Holy (David Vega’s) guacamole batman!
I cannot believe I am sitting in my ultra-comfortable memory foam mattress right now, connected to fast WiFi, sweating in the Fresno heat! Being home after 10 overwhelmingly wonderful weeks of SETI is surreal. I feel like I should be returning to the SETI Institute on Monday, where I’ll see all my peers’ smiling (or stressed-out) faces as we furiously type at laptops and computers, shove Tuesday colloquium pizza in our faces, and have wild conversations about anything between El Chupacabra, the fact that Angela had never had tacos before, and Dyson Spheres. It is so strange, after being around chatter box friends 24/7, to come home and be on my lonesome, quiet in my bed after discussing relatively “normal” things with my family all day on my way back home. I won’t be falling asleep to my roommate passionately describing how Kepler eliminates the probability that their data is a false-positive, or microwaving dinner as David tells me about the adaptive optics behind the Gemini Planet Imager, or folding my laundry to Luis’ mock-presentation about teaching computers the ability to classify rocks based upon spectra.
Everyday activities suddenly become boring and lonely again as I adjust to being home. This causes me to realize that one of the best parts of the SETI Institute internship is the complete immersion into science and the sense of wonderment. Between living on NASA Ames with all the other interns, the MANY generous field trips SETI provided, and abundant colloquiums and science talks one cannot help but feel their passion for their project or space exploration grow with great strength. Without any distractions like school, work, family, you’re forced to sleep, eat, and breathe science and SETI, and there’s nothing better than it! Though each of us interns had completely different, distinct personalities, we all had very similar passions that drove us to be in the same place at the same time this summer. I’ve never felt so loved, accepted, and inspired by such a large, diverse group of people in my entire life. It comforts and warms my soul to know that there are honest, passionate, and incredibly hard working people rising in the scientific community. I cannot wait to maybe collaborate later on in my career to better not just the scientific effort, but society as well.
I regret not taking the time to blog more during this summer. It flew by so fast I could barely process what was happening, much less take time to type out a complete sentence about my experiences. I hope to post more though in the next week to recount what I experienced and make up for it. As things slow down, I will definitely get some more pictures up here too.
Before I forget, however, I’d love to thank everyone at the SETI Institute (especially Jean Chiar & Cynthia Phillips, my awesome mentor Adrian Brown), Dr. Rudolph & those involved in CAMPARE, and all my fellow interns for being some of the greatest human beings I know. This experience was unbelievably amazing and life-changing. I feel so lucky and grateful, even though I am currently suffering from severe Post SETI Depression as I try to process what I’m going to miss about the last ten weeks. Hopefully I’ll get to see most of my peers in the near future at either the CAMPARE symposium, AGU & LPSC, and when I fly out to New York to see my roommate during spring break.
MARINA YOU’RE THE BEST! I love you so much! You’ve definitely become one of my best friends, even a sister, and it’s so freaking weird not sharing a room with you tonight. I can’t sleep!
Goodnight and see you soon!
As a former CAMPARE participant, I wanted to write few words of encouragement for the current and future CAMPARE students!
So, I am finally starting a new chapter in my life. My graduate school career begins in just 3 days! For several years I was doing everything to get to this point. Working at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, SETI Institute and Dr. Peter Beyersdorf at San Jose State University were one of the best choices I have ever made. I feel proud that I am very prepared to take on a new challenge and start working even harder at the Liquid Crystal Institute.
Many of you are either already in a graduate school or will be applying to go to one. If you are already in a grad. school of your choice – CONGRATS! If you are hoping to get into one soon – BEST OF LUCK!!!
In either case, nothing is ever easy! In any point of your career there are going to be new plans, new deadlines and new obstacles that you will have to power through. If you are like me and get stressed easily, try to relax because if YOU know that you tried everything in your power to succeed, then you WILL!
My advice is to work hard because every action or inaction has consequences. Try your best to stay on top of things and motivate yourself to go forward especially when things do not work out the way you wanted them to. At the end your hard work will pay off!
My new plan is to rotate in Dr. Oleg Lavrentovich’s research group for at least a semester and work on nanosecond electro-optics switching of nematic liquid crystals. On top of that, I am very excited about my first TA assignment, which requires me to teach two Physics labs!
