As I’m staring out of my living room window on this perfect summer day, the sunset is slowly changing the baby blue sky to warm hues of orange and red. Into the sunset, into the desert West is where we’re headed in a few short weeks. It is the end of one hard journey for us, and the exciting beginning of another. Three years ago, when I decided to leave my career as a planetarium director, astronomy educator and science film-maker to go back to school for research, I couldn’t imagine what it would really be like to finally be here.
I gave myself a blogging break to complete the last few years of my astrophysics degree. I wanted to concentrate on the coursework, but I also needed more time for my research in Tucson at NOAO, independent research at my home University on extrasolar planets, and oh yeah, the birth of the little tyke last summer. If you’re ever bored, and for somehow experience sleep-deprived hallucinations on an astrophysics exam, have your first child in the middle of your hardest year during your physics degree!
But the school work has passed, the final exam turned in and the last 25-page lab report finally forced to render in LaTeX with the help of a sledgehammer. J has successfully completed her internal medicine residency with flying colors, working enough nights (and straight-through days) to wipe the floor with any nocturnal astronomer. My son is becoming a healthy, happy cheeto-munching toddler who is learning the effects of the acceleration due to gravity on his full diaper.
The three years here have been incredibly rewarding, and there is no way I could have done any of it without the amazing support of J. She has set the new standard of understanding and accommodation, somehow arranging her already hectic schedule and showing the patience of Job to make sure I had enough time to do all that Thermodynamics homework, study for Mechanics exams, and do those all-nighters in the Observatory.
There is no way I could’ve done this without her.
Somehow, I ended up graduating summa cum laude, won the Jeane Gould scholarship for outstanding junior/senior, had a great summer internship at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, won UC Undergrad Research and Ohio Space Grant fellowships, renovated an observatory, presented a poster at the American Astronomical Society meeting, was the University’s Researcher of the Month last November, and just recently, was very humbled to learn that my Department nominated me for the American Physical Society’s Apker Award for independent research. I couldn’t have done any of this without the support and encouragement of my great professors and advisors at the University of Cincinnati’s Physics Department.
In a few weeks J, Kyu and I are headed out west to settle in Tucson, Arizona, one of the world’s headquarters for astronomy research and a place filled with all-around awesome people. J is taking a great position with the Veterans Administration Medical Center, and I’ll be taking a year off to get everything settled down before applying to graduate programs at the University of Arizona.
But one of my favorite things about getting here is dusting off the writing cobwebs. I can’t wait to not only do a lot more blogging and keep in touch with everyone who reads this site, but also to get back to writing about all of the the amazing astronomical discoveries going on right now. And there is a LOT going on in our understanding of the Universe. More to come soon!