• 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 really normalized astronomers as people for me. I always felt that I was never smart enough to be an astronomer, and it was too out of reach for me. But it was so nice to see that everyone faced similar struggles as myself. This experiences helped solidify my goals of working in the field of astronomy, and made the dream seem much more feasible.
  • I wasn’t expecting as many “well, let’s try this” side roads. I thought the process would be more linear, but this felt more authentic somehow. You don’t know the answer, and you don’t have a clear roadmap for finding the answer, but you have some background and can use that to start reaching towards an answer.
  • Truly, the value of this program is in the students, teachers and scientists working together as multi-level, multi-generational colleagues at Caltech. The content authority of a teacher is often strong, but the content authority of scientists is on a whole other level! And making a personal connection with a scientist raises the value of the student experience yet another magnitude.
  • [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:] The most surprising thing I learned is that astronomers need to be willing to feel stupid often.

Summer Visit - 2016 - HIPS AGN