• IPAC

Summer Visit - 2013 - They Might Be Giants

The summer visit to Caltech is 3-4 days long and is the only time during the year of work when all the participants on the team come together in person to work intensively on the data. Generally, each educator may bring up to two students to the summer visit that are paid for by NITARP, and they may raise funds to bring two more. The teams work at Caltech; the summer visit typically includes a half-day tour of JPL, which is a favorite site for group photos. Reload to see a different set of quotes.

The "They Might Be Giants" team came to visit in August 2013. The core team educators attended, plus 6 students.


  • [student:] I thought we would get to actually observe stars through a telescope, [...] I also did not expect so much time to be spend on the computer.
  • [student:] During my NITARP experience, I really saw science come to life. As a student, I was always being told to do all of these math problems and learn how to do all of this stuff that seemed so irrelevant to me.. but when I came here and worked with [..] two AMAZING astronomers, they helped me see what all of that stuff is really for. [..] Finally all of those graphs I learned about years ago in math class were put to good use. Without histograms and scatter plots, our research could not have been as successful. I will also never forget the moment that Steve told us we had to calculate the mass of all of these stars that we were looking at..we could not just Google the answer like I am so used to doing...we had to actually sit down and calculate the masses. Then he taught us about Kepler's laws and how to use Kepler's third law to use the star's surface gravity and radius to calculate its mass. It looked like something my physics teacher would have given me to solve earlier in the year, but instead of being on a homework assignment, it was actually relevant and necessary. I guess taking what I've learned as a student in the classroom (even though it all seems kind of tedious and unnecessary to learn sometimes) and applying it in the real world--not as a school project, but to be doing real research--is the best thing about the trip.
  • [student:] My mental image of an astronomer before this trip was just a person in the woods with telescope looking at planets in viewing parties. After, I learned how they're actually pretty funny people who get to work in amazing observatories worldwide and see things that no one else gets to see first. I also didn't really think astronomy was a big part of science, but seeing how everything was interrelated at JPL and Mt. Wilson and just looking around the Caltech campus made me realize how central it actually is. I want to be an engineer, and this just made me want to be the kind of engineer that makes space robots to research planets and stars.
  • [student:] The best part was the time spent in the room researching. I actually enjoyed listening to people talk and use mathematical/scientific terms as if they were casual parts of everyday conversation. It was really fun after a lifetime of students grumbling "I'll never need this in real life, why are we learning this?".
  • [student:] Yes, this did change my thoughts about astronomers! I never expected astronomers to be lively, funny, and talkative, while maintaining a mind of a genius!

Summer Visit - 2013 - They Might Be Giants