I will keep everyone posted on how my first year of graduate school goes as time goes on…
To new beginnings!!
I cannot believe there are less than two weeks left! While I really want to be sentimental and reflective, I have a lot of work to do! There’s no time for “the feels” when there’s science to be done! More specifically, in my case, when there are three presentations to finish, a research poster to finish, oh and not to mention, my research project!
My project is coming along well. I’ve slain Excel and MySQL. Though, I’m sure there are wizards out there who can do all kinds of nifty database-managerial stuff with MySQL. With my newfound mastery, I’ve been able to pull all kinds of information out of the database easily and quickly organize, chart and graph it. Last week Dr. Harp and I started analyzing this data, from the Allen Telescope Array (ATA), using linear and linear-log models. We began with a one-parameter model and are now looking at 3 and 4 parameter models. The data from SETI on the ATA (SonATA) has never been analyzed before. Witnessing first hand how such data is analyzed and how models are created is so cool and I understand it! I never knew log-base-10 could be so useful! One of my favorite parts about this summer is learning and seeing how new science is done. I’ve realized, I’m the only one that’s (probably) going to double check my math in great detail and that if I’m not careful, one teeny mistake can end up taking hours to correct. Though, Excel formulas do make it much easier to fix early mistakes since corrections automatically follow through to the end! Also, copy and paste have become my best friends!
While Copy and Paste are good to me, I’m really excited to go home in mere days to my real friends and family. I’m, also, really excited to go back to a REAL summer! This 70 degrees junk and the constant wind up here are have thwarted my summer buzz. I grew up in Riverside and actually miss that nasty, dry, 100-degree weather. Only 12 more days and I will be warm!
These last few weeks have been kind of interesting. Research has been difficult because the internet is no longer has very useful help. On the bright side now I’m browsing more papers and journals to get information so I’m getting a taste of what the read world of astronomy is like. I especially enjoy reading astronomical reviews because they give you just basic information about specific topics. As far as the actual research I have been learning from my mistakes about photometry, flux calibration and continuum subtraction. This means we will finally be able to do science from my images! I’m getting closer to the goal which is to see if there is any Halpha emission coming from my supernova. This will tell us about how the host galaxy contributed to the explosion and what the star used to be like before the core collapsed.
Now onto the fun stuff. I found this little critter on the back patio while I was on the phone. Crawled right under me! So I did the most instinctual girly thing and ran back into the apartment…
- Thing was bigger than my hand. I have to admit, I did not take this picture…
I also went to visit a cousin of mine in Phoenix. We went hiking on Saturday and then went to the Grand Canyon on Sunday. It was sprinkling and very cloudy but it was nice because the weather wasn’t hot at all and the way the cloud touched the top of the canyon looked beautiful.
This next picture was taken to scare my father, but in the text message he simply replied with a “hooray no more college payments!” so jokes on me.
I also thought I would share my afternoon at the pool view with you. I love California but nothing beats a desert sunset.
Networking win! I found some courage to go across the street to mingle with some REU students at the NOAO building. They are all really nice students from all over the country! We decided to celebrate TGIWT: Thank god it’s wing Tuesday.
Actually, the storm of events that was last week and the fires in Northern California are not related but are both huge impacts on my summer.
The Eiler Fire is mere miles from the Allen Telescope Array in Hat Creek, CA. All the scientists and staff at the ATA have been evacuated and the power is off. While this has very big and scary implications for SETI Institute, it’s completely changed my research goals. The archived data, which is the foundation of my project, is physically located at the ATA, thus it will be inaccessible at least until the fire is contained. The estimated containment date is August 20th. So now I’m facing the daunting task of redefining my project with the data all ready pulled. I guess research problems come in all forms. Needless to say, this week is not looking as cheery as last week was.
I am rejoicing in the slower pace of this week, though. Attending 5 presentations, giving a presentation, participating in a documentary interview, visiting an amazing observatory and watching two movies in one day are exhausting! The presentations were all really fascinating. I’ve learned so much about public speaking from watching seasoned veterans like Seth Shostak, Jill Tarter, Geoff Marcy and Chris McKay. After my presentation, I know my biggest hurdle will be learning to speak directly to the audience without reading my slide notes, rambling or losing track of where I’m going. I’m proud of my Journal Club presentation but I have to work on presentation style. I created a transcript in my notes for the presentation. I thought this would help keep me on track and soothe my nerves. It worked far too well, I ended up reading too often from the screen and sounding rehearsed. Luckily, I have 4 more presentations to prepare for in the next few months! As intense as life will be, it will be nice to present back to back to really engrain the improvements.
