Astronomy Graduate Student Athena Stacy
The IE Pre-Grad Internship gave my mentee, Alysha, a very nice introduction to life in astronomy. Every week she would go to at least one colloquium in which she would listen to speakers invited by the UT Astronomy department to present their research. These speakers covered a very wide range of research, from planetary studies to galaxies and cosmology. Listening to talks on such current research gave her exposure to much more astronomy than would be learned from the basic astronomy classes that simply go through older text books.
Alysha also met with several astronomy professors to discuss their research and a possibility of doing an undergraduate research project with them in the future. This gave her a chance to go beyond attending presentations and actually discuss astronomy research with professors one-on-one.
At the beginning of the semester Alysha thought she was interested in theoretical astrophysics. Though I believe she still has this interest, she now has a better idea of what such studies would be like and how this area fits in with the more observational side of astronomy. After all, theory and observation very much depend on each other, and making progress in astronomy requires understanding of both.
Finally, Alysha now has a better idea of the steps necessary to actually get into a career in astronomy. What I learned as a mentor is that this information is not always readily available to all students. The information has to be sought out. I was very happy to participate in this program and help get to inform a student about what it means to be an astronomer and what it takes to become one. Hopefully she will point more people to this program, and I will try to do the same.