Hello again! Those who have been following this blog for the past few months may have been wondering why I stopped posting halfway through my travel updates. The answer is that life got in the way (as it has a way of doing)…but as I am now finishing up one of my busiest semesters in graduate school so far, I am happy to announce my return. Thanks for bearing with me, and read on for more Antarctic adventures!
For those who may be curious, here are some of the things that I have been up to at work over the past three months:
In January, my research group published a new round of results. The most exciting (to me) is the culmination of our group’s collaboration with the Planck research team. Together, we have explored the microwave sky in more detail than anyone has ever been able to study it before. We have learned that even in one of the clearest patches of sky, dust from our galaxy still glows brightly and must be taken into account before we can draw conclusions about the earliest moments of our Universe’s existence (my research group’s primary goal). See my upcoming post on our science for more details!
At the beginning of March, I passed my Research Exam! (Preparing for this was the main reason for my initial disappearance from the blogosphere.) To achieve this, I had to write a report on the work I have completed in graduate school so far and present my research to a faculty committee. The committee asked me questions about my work and related areas of astrophysics and determined that I was knowledgeable enough to continue my studies. This means that according to the Harvard Astronomy Department, I have completed my candidacy/masters student work and I am officially a “Ph.D. Candidate.” I am now transitioning to my thesis work and plan to graduate in 2018.
Finally, this semester I have been the teaching assistant for Harvard’s undergraduate class on methods of observational astronomy. The capstone of the class is a trip to the Whipple Observatory in Arizona, during which the students collect their own observations on science-grade telescopes. They then analyze this data for their final projects. I had a fantastic time getting to know my students (and honing my own observational astronomy skills) this semester. The weather wasn’t great during our observing trip, but the clouds allowed the students’ musical talents to come to the forefront. During one of our cloudy nights, they recorded an homage to the professor for the class. Feel free to check it out below! (Featuring camera work and a cameo by yours truly.)