Learning more about the Allen Telescope Array from the amazing Dr. Jill Tarter who build them with her own hands.
I was able to be fairly concise during the Madame Mars interview actually! I seriously have a rambling problem, so I ultra-focused on giving to the point answers. I’m really excited to see the final product. Mainly everyone else’s interviews! The documentary looks at women in science, our goals, interplanetary dreams, and how gender roles have or haven’t affected our careers. Their questions were very open-ended which allowed for the wide range of viewpoints amongst the 5 interns to shine through. I’m very much more of actions are greater than words type when it comes to discrimination. Even though I’m a minority women in a sea of old white guys, I don’t feel marginalized because I pay no attention to it. I’m going to do, ask, learn and experience everything I want. I just don’t have time to worry about being marginalized, if someone does discriminate against me I find a way around that person instead of fretting over the discrimination. Luckily, I live in a time when discrimination is essentially illegal, so ways around the discriminator are much easier now than ever before. I’m very thankful for this.
I’m, also, very thankful for the trip we were taken on to Lick Observatory. I’m no observatory aficionado but Lick is incredibly beautiful! The fact that cutting edge science is conducted amongst such beauty makes me want to live there!
Looking over the bay from Mount Hamilton on the steps of Lick Observatory
The dome houses the 36 inch James Lick telescope.
Drainage holes make great frames!
Inside the dome. The James Lick telescope is a steampunk dream! I feel like the horizontal gears should actually be Tesla coils.
Every inch of the observatory and it’s grounds are beautiful.
Ending that crazy busy week with a weekend in San Jose with my husband was so perfect. We ate all our meals outside enjoying the cool summer breeze, watched two dope movies (Get On Up and Guardians of the Galaxy) and attended the Astronomical Society of the Pacific’s public event, Universe 2014. Each talk and the panel were incredible! It must be a fine tuned skill to give professionals new information while still appealing to the general public. I learned so much and my husband, who’s an animator, enjoyed every moment of it and was so excited by all that he learned! One day, I too will master public outreach like they have!
Enjoying the beautiful San Jose weather!
The most fun I’ve had at an Observatory ever!
To put my effusive, millenial self in a bit of context this was the first time I visited an observatory where the telescopes are still doing cutting edge science.
Hopefully, it will not be my last.
I took a number of pictures while at Lick and have a sample of the nice, not blurry ones here.
First, is one of the original building from the 1890′s. It contains a gift shop and the two telescope domes seen, among other things. The near dome contains the three foot refracor (we were able to look at a globular cluster, and the ring nebula with it later in the evening). The far one was open later presumably to do research.
This is a view along CA 130 (a small road but still a state highway) as we walked to the large telescope at the observatory. I include it because the 2.4m telescope in it is fully automatic (it is controlled by a computer) and looks for exoplanets. It has already found a few even though it was commissioned earlier this year.
These two pictures are of the largest telescope Lick has: the Shane 3.0m reflector. Besides being a nice large thing to see, other details hide in these pictures . the equipment at the base of the telescope is an older camera and spectrometer. Newer instruments are in the basement where they can be bigger (heavier) and in a more controlled climate. The light gets there through an opening in the support structure as shown. The laser Lick used to pioneer adaptive optics can be seen in the first picture (it runs the length of the telescope). Adaptive optics used the laser to create an artificial star in the atmosphere (as seen by the telescope) and use it to subtract out the effects of atmospheric distortion (the twinkling we see when we look at stars).
This is the view looking back from the Shane sunset is coming.
Finally a beautiful view of the bay and sunset. I wanted a picture of the planet finder when it was open and the red moon as it set through a thick atmosphere but these turned out to blurry to be worth it.
Almost like a sad nature documentary, though, Lick is endangered. The University of California plans to stop its funding of Lick in 2018 and I at least would be sad to see that happen from what I learned during my visit. They have a website http://www.ucolick.org/SaveLick/ which you can visit if you like me are concerned about losing one of California’s premiere research observatories, and science outreach facilities.
