• IPAC

Summer Visit - 2023 - AGNatha

The summer visit to Caltech is 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 AGNatha team came to visit in June 2023. The 5 core team educators attended, plus 10 students.


  • One moment that was incredibly impactful for my students was when they heard from other scientists on the web conference and people were talking about “not belonging,” self doubt, and feeling “out of place” in their careers. That really resonated with my students and they told me how relieved they felt when other people said they felt that way too. They seemed much less anxious after hearing that and were more excited to push forward. Both of my students want to pursue Astronomy in some aspect in their higher education and I think hearing those comments from real scientists showed them that they don’t have to be perfect or the smartest person in the room to do Astronomy (or science in general). After that web conference, one of my students said “I’m going to remember this experience for the rest of my life.”
  • [student:] I learned that the type of research that astronomers do is not my forte which is very beneficial because as a rising senior [I need to know what I don't want]
  • [I was surprised by] The extent to which we have collected so much information that discoveries can be made just through analysis of information that we have had for years. In many cases, [this] is not how I would normally think of research, but this appears to be key in astronomy and other areas of science where the data is there but it takes the right effort to find the connection. This is not how discovery is presented in popular media and in stereotypical representations of science.
  • Seeing our (the group’s) sample shrink down (from over 6 million possible AGN) to a number of objects we could realistically go through one by one to evaluate visibly was really satisfying. It felt like we could potentially be contributing something real to the field of astronomy through our efforts.
  • Real astronomy is developing a question, getting data to help answer that question, adjusting the question based on the data, getting more data, and eventually summarizing your findings in a paper, poster, talk, etc. And acknowledging that there is still probably more to learn about your question. Everything we did felt like part of real astronomy; working as a team, starting with background stuff (what we know about this idea already), using the archive to sift through loads of data, digging really deep into one thing then zooming out to make sure we haven't lost sight of the original question, making mistakes (and luckily catching them before too much time had passed).

Summer Visit - 2023 - AGNatha