Monday, November 4, 2013

URSP Student Jenna Zink Researches Characterization of Solar Eruptions using Coronagraphic Image Sequences

After being in contact with the Astronomy Advisor here at George Mason, he told me about an opportunity that had arisen in which the student would be able to work with a Post-Doctorate from Mason who is now working at the NASA base located in Maryland. I knew I needed to take this opportunity in order to start getting my name out into the field of physics and with the potential employer of NASA. Since I was young, I had always been interested in space and the idea that one day I could potentially become an astronaut. I received an email from the NASA Post Doctorate and she said that we would be studying space weather and coronal mass ejections coming off of the sun. Immediately, I wanted to work with her and get started on a project that had never been thought to be tested.

With this constant goal of having a career with NASA and in the physics field, this semester-long research opportunity is what I have been calling “my first foot in the door.” This is where, I hope, I can kick-start getting my name into the different departments of NASA and letting them see a dedicated research who is still only an undergraduate, but so excited to get out into the professional leagues. This research experience is also my first time working with a mentor, in an actual computer lab, completing data analysis on real-time images from the satellites orbiting the sun. I believe that this will allow me to apply for more experience-based internships and jobs in the future because I will already have acquired basic knowledge about the workings and expectations of a professional workspace.

During each week, I am constantly emailing my mentor from NASA and she will always send me a new date and time to be looking at the most up-to-date data of the sun and potential coronal mass ejections that I will be able to measure in order to make a conclusion about the behavior of these ejections during their first few hours of “life.” The work that I accomplish each week usually involves bringing my laptop to work in order to work on my measurements, documenting these measurements in an excel sheet, and then sending them to my mentor. We are currently working on what kind of “abnormalities” in the datasheet will be the main indicators of the twisting and snapping of the coronal mass ejections.

This past week, I discovered how important it is to make sure to stay in contact with your mentor and to be able to dedicate time to designated areas where it is necessary. Time management is going to be my biggest challenge for the next few weeks and it will take a complete reorganization of my priorities in order to accomplish my goals for this semester.