In other news, the SETI interns and I inherited a book on grammar and usage. It was written by someone who worked at NASA Ames and had an annoying habit of correcting people. The book is actually rather funny. Between having the book and sending my blog posts for proofreading I have become aware of what texting slang can do to a person’s grammar. I should therefore thank the book and astroblog for pointing this out to me and making me more aware of the need for clear communications.
Last week was a little uneventful, which meant it was my most productive research week so far! I finally made a pretty and giant code to get all the information from the database at once. I was sooo happy but, also, felt incredibly lame at the same time. The issue that was holding me up was figuring out how to string together multiple queries. After Googling for days, literally, and trying allllllll sorts of combinations, I got frustrated enough to just put the dang queries next to one another AND IT WORKED! So you see, I was thrilled and thoroughly annoyed. Haha. With a functionin code, I worked away, pulling data, organizing, analyzing and even graphing! I even got a “Good Job!”, exclamation point included.
Aside from research advances, I was really proud of myself for finishing my Journal Club presentation a whole 6 days ahead of time! It was nice to not stare at it for a few days before getting a list of corrections from my mentor. Thankfully the correction was not “This is bullocks! Start over!” It’s really only a few minor changes to give my presentation a better sense of the big picture. I’ve never been great at explaining the big picture to others. This will be good practice! My presentation is on a paper written by Andrew Siemion from UC Berkley about the SETI projects conducted there with a focus on Astropulse, conducted at the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico and Fly’s Eye, conducted at the Alan Telescope Array in Northern California ran by SETI Institute. Both projects search for radio pulses sent by extraterrestrial intelligent beings. So, it’s almost like I’m a spy reporting back on the competitor’s activities! (But not really since the paper was published 4 years ago and the authors work closely with SETI’s radio astronomy team.)
While I’ve kept myself gainfully employed, I’ve actually worked out and continued to study for the GRE! It helps that I keep the weekends and evenings pretty quiet. It’s actually kind of nice to do nothing on a weekend. I’m so used to running around doing errands and visiting family that doing nothing has been great! Though, I’m also really excited to have my husband come up this weekend. We’re calling it our Movie Weekend, 2 movies in 2 days! (It was going to be 3 movies but we’re attending the Astronomical Society of the Pacific’s Universe 2014 public event on Sunday. Dr. Jill Tarter and Dr. Chris McKay and Dr. Geoff Marcy will be speaking about SETI.)
Actually this whole week has been and will continue to be busy and awesome. Today’s SETI Talks colloquium was given by a PhD student at UC Davis, Sona Hosseini, and was on the tunable spatial heterodyne spectrometer she built and does science with for her PhD program. Her story and how driven she is to create her own path is really inspiring. Tomorrow Dr. Seth Shostak is giving a talk on his experiences in Africa, I’m participating in a group interview for a documentary, called Madame Mars, on women in science and getting the first person on Mars to be female (which definitely needs to happen), then we’re taking a field trip to Lick Observatory in the evening. Thursday, Dr. Tarter is the colloquium speaker at Ames, Friday is my Journal Club presentation and this weekend is Movie Weekend! Then there’s only three weeks left! Oh. Man.
The past few weeks have found me mostly running the radiative transfer model for my research, trying to figure out why its plots don’t match observed data as well as they could, and occasionally breaking it. I also gave a talk about a journal article related to my project as part of the REU’s journal club. The code models the interactions between a dying star (calm enough that it won’t go supernova, and instead turn into a white dwarf) and the the dust around it. The star radiates and this affects the chemistry of the dust. The code outputs a graph of the spectrum we would expect to see and hopefully it fits a collection of observed data points. I have been varying input parameters to see if there is a set that makes the model fit the data. So far the fits are not as good as they could be, but there a few weeks left to find ways to improve the model. There have been a couple of times I “broke” the code. These happened when I tried to change one of the inputs (dust geometry, or grain size and extinction coefficient) to inputs that would make more sense for the object being modeled. The first time the radius of the dust shell that makes sense was too big for some part of the code to know what to do with so it returned infinities and no plots as I was used to. The second happened this past Friday and I still need to talk to my mentor about it. I guess it is a good thing I am finding these errors, though, so that they they can be fixed for future protects for which my mentor and her colleagues will use the code. Edit (July 28 10:00am) I have fixed “I think I broke it #2″. I feel a little embarrassed as I was inputting the wrong value for extinction coefficient. My talk was about the chemistry (specifically distribution of objects based on things like size or charge) of these things: They are called Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and can be used to keep track of other chemistry going on in nebulae. A very nice data base of them and their spectra can be found at http://www.astrochem.org/pahdb/ (click browse). This is the database the paper used to create maps that keep track of PAH properties. The paper looked at the following part of NGC 7023. This is rather zoomed in but was the region where the authors of the paper had good data, and was interesting because of the change in dust density that can be seen. Besides my research, the weekends have been relatively quiet, which has been nice.
