July rantings…………

graduation, IYA, moving, phd, rantings

Something I’ve done very little of lately is blogging; with good reason really, I’ve been busy sorting out odds and ends after the exams. I was busy trying to get my life in order; whether that be a PhD, job, internship etc, as well as try to get a summer job as I, like most students at the end of the academic year need money. All of this was a major panic and I think most in good reason, though perhaps inhindsight I worried far more than I should have. Of course this is a big time and it’s important to try and get something sorted, but my goal throughout the exam period was to get the best possible grade that I could. Once I had the satisfaction of knowing my degree results things seemed a little more positive and I knew which directions I could go. The major worry was with exams, which as expected I didn’t do as well as I had hoped for. Nonetheless I came out with a high 2.1 overall and that’s really all I need to pursue with a PhD.

This was another concern, getting a PhD. With some poor luck with interviews the first time round I needed to put a second round of applications through around Easter, facing the possibility of interviews after the exams which was a concern as I knew things wouldn’t exactly sorted on that front before then. With exams out the way I think I felt a little more positive of which directions to go with astronomy for a PhD and with less of a worry now with everything over I could just concentrate on these. I awaited news from Armagh, the Open University, UCL and Kent, as well as a position in Cagliari, Sardinia. Time pressed on but finally I got interviews. Deep inside me I felt the project on offer at the University of Kent, Canterbury is the right kind of project for me. Having had the great pleasure of meeting Prof. Mike A’Hearn, P.I. of the Deep Impact mission in 2005 it is a subject that is close to my heart, as well as remembering Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997.

The project is “Astronomical Observations of Comets at Optical and Thermal-Infrared Wavelengths” and will focus on Jupiter-family comets (JFCs), which are a subset of the known cometary population. Dynamical studies have placed their source region within the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune, a vast reservoir of cometary bodies that formed in-situ some 4.5 billion years ago. Studying JFCs provide valuable insight into the physical and compositional properties of small Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs), much too faint to be observed from Earth. I was really excited in particular about this project, despite having a good interest in the others. After speaking to the project supervisor, Dr. Stephen Lowry, as well as having some good e-mail contact the University of Kent offered me the position which I must say is a dream come true.

One major goal is to accumulate high quality physical data on cometary nuclei in order to make accurate statistical comparisons with other small body populations such as near-Earth asteroids, Trojan asteroids, Centaurs, and KBOs. I will be using datasets that include thermal IR imaging data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope (at 16-22 μm), as well as optical imaging from many large ground-based observatories (400-700 nm). These optical observatories include the European Southern Observatory’s 8.2m VLT array (Chile), Palomar Observatory (California), and the 10m Keck facility (Hawaii), among many others. It is anticipated that I will participate in several observing trips. I just cannot wait!

So that’s the PhD position sorted. Now I just need to find accommodation in Canterbury which should be fun.

Graduation is next week; Thursday afternoon for me. My family will be visiting; in particular my uncle, cousin and my parents. Something to look forward to. I get to dress as Harry Potter for the day, as do my fellow graduands. Before the ceremony at 3pm, we have the honour to meet Professor Jocelyn Bell-Burnell at a free lunch (my second time to meet her in fact).

I need to move out of accommodation by July 19th, when my contract ends. I’d hoped to get a job over the holidays although the prospect of getting a job to fit around various items to sort out over the holidays seems a little bleak. Moving to Canterbury will be a big change I’m sure, but for the better I believe. Not being too far from London but having the glory of the coast and countryside not too far I think will make this an amazing place to study a PhD as well as a great project and department. The concern is when exactly I will need to move. So far the start date seems a little uncertain although I am told the latest is 28th September. My worry is when exactly I would be funded with regards to rent. No doubt I will have to pay deposits. All these things I am sure will add up to be expensive. Luckily I now have sorted how I will transport my stuff between Kent, home and Leicester. I’m indebted to my good friends the Morjarias for a helping hand for a temporary solution of storage at theirs here in Leicester. Saves moving everything majorly twice.

Then I turn to home. Anyone that knows me well will know how I rant on about not having internet for long periods at home. I always have to use the public library and book time which gets annoying. 5 weeks or so with little internet? Can I survive? I just might have to. It’s just that it’s one of those things I think we all rely upon in our daily lives. I’m not too fussed about Facebook or Twitter. I’m sure I can survive those. It’s just important e-mails that get to me which mean if I need to reply to an e-mail in length I need to book more unexpected time. Hopefully most important things will be sorted by then. It’s just the ease and simplicity of access to information that makes my life a living frustration while at home, being the impatient person I can be. I don’t have to worry about my stuff now which was a big concern as it’s not going to be very likely I’ll get a job for the short period of 5 weeks now. I think though this should be a well-earned break, with a bit of ‘me’ time. I have a good excuse not to have to use the internet I guess and I can sit back and relax a little for an enjoyable vacation before the world of work/a PhD approaches me.

Moving on, it’s been nice to enjoy a few real life activities. It’s been nice to chill at a few friends’ house parties, meet for drinks in the hot weather at Dry Dock, play pool, go for coffees, read a non-academic book and watch random videos on YouTube, amongst others. I’ve also had time to sort out the unwanted paperwork I have as well as organise bits that needed to be organised (far more than what I thought). I also have managed to dedicate a bit of my time updating my website every now and then, and hopefully to a good state in preparation to talk about my PhD project. I’ve also managed to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a while which is to organise and then upload all the pictures I collated from people from the ceremony in Paris to one place for everyone to access and upload themselves. I also managed to construct a blog like this for everyone to be an author and add/edit what they like. In particular this is meant as a means to help keep connected and easily see in one place what we all are doing for IYA.

Talking about IYA, I am looking forward to see
ing everyone at the International Conference of Young Astronomers (ICYA) in Cracow, Poland. It should be a unique opportunity
to establish global, annual conference for all scientists, researchers and advanced amateur astronomers who could meet in future and work together in projects which will develop modern astronomy. It should prove to be a great networking conference, as well as to meet old friends from the Paris meeting. As luck goes, unfortunately another rather important meeting coincides. That same week is the astrobiology summer school at the University of Kent, Canterbury which may prove useful for my PhD project. I just have to see what might be relevant in each and see about going to half and half maybe. I wouldn’t want to miss anything that may prove relevant to my PhD project, but also the ICYA should be a great opportunity also in itself.

Meanwhile I have to find accommodation in Kent, so a visit down there is in order and maybe to see family while I’m there. Who knows? I hope to enjoy the summer and relax for a change. I need it!

Anyhow, knowing the way things are going at the moment, I probably won’t get a chance to blog again for a while. Maybe I will have time to write a short bit about graduation, though it all depends on how things pan out.

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