Kathryn Plant

Departure Date:
Return Date:
Local Institution:
UC Santa Cruz (just graduated with B.S.), Caltech (will start PhD)
Local Advisor:
Maura McLaughlin
Foreign Institution:
Swinburne University
Foreign Advisor:
Matthew Bailes
Student Status:
between undergraduate and PhD
  • Q.What country were you staying in? South Africa and Australia
  • Q.Where were you doing research? Swinburne University and Molonglo Observatory
  • Q.How long were you there? 2 weeks in S.A., 2 weeks in Australia, and now will be in Australia for a year
  • Q.What sort of research were you doing? I’m working on the digital receiver for the Molonglo Observatory synthesis telescope. By programming a new kind of circuit board, we hope to make the telescope more sensitive, particularly in the search for Fast Radio Bursts. These are brief pulses of radio waves which are most likely coming from distant galaxies, but their precise origins have not been localized.
  • Q.Did being abroad influence the kind of research you’re doing? The two weeks that I spent in South Africa for the IPTA meeting were an extremely useful introduction to the field which I am interested in working in. I have just finished my bachelor’s degree at UCSC and will start my PhD at Caltech in the fall of 2017. NSF PIRE funded my travel to the IPTA meeting in South Africa and a few weeks at Swinburne University. I am now spending a year at Swinburne working on a research project before I start my PhD. I have already learned skills which I will use in this and future research projects. Futhermore, this research experience will clarify my research goals for my PhD. Finally, the past few months have introduced me to a large international collaboration. Exposure to the diverse perspectives of an international collaboration is crucial in shaping research and also the broader impacts of that research.
  • Q.What’s the coolest thing about being abroad? Even on a short walk in a city park, I see birds and flowers unlike anything I know.
  • Q.What’s your favorite new phrase from the language? In South Africa I learned the word ubuntu- In the US I had only heard this phrase as the name of a particular Linux distribution. In fact, ubuntu is not a computer operating system but rather the way you ought to operate. It’s a human kindness, generosity, and sharing.
  • Q.What’s the hardest thing about being abroad? Communicating with relatives during a family emergency many many time zones away.
  • Q.What did you do in your free time? When I was in South Africa for the IPTA meeting, I enjoyed sunrise hikes up Stellenbosch mountain, and climbing Table Mountain on the weekend.
  • Q.What’s the coolest thing you’ve done or seen while abroad? Seeing the Southern hemisphere night sky. The southern cross, the Magellanic clouds, and the Emu are beautiful. There is a magical feeling about seeing an unfamiliar sky.
  • Q.What’s the weirdest thing you’ve done or seen while abroad? Anti-wombat mesh at the observatory. Had not realized the effect of wombats on astronomy.
  • Q.What advice would you offer others thinking of going abroad? It’s nice to go to one place for a while with a reason- such as astronomy- to be there. I like that better than the idea of being a brief tourist.
  • Q.What skills have you learned abroad? Driving on the left side of the road.
  • Q.Is there anything you’d do differently or anything you wish you’d have known? still thinking about this