I am a postdoctoral fellow here at the Institute. A Postdoc is similar to an
internship in the medical field; I have my Ph.D., but not a permanent position, yet. I
"do research" 100% of the time, which specifically involves studying observations from
ground- and space-based telescopes. I study extragalactic objects called BL Lac objects,
a type of quasar. Specifically, I am trying to find out what sort of neighborhoods they
"live" in - are they isolated, or are they surrounded by other objects, such as galaxies
(in which case they would be in clusters of galaxies).
I have always been interested in Astronomy, from the time I started reading. I also
always knew I would be an Astronomer, and have taken the necessary steps throughout my
life (in education, for example) to meet that goal. This meant studying math and physics
as well as Astronomy (more the first two!). Planning is necessary and I had my
undergraduate and graduate education mapped out by the time I started high school.
The best part of the job is studying nature and learning its secrets. I'm (basically)
my own boss and can choose (more or less) which aspects I would like to study. I think
this is terrific and is what science is all about. Frankly, I don't think there are any
"down" sides to the career (though writing proposals for observing time on telescopes and
grant money can get to be a nuisance now and then).
As I said, I have always been interested in Astronomy. I read everything I could find.
This is important, I think. After that, if the person is still interested, they can get a
small telescope (but before doing this, I think everyone should know as much as possible
from books, at the level of learning the constellations, etc, before getting a telescope).
A telescope isn't necessary, binoculars or even the naked eye will do just as well (many
Astronomers have never used a telescope!). Joining a local astronomical society is useful.
Again, a strong basis in math and physics is essential and the student should start with a
good backing in high school.
My parents have always encouraged me to do whatever I wanted and I think this is the
most important aspect of any career, not only Astronomy. Other than that, I don't think
there was any one person who influenced me. My parents encouraged me to join the local
astronomical society and to speak to professors at the university (even when I was in
junior high) and to go to seminars by Astronomers. All of this was very useful.
Astronomy is a fantastic field (I think one of the best!), but it also requires a lot
of hard work. However, when you are doing something you love, it doesn't seem like hard