OzGrav Alumni - Postdoctoral Fellow at Caltech
Tell us about your time at OzGrav.
When OzGrav was established it was quite an exciting time for those who like gravitational wave science, so I applied for student membership as soon as it was possible to do so. OzGrav grew at an impressive rate. I was surprised to see how many people, who are working in many different fields, contribute to gravitational wave discovery. During my time at OzGrav I had the opportunity to be exposed to a broad range of topics, which was somewhat challenging but valuable. I particularly enjoyed the workshops where people can throw ideas and inter-node projects come to life.
Tell us about your journey after OzGrav.
At the end of my PhD, I wanted to continue doing research in astronomy. One of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made was to leave Australia (how could you not fall in love with it after living for a few years in Melbourne?) and start a new experience overseas. Now I work in a collaboration called GROWTH (Global Relay of Observatories Watching Transients Happen) and the focus of my research is even more gravitational-wave related—I spend most of my time chasing after LIGO and Virgo triggers with optical telescopes. The experience that I gained through my PhD with OzGrav is proving invaluable. Moreover, I am happy to witness (and continue encouraging) a productive collaboration between GROWTH and OzGrav.
How did you come to decide on this career choice?
I guess that becoming a researcher has always felt like a natural path to me. I like the creative aspect of being a researcher and a postdoctoral appointment is a great opportunity to better understand different potential professions. Far from tying you up too tightly, a postdoc position provides a good deal of freedom about future careers. For example, it is interesting to see how many opportunities some fellow postdocs found on their way, including several different types of roles within academia as well as exciting industry jobs.
What opportunities do you believe OzGrav has provided you as a person?
Most of all, the opportunity of networking and to further appreciate that several pieces of expertise must come together to produce results.
What are some of the proudest moments of your career?
Probably when people came to help out with our ‘Deeper Wider Faster’ program (DWF) in December 2015, when I had just started my PhD and coded a rough pipeline to discover optical transients in real time. I have never been a master programmer, so seeing the pipeline actually working and allowing other colleagues to assess the results felt like an unbelievable success. In general, I feel proud of how we encouraged the community to work together during DWF, gravitational wave follow-up and other projects. I can’t thank Jeff Cooke, OzGrav Chief Investigator, enough, especially for guiding me towards this collaborative vision.
What have been the challenges in getting to where you are now?
PhD students face all sort of challenges! Probably the most difficult challenge is remaining balanced and motivated in stressful times, especially towards the end of the PhD program. When starting a postdoc, the challenges are different. For example, you may feel that you cannot afford to make any mistake as a postdoc, because you can longer say ‘sorry, I’m just a student’. I guess that facing the fear of failing is a key challenge that we all should experience (and overcome) to work with greater peace of mind.
What inspires you to continue the work you do every day?
The chance of discovering something new at any time, especially when it is less expected.