilled to do the work I’m doing, but wow is it boring sometimes, hah.
Another task I’ve taken up is helping run the Astronomy on Tap event and YouTube channel. Astronomy on Tap is an event Dr. Tabby heads where every month the local astronomy buffs come out of their stuffy offices and homes and gather at the Varsity Theater right outside of LSU for a free, public event with guest speakers and panelists talking about some of the coolest topics in astronomy and science. I hope one day, as I progress in my studies, I can be one of these speakers; I’ve always had a knack for presenting things I’m passionate about. I’f you’d like to check out some of the past talks, and judge my editing skills, check out the YouTube channel here.
Beyond the intro work I’ve been doing, I’ve already hit my first big break. I will be going to LA (the cool city, not Louisiana) and observing at the CHARA array (the worlds most powerful interferometer and pictured in the header) on Mt. Wilson with one of Tabby’s grad students, Tyler, come this August. Yesterday we booked our plane tickets and I’m beyond thrilled. It’ll be 14 hour days, working through the night and sleeping all day staying busy the entire time, but it’s also the concrete start of my own research and the dream I’ve had since I was a kid to be an astronomer and observe our universe. Of course, more details on that as the fall nears 😉
Though that’s a wrap on what I’m currently doing, I know I’ll accomplish a lot more as my time with Dr. Boyajian and her grad students progresses and I’ll make sure to keep you all updated. Cheers!