• IPAC

Summer Visit - 2016 - HIPS AGN

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 HIPS AGN team came to visit in June 2016. The core team educators attended, plus 8 students.


  • [student: This experience changed the way I thought about astronomy and astronomers because] I've interned with astronomers before and thought that the norm was a small workplace of 10-20 people all doing research at about the same level. Here, I got to see the varied specializations people had in just this one building -- different types of engineers, people organizing the data, managing the data, professors, etc. in addition to astronomers mainly doing research. I didn't know anything about how research was done (in terms of proposals and funding and etc.) before this trip. I really, really liked having the astronomers come in to talk about their lives and their jobs. They were candid and personal, which resulted in a very refreshing and in-depth talk!
  • [student:] This experience significantly changed the way I think of astronomers. Before going to Caltech and meeting Varoujan and Luisa, I believed astronomers needed to know everything and could not get anything wrong. However, after listening to many astronomers discuss their jobs, I learned that many times this is not the case. Astronomers often do not know the answers to some of their biggest questions and will sometimes think of theories that are incorrect. However, after realizing this, my respect for astronomers has only increased. Astronomers need to have the willpower to continue to try to solve a problem and the intelligence to discover what they do not know.
  • [The most surprising thing I learned was that] Science can legitimately be somewhat subjective. When we were trying to classify objects, we had limited data to make that classification from. In some cases, it was difficult to say “it’s an AGN” or “it’s a YSO,” especially if we were looking at an SED with only two data points on it. I’d always thought of science as having a right or wrong and didn’t give much thought to non-numerical uncertainty.
  • [student:] I think this will be a common answer, but meeting with the rest of the team was an amazing experience that I know made us more open to sharing ideas with each other, enthusiastic about the work we're doing, and willing to put in effort to learn about/advance the project. The kind of collaboration possible with all of us in one room together was much better than anything online. It allowed us to fire out ideas easily, try different paths out at once, and work quickly.
  • It would have been really difficult to do this online. The group was able to get through a lot of material in only a week—it would have taken many weeks to have done this using some sort of online method. We even discovered that one of our techniques was not going to give us enough sources and so we changed our procedure then and there—it would have taken much longer to have come to that conclusion and have reacted to it had we not been talking things over together as we went.

Summer Visit - 2016 - HIPS AGN