I attended the work experience which ran over 5 days from the 20th September to the 24th September 2021. Over the week we visited ICRAR in Curtin and UWA and the Pawsey Supercomputing centre. Throughout the week I got to learn a lot about astrophysics, and I met a lot of friendly and interesting people.
– On the first day we arrived at ICRAR in Curtin, where we met Dr Adelle Goodwin, our supervisor while we were at Curtin. We spent some time having a tour of the building and then talking with Adelle about what she does and what we hoped to get from the work experience
– Then we talked to Mawson Sammons who was completing his PhD on gravitational lensing and using fast radio bursts to investigate it. He explained what fast radio bursts could be used for, and what theoretical astrophysicist typical field of research is.
– After that we met with Dr Maria Kovaleva, an engineer working with antennas and electronics. She explained to us about the electromagnetic spectrum, different frequencies, and antennas.
– After this we got to sit in on the Journal Club, where all the astrophysicists meet in a room and discuss latest news and discoveries. During this, Mawson had to give his second Milestone talk, where he discussed his research and the progress he was having with his PhD.
– Next, we had a long lunch break where we sat with all the other astrophysicists and got to talk with them and ask any questions that we had.
– Afterwards, we met Kat Ross, a PhD candidate studying small galaxies and the brightness in different frequencies emitted by the galaxies. Kat found that there were significant abnormalities in the observation of some galaxies and is now researching the possible explanations for this data. Kat also showed us a little about Programming through a Pokémon Go game.
– Then we spoke to Associate Professor Cathryn Trott, who talked to us about the Epoch of Reionization (EoR) and how she and her team of researchers were using the MWA to search for faint signals of neutral hydrogen.
– Finally, we talked to Dev, a computer programmer and software engineer working on the two radio telescopes from ICRAR. Dev told us about involvement in fixing hardware issues and controlling the telescopes. They also collaborate with astronomers to help sort through the data and remove noise, so that information can be analysed better.
– Today we went to ICRAR in UWA, where we met Greg, our supervisor while we were there. He showed us around the building and led us to our first destination, which was an online meeting with Kevin Vincen. First, he talked about the SKA and how enormous it would be, then we discussed the topics of our close neighbouring galaxies and life on other planets.
– Our next activity was learning to weigh a galaxy with Greg, where we went through the method together. Greg also answered our questions about dark matter and space-time continuum.
– After, we visited Dr Elizabete da-Cunha who researches young galaxies and how they form. Here we also discussed the topics of gravitational waves, neutron stars, black holes and how galaxies form. She answered all our questions, helping us to learn more about these complex topics.
– Next, we talked to Dr Luca Cortese, who also researches galaxies and how they work. He showed us how images of galaxies are artificially created from black and white photos and how certain elements comprising can be seen in certain frequencies.
– Our final activity was meeting Skevos Karpathakis, a student completing his PhD in electronics and engineering. He took us on a tour through the UWA lab, where he does experiments with laser and transmitting information via them in free space.
– Today we were at the Pawsey Supercomputing centre and CSIRO, our supervisor for the day was Ann Backhaus. First, we listened to a presentation from Eamonn Darcy, who talked about Quantum computers and physics. We covered topics such as Quantum Particles, Quantum entanglement, superposition, and many more interesting and mind-bending subjects.
– Afterwards we went to get lunch and ate with some of the researchers and scientists
– Next, we sat with some of the staff and heard about their journeys to getting to where they are today. An important lesson we learned was that you don’t always know what you want to do. I found out that your life can take you on a completely different journey than you initially envisaged.
– We then made a quick walk up to the actual supercomputing centre, where we were greeted by the director Mark Stickells and Mark Gray, via an online call. We got taken on a virtual tour of the actual supercomputing area (as it was under renovation). MAGNUS was the older supercomputer which was being taken down while the newer and improved supercomputer, SETONIX, was being installed.
– Finally, we were allowed a sneak peak of the Vis Lab, where we saw newly installed screen and were shown how they can visualise 3D objects and create simulations on the screen.
– Today we were at ICRAR Curtin, and our first activity was to meet Randal and Kat, who showed us a time-lapse of the night sky, where a strange signal popped up. We were told that it could be a passing satellite or possibly a plane, so our task was to find possibilities of what it could have been.
– In the end we found a new website that could be used to track satellites, but we needed to do more research to find out the exact candidate object to explain strange signal.
– Next, we had a tour of the Engineering lab with Professor David Davidson and Daniel Ung, where we learned a little more about antennas and how they interfere with each other. We also talked about the differences between the SKA and the MWA in the way they are built up
– Afterwards we met with Dr Adela Kawka who researches White Dwarfs. Here we learnt about what they are and that they are peculiar objects as sometimes they could have a brown dwarf orbiting them, as her last research paper showed.
– Then we had lunch and got to talk to some more people
– I unfortunately had to leave after that and was unable to experience the rest of the day
I was unable to attend Day 5, although I would have been at ICRAR UWA.
Overall, the work experience was insightful and interesting for me, I have learned a huge load of information across many subjects from antenna engineering to astrophysics and computer science. I would absolutely recommend this experience for anyone even remotely interested in Astronomy as you are able to see what a wide range of people do for a job and the types of options that are out there.