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.

About The Zooniverse

Online citizen science projects. The Zooniverse is doing real science online,.

6 responses to “Off to Queen Mary”

  1. Joseph K. H. Cheng says :

    Congratulations, Alice, my favourite Galxay Zoo forum moderator ! Can I look forward to more London meet-ups perhaps with the constant and kind assistance of Geoff ? I really miss you guys a lot especially the Brownsea Bunch. Take care and good luck with your academic endeavour.

    JKHC.

  2. Richard Scalzo says :

    Bravo Alice! Sounds like a great adventure and I wish you all the best. Please let us know how it goes — at least I hope you keep posting as you start to get into interesting research!
    cheers,
    RS

  3. veggy says :

    That’s fab! Well done, and I hope you have a great and informing time. I’m guessing you already have a good track record in maths and basic science though. There are a lot of us with observational history and a good general knowledge who’d be left standing once the math starts. I lost the plot after GSCE – well O level in those days.

  4. Alice says :

    Veggy: surprisingly enough, no. I liked GCSE physics (though not the teacher), although back then I certainly didn’t see the point of going on and on about pendulums and white and black objects losing heat at different rates. But I got a C at GCSE Maths (the exams you take at age 15 or 16 for overseas readers). So the physics teacher at the school I went to for sixth form told me she wouldn’t have me in her physics class – without knowing anything about my interests or willingness to work. I think only one girl did A level physics in my year. I did a degree in Environmental Science but I struggled with the maths and physics side. I still have plenty of maths and physics to catch up on. But I am doing that in my spare time. It is hard work, but worth it!

  5. veggy says :

    Well I think it’s quite excellent! With a nod to frivolity but none-the-less meant quite sincerely you are my hero of the moment.

    I know what I’d love to read is a diary of how you get on. I think also that would be a valuable study guide and encouragement for others seeking the same route. But I’m sure you’ll have quite enough to do without yet another burden!

  6. Matty Egorov says :

    I LOVE THE UNIVERSE!!!!!! This site has become become my life. I love to sit with my partner under the stars and dream of a life like greek Gods among the universe. When i was 14 I was always so sad because I felt trapped by ,my sexuality and by pure chance I ordered a guide to ‘Astronomy in the UK’ from eBay. My life has been so fulfilled ever since by dreaming of a different life.
    keep up the great work guys.

    MattyBoy, Over and out!

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