Hello, its been a while since I’ve blogged. I must admit, I’ve been very distracted and curious; it’s cool not knowing anyone outside of the apartment, it makes me want to go explore or read up on material I don’t get a chance to when I’m surrounded by family and friends. But I’ve been talking to some of the grad students, and they are all so nice, helpful and knowledgable. So far I’ve been connecting with Megan the Elder (as we call her) the most because she’s just down the hall and she’s always so open with what she’s working on and the joy or frustrations of it. I really enjoy hearing her minor struggles and victories because I totally understand, even if its on a significantly lower level. I hope to be that hard working and down to earth in the future!
So, since I haven’t talked about anything I’ve been doing at work yet, let’s start from the beginning. My project is to reduce data taken by the IMACS CCD of the Magellan telescope in Chile. My target is Supernova 2010jp, and it is unique from most supernovae in that it has characteristics of a Type II supernova while having a jet. The spectra of the supernova also shows a triple-peaked H-alpha profile, with high velocity red and blue emission lines and broad wings. The broad wings are similar to a previously discovered supernova, Supernova Ic, in that these particular relativistic jets ([could], for our case) produce gamma ray bursts. The spectra also indicates a narrow central component that could be due to supernova ejecta interacting with circumstellar dense material. To add to the oddities, the supernova is located in a remote region, far from its neighboring galaxies:
This is an image from chip 2 (I forgot the exact image name, probably number 63), where SN 2010jp resides. I’ve had to reduce the quality because the maximum size of file that can be blogged is only 2MB, so I apologize for the blurriness. This image has been bias-reduced and flat-fielded and it uses ds9′s log and z-scale. The two very pretty celestial bodies in the upper right hand corner are the neighboring galaxies and SN 2010jp is located somewhere in the middle and is very faint and pixelated:
This is from Nathan Smith’s paper on SN 2010jp published in 2011. It shows us zooming in on the target from the left being the less focused image, to the right being the most focused image.The SN is indicated by the very faint hash marks on the right most image.
Given the SN’s distance from the galaxies, it is a mystery as to how it could have produced a luminous and detectable explosion (although its absolute magnitude had a relatively low peak in the first place). This phenomena is still being explored, and is outside my range of knowledge at the moment.
Now, onto my actual labor. I mentioned before that my first image had been bias-reduced and flat fielded. When reducing images, we want to remove the noise that stunts scientific evaluation. In the case of biases and flats, it is the lone noise of electrons in the detector and the variations of the gain, respectively. The bias frames are taken when the shutter is off, as so to account for the additive electron-noise effect. The flat fields were taken of a white wall, as to account for the multiplicative effect of the gain variation. So, I am going to have to subtract bias frames from the science images and divide the science images by the flat fields.
My first step was to create super biases for each chip. IMACS takes mosaics of the sky and moves around to account for the spaces in between. This CCD had 8 chips fortunately using the same filter, so I have to create super biases and super flats for each individual chip.
When creating super biases, I had to combine all the bias frames into one. Simple enough. Using IRAF (a data imaging and reducing program), I created lists of all the bias frames for each individual chip using the “ls” command (ex. $ ls iff*c1.fits > biasc1.list), and then combined them using “imcombine” (ex. $ imcombine @biasc1.list superbiasc1.fits). I then created input (unbias) and output (bias) lists for the science images ( I notice now that my choice of name is kind of confusing as the unbias title should have been for the output list, but at least I noted it to not confuse myself!). I then used imarith to subtract the superbias from each chip (ex. $ imarith @unbiasc1.list – superbiasc1.fits @biasc1.list). I also had to subtract the respective super bias from all of the flat fields, so I did that as well.
