Friday, March 14, 2008

California, Here We Come

Summer is upon us, and so is the exciting time of year when everyone finally hears back from their summer jobs and the like. As I am not planning on graduating until December 2008 (unlike most everyone else wrapping things up in May from my year) I fall into the interesting position of still qualifying for undergraduate funding for summer programs. Combined with the fact that I also hold more research experience than most anyone else applying to such programs- not many juniors out there completing a senior project!- I submitted my application to a few choice REUs (Research Experience for Undergraduates- a US summer program at various Interesting and Exciting Locations) to see what would happen.

Result: I will be spending my summer working for Dr. Jill Tarter in Mountain View, California, on the Allen Telescope Array (ATA). Hooray! The ATA is a new radio telescope array being built in northern California (~5 hour drive from San Francisco) jointly between UC-Berkeley and the SETI Institute. Right now there are 40-odd dishes but the array will involve several hundred when completed, and will have an unprecedented field of view and simultaneous frequency range in radio astronomy. My job, more or less, will be to look at the current breakdowns the radio telescopes are cropping up with and database them and see if there are correlations in that etc. In short, a great project to get my hands dirty when it comes to learning about radio astronomy, as this is something I have wanted to do for a very long time.

Oh, and incidentally, yes, I will be working at the SETI Institute but will be doing good science so it evens out, and Jill Tarter is a rather impressive radio astronomer who I'm very excited to be working with (as far as the "notability" test goes, she does have a page on Wikipedia which is kinda nifty). And for those who don't know, Mountain View (yes, where Google is headquartered) is about an hour south of San Francisco in Silicon Valley, and because Auckland reminded me of what little I remembered of San Francisco last time I was there it should be sweet. At the very least, I am looking forward to redwoods, a vibrant city, and learning about radio astronomy!

Here's to summer. Looking at the things I need to do in the next few weeks (finish senior project, take the Physics GRE, regular classwork...) I am kind of wishing I can fast forward to then, but at least this way I'll relish it all the more when it comes.