UWA Astronomy and Astrophysics student Jacinta Delhaize is Western Australia's 2008 Science Student of the Year. In this issue we hear about why Jacinta is so passionate about Astronomy and the unusual places her study has taken her...
I think most people are fascinated by astronomy at some point in their lives - whether they watch Star Wars as a child and wonder about aliens in galaxies far far away, or see the beautiful pictures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and hear about black holes and supernovae on the news. I have always been inspired by a curiosity of the unknown and awed by the great discoveries about our universe. It is incredible to discover the fine line between science and science-fiction. For example, did you know that anti-matter really does exist?
What do you have to study?
After studying high school maths and physics at Mandurah Catholic College, I enrolled in a Bachelor of Science degree at UWA. I chose specific units that enabled me to major in Physics. I received good grades during my first three years and so I was allowed to do an extra Honours year. During Honours, I completed a research project in Astronomy and Astrophysics. I studied the Magellanic Stream, which is a massive trail of gas being pulled off two of the closest galaxies to the Milky Way. It was hard work but very interesting and I learned many new skills. I have just begun my PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics at UWA. This means that I will spend a few years doing original research and finally write a thesis. I will be studying the gas in galaxies very far away, to see how it is different to near-by galaxies.
Where has your study taken you so far?
During the summer of 2007/08 I was very lucky to be a recipient of the Australian Gemini Undergraduate Summer Studentship. This scholarship allowed me to spend ten weeks working in Chile at the Gemini South Observatory, which is one of the world's largest optical/infrared telescopes. The telescope is housed in a huge silver dome and the mirror inside the telescope is 8m in diameter. I was able to work with one of the astronomers at Gemini to study a red giant star called Arcturus. I met many leading astronomers and engineers from all over the planet and had a great time working in such a multicultural environment - something very typical in astronomy.
During my PhD, I will travel to telescopes all over the world and to international conferences to share my findings with other scientists. I will also spend some time doing research at Oxford University in England, which I am very excited about.
I have been able to share my knowledge with others by presenting talks and after-school astronomy classes to high school students. I hope to continue to do so, especially since 2009 is the International Year of Astonomy.