Q. What country were you staying in? Australia
Q. Where were you doing research? Curtin University
Q. How long were you there? 9 weeks
Q. What sort of research were you doing? I analyzed pulsar data taken by two Australian radio telescopes: the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) and the Parkes Telescope. By studying simultaneous observations of the same pulsar with the two telescopes, we can essentially see how well “synced” the two telescopes are on very small timescales. This is necessary if future observations are to be used in pulsar timing arrays to try to find gravitational waves, for example.
Q. Did being abroad influence the kind of research you’re doing? While technically you do not need to be in Australia to access the observational data and analyze it, Curtin has a number of people who are very knowledgeable about the inner workings of the MWA. I had some limited experience working with data from GBT and Arecibo, both single-dish radio telescopes, but the MWA is an array telescope. This means that the process of extracting the data and treating it before you can view anything is much longer and more complicated. I was very lucky to have lots of help available.
Q. What’s the coolest thing about being abroad? It may seem silly, but I thought the money in Australia was fantastic. Different colored/sized bills looked really cool, and usually they give you your change in $1 or $2 coins rather than bills. I left the country with about $40 in change that I forgot to exchange for USD!
Q. What’s your favorite new phrase from the language? To be honest the people in Perth didn’t speak all that differently from in the U.S. There were a few different words here and there but nothing that strange, and no new phrases particularly jump out at me.
Q. What’s the hardest thing about being abroad? Since I live on campus, I never really need to worry about paying for internet. In Australia, internet is extremely expensive. For most o fa month I had barely any internet access at all at home, and for the rest of the time I had to ration it to avoid spending just insane amounts of money on it. Definitely something I enjoy about the U.S.: relatively cheap internet access!
Q. What did you do in your free time? I didn’t have a whole lot of free time, but I did try to see the sights in Perth as much as I could. I went to King’s Park, which is a massive public park with thousands of people. I’d never really seen anything like it.
Q. What’s the coolest thing you’ve done or seen while abroad? The coolest thing I saw was probably the Southern Hemisphere’s night sky. I’ve been out camping many times and seen the night sky away from the city lights, but none of that compared to seeing basically the whole galactic plane span east to west. The Milky Way is much brighter than it is up here in the northern hemisphere, not to mention that I was way out in the outback, hundreds of miles from any civilization!
Q. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve done or seen while abroad? When we were out on site by the MWA, we saw a bunch of wild kangaroos fighting it out by an airstrip. That was pretty weird.
Q. What advice would you offer others thinking of going abroad? One thing that I had no idea about was that sometimes on international flights your boarding pass will not have your gate number on it, so you won’t know where to go. A quick Google search can solve that problem, just search your flight number and it automatically shows you where you board, if it’s on time, etc.
Q. What skills have you learned abroad? Definitely something I had to get used to was shopping for my own groceries regularly, as well as coming to a place of work from 9am-5pm every day.
Q. Is there anything you’d do differently or anything you wish you’d have known? I wish I’d have known that my room had a heater, which I only discovered in the last week I was there. I didn’t freeze (it still is Australia), but it was the winter so that would’ve been good to know.