Working with the ICRAR team was a very interesting one. Having just graduated high school, my supervisor, Jean-Pierre Macquart had no hesitation in giving me a mathematical research project to play with. I was given a one hour crash course on the phenomena known as Faraday Rotation, then asked to work out a probability distribution for the magnitude of the polarization vector produced by background noise. This would be helpful, as it would allow researchers to decide whether or not it was reasonable to discard data as noise, or whether it was likely to be something of statistical significance.
After spending two days simply trying to understand the mathematics of the probability distributions (with a lot of procrastinating by discussing the interesting projects of those around me), I was given a break and was told to spend some time at the UWA facility. There, I watched Kevin Vinsen’s preparation for some talks he will be given regarding the massive computing power required to run the SKA project. I then got to see some of the “less glamorous” side of work, as Kevin described it. We had to install the operating systems on two computers and connect them to the ICRAR network. It was interesting to find out how the network was run, as it needed to have connections from both UWA and Curtin campuses.
The following day was particularly interesting. After a while of working more on the particularly hard challenge I had received three days earlier, I was fortunate enough to sit in on a lab session being conducted for students of the National Youth Science Forum. They were being shown how to make dipole receivers and the physics behind the choice of length of such equipment. After watching those activities, I made my way to watch a talk being presented at UWA, regarding the naughty stars in the centre of the galaxy not behaving as they should.
On my final day, I got back to work on my original problem. I was starting to feel a bit saddened because I had no idea where to go. Luckily I found some new calculations on the friendly search engine that knows all, and did make some headway, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to finish.
Although the challenge set for me was extremely hard, I really valued my work experience, because I found out a bit more of what it was like to work in the science field, and it did something mentally that people only ever consider for sports, it pushed me beyond my abilities.