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Showing posts from September, 2013

NASA on Reddit. Join in!

NASA is inviting the general public to participate in a question and answer session with women working on the agency’s next generation of a space-based telescope as part of a  event on  Thursday, Sept. 26 at 2 p.m. EDT . The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s next-generation space observatory and successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Webb telescope will provide images of the first galaxies ever formed, and explore planets around distant stars. It is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. Reddit, a popular on-line community where users vote on content they find interesting, has many sub-forums. This particular Q&A session will be take place on the TwoXChromosomes subreddit, which is intended for "thoughtful content - serious or silly - related to gender, and intended for women's perspectives." The Webb telescope project has gather

Into the Astro Industry with Kristen Griffin (part 3)

This is Part 3 of my interview with Ph.D. Astronomer,  Kristen Shapiro Griffin   ( You can find  Part 1 here , and Part 2 here. ) . Kristen is a former classmate of mine from UC Berkeley (go  BADGrads !) and she is also my grand-mentee from the UC Berkeley Astronomy peer mentoring program. Kristen went to work at  Northrop-Grumman  upon receiving her doctorate and she now lives in SoCal. I asked her to share her thoughts and experiences on the astronomy "industry" (non-academic) path. My questions and Kristen's insightful answers are given below. 9) How'd you break the news to your advisor that you were going to leave academia? How'd he take it? What you imagine your professor will do when you tell her/him that you're leaving the academic track. I was incredibly fortunate in the advisor-student relationship I enjoyed during grad school.  So many people have either work-style or personality conflicts with their advisor, and I was lucky to avoid

Into the Astro Industry with Kristen Griffin (part 2)

This is Part 2 of my interview with Ph.D. Astronomer,  Kristen Shapiro Griffin   ( You can find  Part 1 here .  ) . Kristen is a former classmate of mine from UC Berkeley (go  BADGrads !) and she is also my grand-mentee from the UC Berkeley Astronomy peer mentoring program. Kristen went to work at  Northrop Grumman  upon receiving her doctorate and she now lives in SoCal. I asked her to share her thoughts and experiences on the astronomy "industry" (non-academic) path. My questions and Kristen's insightful answers are given below. Stay tuned for Part 3! 5) It seems to me that astronomers are highly employable because we work on big, open-ended problems, often within teams.  Is this true? Yes, this is absolutely true.  During a PhD, a grad student acquires so many skills that the average worker doesn’t have.  I want to take the skills you mentioned and go into a little more detail (in more industry-centric language).  As you mentioned, we learn how to take comp

How to Make a Good Poster Presentation

Prof. Wright over at AstroWright has tips for making an award-winning poster presentation . Here's an excerpt from his comprehensive overview: A poster is a graphical representation of your abstract . People usually only spend 3-5 minutes on a poster, unless they are particularly interested (then they will likely talk to you for more details). So the goal of a poster is to make it easy to scan over quickly and leave one or two take-away points for readers to remember, or to open up a dialogue for those who are interested.  Your poster is a visual aid for your oral pitch.

Into the Astro Industry with Kristen Griffin (part 1)

This is Part 1 of my interview with Ph.D. Astronomer, Kristen Shapiro Griffin . Kristen is a former classmate of mine from UC Berkeley (go BADGrads !) and she is also my grand-mentee from the UC Berkeley Astronomy peer mentoring program: I mentored Julie Comerford , and Julie mentored Kristen. Kristen went to work at Northrop Grumman upon receiving her doctorate and she now lives in SoCal. I asked her to share her thoughts and experiences on the astronomy "industry" (non-academic) path. My questions and Kristen's insightful answers are given below. Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3! 0)  Tell me about your job! What does your day-to-day look like?   How is it different now than when you started, and what was that evolution like? I work at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in the civil space new mission area.   My official title is Systems Engineer, which means that my job is to design systems that work together effectively to meet the mission objectives – in this

A handy "industry" job search guide

I plan to write more on non-academic job opportunities in the future. For now, I'll point to this handy guide assembled by Teresa Crane at . In it you'll find information about establishing an online presence, developing job search strategies, advice for writing your resume, interviewing and handling your offer(s).

The Rise of Mental Health Issues at Universities

Via Slate , here's a 20 minute podcast about mental health issues for college students. Issues covered include: 50% of college students suffer from some sort of mental health issue Most mental health disorders develope during the ages 18-25, right when students are leaving home and facing a barrage of new stresses The story of a college student who suffered from anxiety and her story of suffering and then help through therapy and medication The stigmatization of seeking help and living with a diagnosis The difficulties faced by students in seeking help The difficulties faced by universities in providing mental health services for students Professional tips and advice for dealing with these sorts of issues on a college campus

The day the argument against gay marriage died...again

This time it's a candidate for the Australian Prime Ministership who destroys the sad, tired "christian" argument against gay marriage. Also notable, in the video below you see a politician making an intelligent, informed statement about a position they really believe in. Weird, right? We should get some of that in the U.S. My favorite part: bible ping pong, where the politician smashes it back at the pastor by quoting  Paul from Ephesians  on the topic of slavery, which Paul was down with given the social norms of the time (where "the time" was, ohhh, 2000 years ago).

