Week 4: Research Challenges

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Sunday, June 27, 2021


Gina Pantano

Hello everyone,

I cannot believe July is right around the corner! I still feel as though my internship started last week. The NASA GSFC has been such an amazing place to work for, even from home. The EXCLAIM team and the Observational Cosmology Lab have created several opportunities for interns to get involved, make connections, and learn new physics. My favorite meetings have been the biweekly science and analysis meetings Monday afternoons, since we discuss recent papers and the cosmology science behind EXCLAIM. For my project, since I am creating simulated intensity maps, it's necessary to understand the background physics to the mission. I would love to have the opportunity to be a science lead or principal investigator for an influential mission one day. 

New Physics

Due to having a light week of research, I do not have any new physics to share. However, I did attend a really cool event hosted by the O’Reilly Learning Platform I discussed last week. The live event was titled “Life Hack Your Day” and it was a really cool informative lecture on chronobiology. Chronobiology is the study of natural physiological rhythms and other cyclical phenomena such as circadian rhythms. Jean-Jacques d’Ortous de Mairan, an astronomer and geophysicist, observed strange behavior in a plant called mimosa pudica (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLTcVNyOhUc). During the 18th century, he watched the plant experience a circadian rhythm similar to us even in permanent darkness. Thus, began the field of chronobiology and the research of these unique biological cycles. Today, chronobiology is being used in the study of genetics, ecology, psychology, sports medicine, and more. The speaker shared that depending on our natural circadian rhythm (when we sleep and when we wake) would determine when during the day we should complete analytic tasks, make decisions, meet people, and more. How you determine this is actually really simple! You figure out the normal time you fall asleep (for me it’s midnight), and the normal time you wake up (for me it’s 9:00 am in the morning). Next, you find the midpoint between these times — for me the midpoint is 4:30 am. If your time falls before 3:00 am you are a “lark,” if your time falls between 3:00 am and 5:00 am you are a “third bird,” and if your time falls after 5:00 am you are an “owl.” Your category determines when you should be making these life choices. If you are interested in learning more about chronobiology and how to use it to take advantage of your day, I suggest reading “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” by Daniel H. Pink. 

Weekly Events

I had a pretty light week in terms of work due to unforeseen events in my personal life. I appreciate my mentor and the EXCLAIM team being so flexible taking a day off of work Tuesday. On Wednesday, I continued working on the data cube class and attended an agency-wide event on their [email protected] program, which connects interns to projects across all NASA centers. I plan to look and see if there is anything I can work on in addition to EXCLAIM, with my mentor's approval of course. On Thursday, we just had our weekly tag up meeting in the morning. I also caught up on the Python courses since I had to miss out on Wednesday. Friday was a very busy and productive day. I started off with an early meeting with my research advisor and scholarship advisor at the University of South Florida. They are helping me prepare my application for the NSF GRFP. At noon, the 2021 SPS intern cohort got to meet with Dr. John Mather and ask him questions about his work at NASA and more. He shared slides with us on the James Webb Space Telescope and future missions he is working on. At the end of the event, we were able to ask him questions about his life experiences, and we got his personal email (so cool)! Later in the day, I met with my mentor and Trevor to go over our progress with the data cube class. Next week, I will not have as many meetings but have a lot of computational work to do.

Overall Experience and Feelings

I am starting to make some progress on developing the data cube class to produce the simulated intensity maps for EXCLAIM. We figured out how to plot the maps in celestial coordinates. Our next steps are to add a colorbar to the LIM map, a circle on the map indicating the instrument's angular resolution, a third dimension with frequency of the spectral data, and the associated redshift with each frequency. It's definitely been challenging learning new technical terms, computational techniques with Python, and making sure I complete everything my mentor needs promptly. I am learning a lot through this internship and am really grateful to have this experience and be a part of the EXCLAIM team.

 Happy Researching!

Gina Pantano (she/her/hers)