Off to Queen Mary
I worried I’d look big-headed writing this blogpost, but ZookeeperKevin asked me to do so separately from my AAS one to encourage anyone reading this who is thinking of applying for astronomy courses. This morning I got an idea for a way to start: the UKRC is asking you to nominate someone for inspiring women and/or girls into science. Well, I’ve got a personal nomination right here: Galaxy Zoo.
In April 2010 I helped organise the She is an Astronomer conference, which Hanny also attended. There were several talks full of statistics and stories, some historical, some modern; some about problems, some about initiatives . . . I gave a talk about the power of the internet in getting people into disciplines they wouldn’t have encountered otherwise – such as, in my case, citizen science and astronomy. My message was intended to be: there are more recruiting grounds for astronomers than straightforward academia; perhaps more women will join the profession through citizen science. And men, of course – since Waveney is now doing just that!
It’s long frustrated me that I’ve been unable to understand much of scientific journals or to do much with databases like CasJobs. I’d like to go further than popular science. And the AAS conference opened up my curiosity like a bursting dam. I’d loved astronomy since I was little, but since May I have just been dying to know more. And feeling that it is within my grasp.
Anyway, I applied for a masters in astrophysics as soon as I got home (a masters is a postgraduate course, not as major as a PhD, but I hope to go on to do a PhD in galaxies or astrochemistry). Last Sunday morning I received an e-mail back. Odd for a Sunday but I bet they were hunched over their desks on a Saturday night, groaning that they hadn’t got the selections done by Friday afternoon, fuelled on fourteen cups of corrosive coffee – or something like that.
Anyway – result: unconditional offer! It’s at Queen Mary University in north east London. These are the course modules – I can’t wait! I’ll be doing the course part-time as I’ll need a job and doubtless have a lot of maths to catch up on. I’ll hopefully be able to organise more zoo meet-ups from London too.
I hope that anyone else who’s been thinking they’d like to study astronomy formally will give it a try. If you think you haven’t time, or you’re not clever or well-informed enough – don’t rule it out. A lot of things that look scary turn out to be acronyms for simple concepts, for example. More to the point, ignore all the cultural depictions of academia as something set aside for inhuman people. Just give it a go.