Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Major Blogging Assignment

One of the main goals of Ay20 as stated on the course website is that, "Students will understand what it means to be a professional astronomer." Jackie and I put a lot of thought into these goals and we fully intend to meet them by the end of term.

Pursuant to this goal, your assignment is to team up with 2-3 of your classmates and put together a series of 3-4 blog entries on the overarching topic of: "What does it take to be a professional astronomer." This topic, as stated, is broad and a bit ill defined by design. Tackle it as you see fit. However, here are some concrete suggestions:

  1. Write down your impressions as of right now. What does it take to be a professional astronomer. What is the ultimate goal? What is your goal? This can form the basis of your first post.
  2. Interview a grad student and a postdoc, perhaps several. Or interview a junior faculty member, or well-established prof. Write a friendly yet professional email to your prospective interviewee, invite them to lunch or out for an afternoon coffee/tea at the Red Door. The Q&A (questions in bold, responses in normal text) can form the basis of a second blog post. What is the typical career arc of a pro? What is a postdoc? Where did they apply to grad school? Where did they start out as an undergrad? What do they know now that they wish they knew at your age? What are their career aspirations?
  3. What are alternative career arcs? What are the prospects in engineering, working at observatories, national labs, or in industry?
  4. Find articles on this topic online. Check out the discussions on astrobetter and read the career development posts on astrobites. What have you learned and how has your impression from step 1 changed now that you've researched the topic? This can be your third (or fourth) post.
Share the various tasks (interviewing, reading, writing) among your team members. Meet regularly to compare notes. Use Google Docs to write collaboratively. Talk to Jackie and myself. 

This assignment is due before the end of term, the sooner the better. What ever you do, please do not wait to do this all in one or two nights. Start now! And have fun with it. 

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