• IPAC

Summer Visit - 2010 - IR Variability team

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.

The IR Variablity team came to visit Caltech in August 2010.


  • [student:] There was some frustration today, but we all pushed past it and got the majority of the work done.
  • [student] This was surely one of the best experiences I had ever been on.
  • [I was surprised] that the students, given an interesting task, could stay on task for hours at a time. When I mentioned to parents following the trip that I was amazed at how well the students stayed on task, A. interjected that it wasn't so hard, since they were being challenged to use new tools to reach achievable results.
  • [student:] That was one of the best experiences in my life. I am truly thankful that I was given the chance to go on this trip and to learn more about this project and all of its subjects.
  • What I considered to be the "real" science that came out of this visit was how we needed to treat the data. Students are used to doing "canned" laboratory assignments and have the misconception that all data is "good". In class when I ask students to consider an errant data point, they are apt to respond "but that's the data, I have to use it". Its difficult to convey the idea that not all data is good data, and if there is reason, data points can and should be disregarded. We found data points that were erroneous, whether because they were cosmic rays, they came from pixels located near the edge of the detector, or we had transferred information incorrectly. In each of these situations, we logically considered the data and had reason to include or exclude data points. We also double checked any suspicious or inconsistent data until we were convinced that we were working with reliable numbers.

Summer Visit - 2010 - IR Variability team