Saturday, February 11, 2012

FloridaTech... 6 years later

Nearly 6 years ago, I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Astronomy (technically, it was Space Sciences, option in Astronomy & Astrophysics) from Florida Institute of Technology. I bumped into one of my old professors, Dr. Terry Oswalt, the head of the department, at AAS this January and he encouraged me to stop by and give a talk. I agreed, after all, right now in February we are in summer recess at the Universidad de Chile and I intended to travel a bit.

So I made my way to campus and got there an hour before my talk. It was raining and cloudy and I was super tired- I had arrived just that morning in Orlando from a long flight. Fortunately, my brother was driving so I could sleep part of the way. I wanted to walk around campus, but decided to first go to the Physical Sciences building as it was still raining. Already I could see new buildings on the Southern side of campus; there's even a swimming pool now. It looks like things are looking up for FIT.

Upon entering the department, I was pleasantly surprised:
My talk was being advertised on TV monitors! I think this is a first for me. They also had the more traditional paper advertisements, but this was so cool.

I went in and chatted with the Department Head about FIT, the changes, and what's new with me. When I was an undergrad I took his introductory astronomy classes, but other than that we hadn't interacted much. Now I was drinking an expresso (alas, he could only offer me decaf) in his office and talking science. I felt like I was now practically an equal, a point that became more evident after I gave my talk.

My talk started at 4pm in one of the classrooms I had used. I remember once giving there a brief 10-minute presentation on some research I had done as part of a Research Experience for Undergrads program (at UCLA), so it wasn't the first time I had been up in that room talking to people. A bunch of my old professors showed up and shook hands with me. That included Matt Wood, who taught the advanced astrophysics classes and was glad to see one of his students come back with a PhD; Ming Zhang, who I worked with modeling the Earth's magnetosphere; and Marcus Hohlmann, which, although a physicist, was my advisor at FIT.

The talk, Identifying & Studying Nearby, Young, Low-Mass Stars, went very well. It was a bit longer than other times I've given it, clocking in at about 55 minutes, but that may be because I stopped to explain a few basic concepts since I know that many there would be physicist or undergrads and may not know any of the astronomy slang. I had a diagram for describing UVW space velocities (as well as some gestures that went along with it) and a very basic explanation for visibilities when talking about radio astronomy. There were a handful of good questions at the end, which I think I addressed properly, and a student came up later to talk about how the SARA telescopes could be used to do related science.

It felt nice to revisit my old campus. While heading out I bumped into Hamid Rassoul, the Dean of the College of Science. He was always a cool and enthusiastic professor. He couldn't make it to my talk, but we chatted for a bit. He said it would be nice if I came back to work here as faculty- they would like to have new professors and researchers that were educated at FIT. I think I've made a good impression on my old teachers. I felt like an equal among them. Before, when I was an undergrad, I was a bit intimidated by how smart these people were. Now I realize that I am one of them and can join them in discussing science and the future.

A last look at the Olin Physical Sciences Building (the one with the dome)


  1. That's awesome! I love the talk advertisements on TV monitors. We need to get something like that for UCLA!