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Jasmin’s Intern Blog: Day 4

  • By Jasmin Evans
  • November 3, 2015
  • Comments Off on Jasmin’s Intern Blog: Day 4

Jasmin shadowed Sara and Maggie for a week in July, learning about outreach, education, and communication at NASA. She wrote blogs about her experience here and we thought you’d all enjoy seeing our world through her eyes. You can find her first blog here, and Day 2 and Day 3 here. – Maggie & Sara

Occasionally there are days that you look back on and think…”Wow, how did that happen?” Today was one of those days.

Jasmin and Piers Sellers

Piers Sellers and me…with Piers looking over our shoulders

Piers Sellers is the deputy director of Goddard’s Sciences and Exploration Directorate, but before taking on this role he was in the astronaut corps. Drafted to the astronaut office in 1996, he was assigned technical duties after two years of training and continued on to become the branch chief of ISS operations. Piers flew on the International Space Station assembly mission in 2002 aboard space shuttle Atlantis, during which he performed three spacewalks clocking up over 19 hours of extravehicular activity (EVA). After this mission he flew twice more to the ISS in 2006 and 2010 respectively, testing robotic components and perfecting techniques to ensure the safety of the space shuttles after the Columbia disaster in 2003. I was lucky enough to get a 10 minute slot in his very busy day, to meet him and talk about STEM careers, the life of an astronaut and of course the UK! He was really great to speak to, and gave me lots of good advice on where different subjects associated with physics and engineering can take you.

After lunch, it was time to drive back over to the building where everything JWST (James Webb Space Telescope) is happening. Dr John Mather is the Senior Project Scientist on the JWST project; in 2006 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics along with George Smoot for the their work with the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) to show that the cosmic microwave background follows a black body curve, which cements in place the big bang theory of the formation of the universe…so as you can imagine, I was a little nervous about meeting him. However, the day that I met Dr Mather was the day before his birthday so Maggie brought along cupcakes for a pre-birthday party. He agreed to talk to me about his journey into science, as he has a very interesting background back to his school days.

Group photo

From left to right: Maggie, myself, Dr Mather and Sara cupcake partying

After the initial introductions, the cupcakes were handed around and there was no way for me to tackle it that didn’t involve a lot of chocolate frosting ending up all over my face. As we chatted before the interview, I was working on finding the opportune moment to take a bite…which turned out to be just as Dr Mather turned to me to ask a question. Fits of giggles ensued (luckily he also laughed), and the look of sheer cupcake terror in the image says it all! Anyway, I asked him questions about what lead him to science, what advice he would give to those young people currently trying to decide in which direction they should take their careers, and of course about JWST. The finished interview is up on Blueshift now.

To finish up the day, it was time for the weekly Education and Outreach team meeting, with everyone from across the Astrophysics Science Division. It was great to meet the whole team and hear about their outreach activities, as some of them were research scientists and engineers just doing their bit for education and outreach. I was invited to speak about the projects that I have been involved in, where I mentioned Lancashire Science Festival and the sensory project that I am still working on for blind and partially sighted people to get into astronomy.

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