Week 6: NASA History, Career Choices, and More...

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Sunday, July 11, 2021


Gina Pantano

Hello everyone.

I hope you all had a great week! I am happy to report I had a very productive week, and my new work routine I created for myself is working well. I am looking forward to getting the full data cube class finished within the next couple of weeks, which is a huge portion of my project. I feel as though this week flew by with having Monday off due to the Fourth of July and the KICP LIM workshop. The Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics (KICP) at the University of Chicago hosted a three day virtual line intensity mapping workshop where my mentor and a few colleagues spoke about the science and current standings of the EXCLAIM mission. I really enjoyed listening to some of the pioneers in this relatively new subfield of observational cosmology speak at the event. When I wasn’t attending talks, I was either at EXCLAIM meetings or working on the code for the data cube class, so overall was a pretty busy week!

Weekly Events

On Tuesday, I attended our weekly MKID meeting where Trevor, one of the returning EXCLAIM interns, practiced his presentation for the workshop. Afterwards, I worked on my data cube class, gave Dr. Swtizer a progress report, and prepared my schedule for the workshop the following day. On Wednesday, I attended a few talks from the workshop starting with Abby Crites who gave an overview of current LIM experiments. She was a terrific speaker and structured her talk well by answering key questions behind the experiments. Later on, I attended Anthony Pullen’s talk, the EXCLAIM science and analysis lead, and got to hear more about what him and his students have done at NYU in addition to working with the GSFC. On Thursday, I continued working on my project and attended a few more talks, including Carrie Volpert’s, another member of the EXCLAIM team, who gave a status update on our experiment. Later in the evening, we had our virtual summer picnic with Dr. Rush Holt, former U.S. House Representative and CEO of AAAS. By far one of the best intellectual conversations I have had in a long time. He had so many insights on science communication and is a huge advocate for having a scientist be a member of every committee in congress. After a brief Q & A, we played a few games in Zoom breakout rooms to end the night. On Friday, Trevor gave his talk in the afternoon and then I spent the rest of the day working on my project and communicating with my research advisor at USF. 

Overall Experience and Thoughts

At the end of this week, I decided to watch Hidden Figures for the fourth time (lol) after work Friday night. The movie always reminds me why I became interested in physics/astrophysics to begin with and inspires me to continue paving the way for other women in STEM as they did for us. Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan were forces to be reckoned with! I feel motivated to really take advantage of the opportunities these women worked tirelessly for during the last few weeks of my internship. I plan to seek out opportunities through networking to hopefully prolong my stay at NASA (aka a full-time job or another internship!). The past couple of months I have been debating whether graduate school is the right path for me or if I should consider going into the workforce now. I know informational interviews with NASA employees who have my dream job will certainly help me decide which is the right path! As for now, I will be attending the University of South Florida in the fall to pursue my PhD in Applied Physics. I know I will enjoy my time in graduate school and my advanced degree will open a lot of doors for me, especially with government research positions which is my main area of interest. I am so blessed to have had this experience with the GSFC and look forward to the last few weeks as a NASA intern.

Happy Researching!

Gina Pantano (she/her/hers)