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

Some of the data Lyndsay analyzes. She's looking for interrelated patterns of energy, temperature and structure in the hot gases.

After four years I got my degree and decided to stay for a Ph.D. A Ph.D. is really a rite of passage for professional scientists. This is where I moved into solar physics, because I had really enjoyed plasma physics and astrophysics, and I liked the idea of studying a star that was close enough that you had some chance of seeing what was going on. After three and a half years, during which time I was mostly convinced I would never make it, I got my Ph.D. I then left my home country and worked in Holland for five years, for the University of Utrecht and for the European Space Agency. Last year I crossed the Atlantic and started working here in Lockheed Martin.

What I do day-to-day

Most of the day I sit in front of a computer. I use it for just about everything from writing computer programs to work out mathematical models, to copying data across the Internet from a database in England. Right now I have two or three different science projects on the boil, all of which are quite different in the kind of physics they use: there are a lot of different sub-disciplines in solar physics. So if I get fed-up with one, or it's just not working, I can put it aside for a couple of days. One project is to use spectrometer data to calculate temperatures and densities and element abundances in a hot, magnetically active region in the corona. Another is to model theoretically what fast electrons do in a solar flare, and what their X-ray emission looks like.

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