Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Collaborative Visit

I’ve just returned from a visit to Middlebury College in Vermont, where I gave a talk and visited with a collaborator.

During my graduate work, I ended up with some extra data. I had applied for observations of a sample of red quasars several years in a row and was denied time. On the third time, I/we were granted time to observe these objects with NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. This was really great, but by that time I was ready to graduate. I went observing and took the data, but they did not make it into my Ph.D. thesis. Instead, my advisor and I decided to give the data to someone who is an expert in red quasars, and she was glad to have the data.

Since then the data have been reduced and our collaborator let a student work on some of the analysis. The student calculated black hole masses from the spectra that I observed, plus a series of other spectra that were not mine in origin. And since I am currently visiting Yale University in New Haven, CT, I thought it would be easy to drive up to Middlebury, VT for a visit and status update on the infrared spectra. It turns out the student did a lot of great work, and we are looking forward to turning her work into a publication.

While at Middlebury College I was asked to give a talk. Academic astronomy talks are usually somewhere between 30 min and 1 hour, depending on the level of formality. The one exception is that at the American Astronomical Society meetings, you only get 5 minutes to present your current research. Those meetings are just so big that there is no way to give people more time. Anyway, I put together my slides during the couple days before actually going to Middlebury. I was a bit hesitant at first, because I haven’t given a presentation recently and I felt out of practice. But, that also was a strong motivator.

It turned out really well. I got a lot of positive feedback from several people in the audience, and I got a lot of questions after the talk. I was very happy to receive the feedback, because I was a little nervous going into the presentation.

After the talk, we had a little group meeting between the collaborators on the red quasar project. It went really well, and I was impressed by the amount of work that the student had done, who is an undergraduate. And those discussions naturally led into discussions about a future project. I will write a proposal to observe these objects with a facility in Chile, which I think will be really useful to learn about the physics that is going on in this sample and will tell us about black hole - galaxy evolution.

So that’s my update for the week. It was a good week.

Oh yeah - Airbnb and poutine are really good - although, not necessarily related.

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