L y n d s a y  F l e t c h e r
Solar Physicist
Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory, Palo Alto, California

The cubicle may be small but her computer is a window on the very latest information about the Sun.

At high school I enjoyed science (physics and chemistry) and math, but I also loved literature and German. But when it came to making a choice of what subject to study at University, I guess I was just more curious about physics. I wanted to pursue it in an academic way. I thought that studying literature or language at University would be rather dry, and might even kill what I liked about it. Probably untrue... but this naive thought helped propel me into physics. Also, being a girl doing a course where most of the students are boys, I was possibly trying to prove something! At university in Glasgow I studied physics, math and astronomy. The physics and math kind of go together, and I needed a third subject to make up my degree. (Note, British universities work in quite a different way from American universities: we go in as freshmen knowing more or less what subject will be our major when we graduate, and our curriculum is concentrated on that subject, which is why I had to make a choice very early at age 17 or so). I had read some popular books about black holes and the origin of the Universe, and astronomy sounded like it might be fun, which certainly turned out to be the case.

At university I discovered quite early on that I was much happier doing "theoretical" work than I was with "observational" or practical work. I remember going out to the observatory with a friend one night to do an experiment together which involved timing a number of stars as they crossed our local meridian. I couldn't find a single star through the telescope and was assigned to doing the calculations. She found them all. Many years later I ended up concentrating on theoretical science, and my friend has a much more practical science job; she designs optical systems for infrared astronomy, and uses some of the world's biggest telescopes. Perhaps our roles were decided that night.


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