Next, I had to create my super flats. I created lists of the flats from each chip and I ran imstat on the lists (ex. $ imstat @flatc1.list). Running this command gave me the number of pixels, mean, standard deviation, minimum and maximum values of each image. I chose to use the mean value to divide out my flats because it would average out the noise. I then created output lists and divided by the mean values from its respective image (ex. $ imarith @flatc1.list / @statflc1.list @sflatc1.list). Then I combined the images to make a super flat for each chip (ex. $ imcombine @sflatc1.list superflatc1.fits). Finally, I flat fielded the science images (ex. $ imarith @biasc1.list / superflatc1.list @sfflatc1.list). I did these processes for all eight chips.
I am now working on creating master images for each chip (probably/hopefully to combine into one master mosaic?) by choosing the same star (from images 52-63 of each chip) from each image in hopes to combine them all neatly. I have since then taken the coordinates of one star in each chip, which was actually pretty laborious because IRAF would systematically freak out. But I got through! I am now trying to figure out what my next step is.
Although the process seems smooth on paper, carrying it out was quite frustrating. I’ve concluded that the computers in the computer lab hate me. I’ve had to run around to get help with the technical problems (frozen accounts, choppy ds9 images, etc) for most my time here, but I’m still powering through. A huge lesson I’m learning is patience; patience and good judgement to not get angry when I encounter a problem, to just say to myself “Okay how can we fix this”. I honestly think I’m a little late in learning this mindset, but hey better late than never!
Outside work, I’ve been relaxing, working out, and reading up on the things I’ve been meaning to. Kickboxing classes are really fun! Everyone has been doing it for 4+ years, but I think I’ve caught up with the movements. I just lack the strength to hit hard and take hard hits. I’ve also been learning the basics of cooking, and it is actually quite fun! Just very time consuming.
Well, that’s all for updates, until next time!
PS. I like the sunsets here.
I’ve expressed this sentiment before but it is even more pertinent now: I’m both excited and scared! This time it’s to be half way through my internship! My project is going very well; it continues to be as fun as it is challenging. I’ve even managed to study for the GRE and to prepare my research poster and abstract for the condensed matter experiment research I did last academic year at my university, Cal State Long Beach.
Coming back to a research project after 5 weeks in a very different field is quite hard. I have definitely learned the value in a detailed notebook. My condensed matter research project was atomic force and magnetic force microscopies imaging of ferromagnetic thin films. Learning to use such a sensitive, intricate, expensive machine (the microscope) was really fun. I never would have thought I’d love machinery so much. My fondness for ‘tinkering’ was reconfirmed in my electronics class last semester. Processing the images and analyzing them for information on the compositions and creation techniques of each sample was great investigative learning. I did thoroughly enjoy myself all year. The difference between enjoying condensed matter research and the unquenchable curiosity I have for astrobiology and astrophysics, in particular deep outer space, is what will give me an exciting career and fulfilled life that my current astrobiology mentor, Dr. Gerry Harp, and my previous condensed matter mentor, Dr. Jiyeong Gu, both have. From this I’ve realized I’m in the right field, astrobiology/astrophysics.
Past the hard work and soul searching, these last 5 weeks have been incredibly fun. my roommate and I have a fun new tradition of sipping tea and eating vegan sushi on Castro Street, Mountain View’s adorable downtown/restaurant row. Learning about my fellow interns’ home lives, views and research is so neat. Even physicists are such a diverse, interesting group. We even make weather ‘”small talk” an interesting, educational event! It’s been a great confirmation to become friends with such diverse nerds!
Apparently, not all physicists speak Klingon and live in a basement. (Though, I love the ones that do!) I was very happy to meet fashionistas, musicians, rock climbers, crafters, jewlwery makers, filmmakers and chefs.
Lastly, this weekend, I was pleasantly surprised by my conservative family’s reaction to alien-hunting and Mars colonies. My amazing, 76-year-old mother just told me she would have DEFINITELY volunteered to move to Mars before she had kids. Apparently, space is no place for children. (Though, I tend to disagree.) It took me a great deal of convincing my mom, sister and bro-in-law that we have in fact not yet found aliens. My family even excitedly listened to me prattle on about possible liquid oceans on various moons in our solar system. It’s nice to know that even stubborn conservatives enjoy science, too!