DPhil student takes part in research trip to NASA in California

29 Aug 2018

The sign for the NASA Ames Research Center
NASA's Ames Research Center

Ben Fernando, a DPhil student at Teddy Hall, recently visited NASA’s Ames Research Center and attended a summer school at the University of California, Santa Barbara as part of his research. Here, he gives us an account of his experience.

This summer I was lucky enough to be able to spend two weeks in California as part of my DPhil research. The first two days were spent at the SETI Institute and NASA’s Ames Research Centre, where I visited colleagues working on machine learning for astrophysics and space science.

That in itself was an amazing opportunity, as I had the chance to learn from some world-leading experts in artificial intelligence – a field I am very interested in learning more about as it seems to be playing an increasingly vital role in the development of science. The visit also ended up resulting in some unexpected but very useful meetings on my own topic of research (stellar pulsations). Alongside this, my time in the San Francisco area also included visiting Stanford University, which is home to a large stellar pulsations research group. It was especially neat to meet some of the “founders of the field” who are still active in doing research there.

The beach at Santa Barbara
The beach at Santa Barbara

The majority of my time, however, was spent at the University of California Santa Barbara on a summer school for computational stellar astrophysics. Santa Barbara is the only university I’ve ever been to with a campus beach; which we made good use of during the workshop by going kayaking and surfing during the dinner break! Academically speaking, it was also a great opportunity to develop my coding skills and learn more about the principles behind the software that I use in my day-to-day research.

I can very much see why California is so high on so many people’s list of where they might like to live! I’m not sure what the next opportunity to visit will be – perhaps volunteering to demonstrate at next year’s incarnation of the summer school?

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