Monday, December 12, 2016

Telecommuting to work on the Red Planet

Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems
Self portrait of the MSL Curiosity Remote Sensing Mast via MAHLI. Taken on sol 32 of the surface mission. Helping to write the plans for taking images like these is just another day at the office for the PVL trainees working as Collaborators on MSL (Christina, Casey, Charissa and Jake).
By: Casey Moore

Members of the group typically fit into “Team Mars” or “Team Moon” — I am a part of “Team Mars.” Our involvement on Mars is through PVLs Participating Scientist (PS) grant on the Mars Science Laboratory mission — MSL or Curiosity for short. This means that certain members of the group can participate in Science Operations.  Since we are stationed outside of the United States (and MSL is a mission led through NASA/JPL) — the work we do is funded by the Canadian Space Agency. In addition to our operations activities, our research involvement in MSL has lead to several peer-reviewed paper authorships for PVL members and many more to come.

So, what is exactly do I mean by Science Operations? Well, in short, this is where members of the lab participate in planning Curiosity’s sol-to-sol activities (a sol is a martian day, approx. 24h39m). Participating in rover ops is a time commitment, but it is enjoyable and a nice break from the daily grind.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Transition: From Undergrad to Grad Student

 As we approach the end of the year, it is an excellent time for reflecting. In this post, PVL MSc Student Elisabeth Smith considers the change in moving into her graduate studies.
By Elisabeth Smith
One year ago, I was sitting at my desk in the bedroom of my upper-year student apartment, with various textbooks, notes, past exams, and cans of Red Bull scattered about. I was preparing for the final exams of my undergraduate engineering degree. It was also right around this time that I suddenly woke up one day and thought, “gee, I think I’d like to go to grad school!” and began researching some interesting graduate programs. I suppose that I thought that I was really enjoying the whole education thing, and wanted to continue learning. I soon learned about the Earth & Space Science program at York University in my old hometown of Toronto. Looking more into it, I found that several of the professors were doing some very interesting research, and decided to send an application. At this point, it was too soon to be certain that I would be accepted into any graduate programs I applied to, so I also sent out several applications to companies for entry level engineering positions.