Essential products

Every once and a while you encounter a product so revolutionary, so forward-thinking that your head feels like it's going to explode. It transcends want and immediately becomes a need. I just encountered such a product while researching iPad stands. Behold, the CTA Pedestal Stand for iPad : At long last I can watch YouTube hands-free while on the hopper. And when I'm done, bam! Toilet paper right there in front of me. No more balancing my iPad precariously on the side of the sink while I fumble around for the TP.  In 3-4 working days my life will be forever changed!

Featuring another update personal astro site part 3

Phil Muirhead, experimental astronomer extraordinaire, taking a selfie with a camera-phone and the Minerva Telescope 1 optics.  I featured Phil Muirhead's simple-yet-effective website in my original post on Personal Astro Sites . However, he got inspired by what I wrote and by his new position at B.U., so he updated his web presence. Updating your site is generally a good idea, of course: Great blog post on websites. So, I finally gave up on html. I made this using Sandvox (it's their stock "galaxy" template): I asked Phil how he liked Sandvox, and he replied "It  was in fact pretty easy to use. It makes it really easy to publish changes... 90 bucks, only for Mac, but you can do everything I did with the free trial version." As for the cool embedded ADS publication listing, "[Sandvox]  has a feature where you can embed another webpage.  I just embedded the URL I get when I search for all refereed and SPIE publ

What astronomical really means

As a quick, more quantitative followup to my previous picture-based post... Imagine the size of the entire Earth. The distance from LA to New York is about 1/6 of the circumference of the Earth. The radius of the earth is $1/2\pi$ the circumference, which is about 1/6. So LA --> NYC is a good estimate for the "size" or radius of the Earth, or about 3000 miles according to my most recent frequent-flier statement ($R_{Earth} = 7000$ km).  Now consider the size of a single atom in your body. Your body is mostly water, which makes it mostly hydrogen. Hydrogen is made up of an electron orbiting a proton at a distance of roughly a "Bohr radius," which is about 50 picometers ($5 \times 10^{-11}$ meters). This means that the Earth is $7\times10^{3} / 5 \times 10^{-11} \approx 10^{17}$ times bigger than an atom in your body. The Earth is $100,000,000,000,000,000$ times bigger than an atom in your body. That's huge in comparison, as you might imagine. We

Thoughts on Reverse Discrimination

Check out my post on the subject over at Women In Astronomy . A snippet: If you were running a marathon in which all people born in March were forced to start 10 minutes behind the other runners, it wouldn’t make sense to complain that you, as someone born in January, were somehow discriminated against because the March-birthday runner was granted a time correction. “I didn’t get a time correction! I had to run the full race and have my final time submitted with no correction. This is reverse discrimination on the basis of birth date!”

Hold on! Correction on "Young Black Scientist Makes History"

Correction to  A Young Black Scientist Making History!  - Fabienne Bastien is the first Black female  astronomer to publish a first-author Nature article. I stated that she was the first Black astronomer. I wrote my article about Fabienne Bastien after participating in an email thread with Keivan Stassun on a related topic. He mentioned that Fabienne was the first Black female  astronomer to publish in Nature. I missed that key qualifier, which was totally my mistake. I should have A) carefully reread Keivan's email before rushing to post and B) done my own literature search. Having done both now, here are some other notable examples of Black Astronomers publishing first-author papers in  Nature : Walker, A. D. M.; Greenwald, R. A.; Stuart, W. F.; Green, C. A.   1978Natur.273..646W Basri, Gibor  2001Natur.411..145B Basri, Gibor  2004Natur.430...24B Marchis et al.  2005Natur.436..822M Marchis et al.  2006Natur.439..565M I apologize for this oversight, particularly to Fra


This is kinda what a hydrogen atom looks like. Well, not really. The electron actually occupies a quantum probability cloud. But you get the idea. It is small . In comparison to an atom, the Earth is positively HUGE. There are roughly $10^{50}$ atoms in the Earth. You probably understand this comparison. The Earth orbits the Sun along with several other planets. Here's a view of the Earth from Saturn. The Earth is that tiny blue dot in the distance.  The Sun is one of about 200 billion stars in our Galaxy. Our galaxy is one of about 100 billion galaxies in the universe. The Universe is about $10^{19}$ times bigger than the Earth. This number is 100 times larger than the Earth-atom comparison. All of my worries and problems are on the Earth, which is nothing compared to the Universe. Yet my telescope proposal deadline still seems HUGELY IMPORTANT!

A Young Black Scientist Making History!

See correction here (posted 10:45AM EDT Sept, 3) In the most recent volume of Nature--- a high-impact, highly selective general-science journal---there is the usual collection of cutting-edge research articles. There's an article about an ancient ice shell on Saturn's moon Titan. There's another about the genetic sequencing of yeast. Planetary science and genetics are interesting, but one article in particular really stood out to this astronomer. Its title is  An observational correlation between stellar brightness variations and surface gravity   (Bastien, Stassun, Basri & Pepper 2013, Nature  500, pp. 427-430 ). The novel and impactful scientific result is an empirical link between the bulk photometric variability of stars to their surface gravity, a key stellar property previously only measurable from high-resolution spectroscopy or extremely difficult asteroseismic observations. Bastien and collaborators coin the term "flicker" to describe the root-m