H a r v e y  T a n a n b a u m
Director
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's Chandra X-ray Center

P2K:
What advice would you have for someone in secondary school who's interested in black holes and other kinds of exotic objects in space?

HT:
"Sometimes itís hard to give advice to someone in middle school... one thing I do tell people is that science can be very rewarding and very exciting. Itís hard work. Some of the projects like Chandra do involve working with other people and so being part of a team is sometimes part of doing science. Sometimes the idea of the 'Lone Ranger' who has an idea and does his or her own research is also a way in which science gets done.

Right now somebody who is in school should be learning as much as he or she can about using computers. Once upon a time I would have said learning how to program computers, but now I think an appreciation for how computers allow you to access information in different places, how computers allow you to visualize, make pictures or images of what you see with your science, how computers are used to communicate.

Iíd say one thing: that itís great to be good in science, math ...computers but you also have to be able to communicate, so learning how to write in sentences with subjects and verbs and nouns and the like, how to express yourself both in writing and verbally is a very important part of being a scientist. You do have to be able to communicate with other people.

The main thing I think is to have an interest, a curiosity, a willingness to be surprised. None of us knowís everything thatís out there. Nature, if there is such a single entity as Nature, is much more clever than any and all of us, and there will always be surprises. I donít know what surprises there may be five, ten years from now. I surely donít know what they will be 25, 50 years from now. But isnít it great you could get paid and that part of what you do is to go out there and try to figure out what those surprises are and what they mean?"


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