She’s an Astronomer: Els Baeten
Els Baeten (ElisabethB) lives in Belgium, in the old university town Leuven. She studied medicine for a few years, but then decided that it was not what she really wanted to do. She now works as a secretary in an SEO company.
When she isn’t busy doing anything Zoo-related she can be found at festivals, concerts, exhibitions and the theatre. She also loves reading and spending time with her family, friends and their children.
- How did you first hear about Galaxy Zoo?
In July 2007 I was browsing the site of New Scientist and I came across an article about a new Internet based project called Galaxy Zoo. I immediately thought: this has to be good! At the first look I got hooked and I have been actively involved in most parts of the project ever since.
- What has been your main involvement in the Galaxy Zoo project?
I’ve been involved in most of the projects. First of all classifying galaxies in Galaxy Zoo 1 and 2 of course, and I also really like the special hunts for mergers, peas and voorwerpjes.
My contribution to the Peas paper was finding lots of them. And it was really great to see my name mentioned in that paper! I’m also rather fond of Gravitational Lenses and if we could get some of them confirmed that would be great news indeed. For the moment I’m having a lot of fun with Merger Zoo and the Barred Spirals. And when I really want to relax I go asteroid-hunting. Wouldn’t it be great to have an asteroid named Galaxy Zoo!
- What do you like most about being involved in Galaxy Zoo?
I love the fact that people from every background are able to make a real contribution to scientific research. It’s also great to be part of a team of enthusiastic people from all over the world.
And I’d never expected to meet so many new friends.
- What do you think is the most interesting astronomical question Galaxy Zoo will help to solve?
I think there will be lots of questions solved with the results of Galaxy Zoo. Especially questions that nobody thought of in the first place, questions that pop up when a large amount of curious people sift through large amounts of data. In this respect Galaxy Zoo also offers new perspectives for other areas of scientific research.
- How/when did you first get interested in Astronomy?
When I was young I saw all around me that science was a part of everyday life. Both my grandfathers were avid readers who loved sharing their knowledge about nature and everything with their grandchildren. I watched the first moon landing in my pyjamas together with my entire family. My sister, brother and I had a really big book with the history of the earth and also with lots of pictures of the solar system and the stars. I also have fond memories of watching Cosmos with Carl Sagan with my family. And our parents let us stay up very late during clear summer nights to watch the stars and the occasional meteor.
So stars and planets and everything that is out there have always been a part of my world.
- What (if any) do you think are the main barriers to women’s involvement in Astronomy?
In my school, a traditional all girls school, I never had the impression that science and maths weren’t for girls. They were just subjects some of us were good at. But in general, a scientific career or any career for that matter, is still more difficult to achieve for a woman.
But as you can see with the Galaxy Zoo community there are lots of women involved of all ages and backgrounds. So I think we’re getting there, eventually.
- Do you have any particular role models in Astronomy?
I don’t think I would use the word ‘role model’ but I really admire the Zookeepers and other astronomers involved for coming up with this great idea and continuously thinking of new ideas and projects. I especially admire the way they share their knowledge with us and the value they attach to our efforts.
Finally I’d like to thank my sister, Veerle, for helping me out with this blog post and Edd for the pictures.
This post is part of the ongoing She’s an Astronomer series on the Galaxy Zoo Blog is support of the IYA2009 cornerstone project of the same name (She’s an Astronomer). We are listed on the She’s an Astronomer website in their Profiles.
- Hanny Van Arkel (Galaxy Zoo volunteer and finder of Hanny’s Voorwerp). Hanny’s interview in het Nederlands
- Alice Sheppard (Galaxy Zoo volunteer and forum moderator).
- Gemma Couglin (“fluffyporcupine”, Galaxy Zoo volunteer and forum moderator).
- Aida Berges (Galaxy Zoo volunteer – major irregular galaxy, asteroid and high velocity star finder). Entrevista de Aida en español
- Julia Wilkinson (“jules”, Galaxy Zoo volunteer. Frequent forum poster, and member of irregular and HVS projects).
- Dr. Vardha Nicola Bennert (researcher at UCSB involved in Hanny’s Voorwerp followup and the “peas” project).
- Carie Cardamone (graduate student at Yale who lead the Peas paper).
- Dr. Kate Land (original Galaxy Zoo team member and first-author of the first Galaxy Zoo scientific publication; now working in the financial world).
- Dr. Karen Masters (researcher at Portsmouth working on red spirals, and editor of this blog series.)
- Dr. Pamela L. Gay (astronomy researcher and communicator based at Southern Illinois University).
Still to come in the series – more Galaxy Zoo volunteers and researchers, it might be December 2009 – but we’re going to keep going for a few months more!