June 18th – June 22nd 2018
Hi My name’s Rebekah, and I was one of the lucky students to be accepted into ICRAR’s work experience outreach programme in 2018. If you’re reading this, I suppose you have an interest in said work experience programme, and you want to hear stories from other people about it. You’ll see that pretty much everyone who has made a blog here holds it in very high regard, and I’m not about to change that! The experience really was one of the best in my life, and I learned so much.
I was there for a week in June, along with two other students from different schools. We divided our week between the Curtin University and University of Western Australia nodes, spending two days at Curtin, and three at UWA. Each day, we’d arrive, greet our supervisors, get a quick overview of how our day would go and what we’d be doing. We’d move on to talking to a diverse group people about their fields of work and life as an astronomer, then having lunch and talking to more people, and sometimes learning about specific telescopes and discoveries.
It was really fascinating to talk to these people. They were all so different from each other, yet they all had the same wonderful passion for their work, and a lot to say about their fields of research; ranging from studying interstellar dust to tracking black holes. They explained their topics simply and engagingly, helping me learn a lot about our universe.
We were treated to a free Subway lunch on Monday, a weekly tradition at the Curtin node, and an astronomy morning tea on Friday at UWA, where we could chat to the astronomers who gathered on the second floor for this weekly event. At both events, there were several staff members who engaged us in some interesting conversations about various things and gave us some advice on our futures in astronomy.
Our supervisors and some of the people we met gave us simple, small activities and calculations to provide insight into the work of an astronomer. Using images and spectral data and graphs to calculate the weight of a galaxy, calculating things about pulsars, and identifying strange things in images of different frequencies were the main ones we were shown.The astronomers were helpful and didn’t judge one too obviously if mistakes were made, instead being encouraging in correcting us.
Many people told us about the Square Kilometre array, a huge radio telescope that ICRAR will set up in years to come, and how it will be useful to them. I learnt a lot about something I had honestly never heard of, and now I’m really excited to see it get constructed and put into use (partly because (if I still want to do astronomy at that time) the data will be available for me to use while I’m in university). They told us about what the telescope will hopefully see, and how that knowledge will further science and humanity.
We were also told a lot about “seeing” the universe in different frequencies and the different things that can be seen in certain frequencies, which was something I didn’t really know and was really interesting!
The experience just added to my interest in astronomy, despite the warnings some people had for us about the amount and type of work they did. It taught me a lot, and gave me new ideas for my future.
Hopefully I’ll be able to return to ICRAR at some point in my life and learn even more about astronomy!