Thursday, January 12, 2012

Broken New Year's Resolution and Priorities for 2012

I really do know better than to make New Year's resolutions.  Truly.  But there is one thing that I want to do more of and that is to make more blog posts.  I've noticed that it is easiest for me to make posts on Thursdays so I resolved to post weekly on Thursday.

Then last Thursday happened...

I woke up with the most painful migraine I've had (at least in recent memory).  I felt like my head was going to explode all morning and early afternoon and when I finally took the correct meds (when you are alone and trying to keep your brains in your skull, you tend to lose a lot of common sense) and felt better, but not well, I was thoroughly exhausted.  I think I was asleep more hours than I was awake that day.  Between that and the fact that I had to write a last-minute abstract to present some new LIGO results at the upcoming APS April Meeting, my blog post never happened.

But, today is a new Thursday and the first new blog post of the year!

I hope everyone had a pleasant holiday season.  I didn't murder any family members so I'm counting mine in the win column (I'm kidding - I would never harm my family!).

So, what have I been doing as a LIGO scientist this year?

  1. I've had a few projects in the works that I am trying to wrap up and complete (I love starting new and exciting projects and documenting completed computer programs is not exciting to me).  One of the things that has been simmering for a long while now is a survey of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration to assess the members' feelings on its diversity and climate (working environment).  I created and administered a similar survey just for us who work at the LIGO Lab (I am on the LIGO Lab Diversity Committee).  The point of surveys like these are to identify areas that can be improved to make everyone's working experience better and to find out what we are going right.  This survey is in a fairly-mature format and should be ready to release in the coming weeks.
  2. There is a paper I have half written on multi-messenger astronomy and LIGO that I am targeting to  publish in The Physics Teacher.  This has been half done for a while now because other life issues have gotten in the way.  Notably, work and making an application to move up the career ladder and secure myself something more permanent (all postdoctoral positions are temporary like medical residencies - I talk about this a little in my post about "Becoming a Physicist").  This is high on my list of priorities for the near future. 
  3. There is a new initiative in LIGO to write outreach abstracts (summaries) of the scientific papers we publish (like this one).  The papers themselves are almost always on the arXiv server (I can think of only 1 exception) and anyone can read these for free.  That is all well and good, but these papers are meant to be read by other experts and are horrible to wade through for someone who doesn't do that sort of thing for a living.  We are trying to make our results more accessible to everyone and these abstracts are written so that everyone can know what science we are doing.  I've been working on the outreach abstract for the paper discussing the methods employed to rapidly alert telescopes to search for possible optical counterparts to gravitational wave detections (this is the link to the scientific paper).  I've talked about working on this project before here.  When this abstract goes live, I will write more about it and discuss the other abstracts that have been written.
  4. There are also numerable data analysis and software simulation projects that need to be further developed, but I won't go into those here (if you really want me to, let me know in the comments - I may tell you about it later anyway even if you don't).
  5. I also still work extensively with the Science Education Center here at Livingston.  Yesterday, I traveled to a elementary school in Amite, LA to talk to about 120 kindergarteners over the course of the day.  Besides the fact that they were adorable and very interested, I had the cutest ambush of my life - a 20 little kid group hug! :)  And only a few of them where taller than my hips.  Little things like this (besides getting to discover new things about the Universe) is what truly makes my job amazing!
  6. Finally, I have only a few questions left to answer from my previous call for questions!  These will be answered in the coming weeks.  If you have anything you would like to know about, let me know.  Also, I was thinking about having guest blogs from other LIGO scientists, engineers, etc.  Is that something you would be interested in?  (My husband is an engineer at LIGO Livingston with me, so I have one person that I can probably bribe into doing this.)  There are many different specialties here so this may be interesting.  Let me know!

Hope to hear from you soon!


Today's picture comes from my office and its new vampy inhabitants:

From left to right: Vampire Julius from Paul Frank, Count Chocula from the cereal of the same name, and The Count from Sesame Street
You may remember from previous posts that not only do I have a nearly unhealthy love for vampire books, but I also have a collection of stuffed undead (do NOT call them dolls).  Here is a previously posted picture of my office with a few of the figures in the background:

And another of my name tag covered light (which really doesn't function so well as a light since I've added even more tags) with a few other figures: