An Interview with Federica Bianco

This week’s interview is with Federica Bianco.

Jessica Barton: What is your job title?
Federica Bianco: Post-doctoral fellow.

JB: What does your work at LCOGT involve?
FB: I do science research in a variety of fields. I also have some service responsibilities including commissioning the LIHSPs, which are the Lucky Imaging and High Speed Photometry cameras. I develop the data acquisition and the data processing pipelines for them. I also work on developing our supernova survey and on data quality assessments of our telescopes.

JB: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself - your education, interests, past work experiences.
FB: I am Italian, I grew up in Italy and went to my first 4 years of college there. Then for my last year of college (yes, it is 5 years in Italy) I went on an exchange program to UPenn. I stayed there for the first two years of grad school, and I ended up doing my thesis research at the Harvard Smithsonian center for Astrophysics. I have many interests in astronomy, maybe too many! I’m interested in the outer solar system, blind and predicted occultation surveys, supernovae, time series, and there’s a new thing I’ve been working on called “light echoes.” They are really exciting and what they are is when there is a supernova or a nova, any kind of explosion in space, the light leaves the explosion and travels in every direction. Sometimes we see the event directly, but also light from one of these events may encounter a cloud of dust and be reflected back toward us, so then we are seeing the event’s echo!

JB: What led you to the career/job you are doing now?
FB: I really enjoy being in school and continuing to learn, and this allows me to keep doing that!

JB: What is a typical day at work like?
FB: I like to try to find long periods of time to get things done, but realistically my time is usually broken up into 20-40 minute chunks. Usually when I’m working on something, an email or a meeting comes along so I end up moving from project to project throughout the day. I don’t really have a standard routine. I check emails before I get up in the morning to check if there has been some cosmic explosion that requires my attention. I have a flexible schedule and usually get to work around 9 or 10. Somewhere during the morning or at lunch I usually go for a run. Then I work until 5, go train (I am a martial arts enthusiast and practice capoeira and box), go home, have dinner, then I usually work some more until pretty late at night, often 1am.

JB: What advice would you offer people wanting to go into the type of work you do?
FB: You need to know that this is a very career focused job. The apparent flexibility should not be mistaken for free time! Also I think future scientists should really value teaching and outreach and be prepared to do lots of both. I think that’s going to be very important in the future.

JB: Is there anything I didn't ask that is important for readers to know?
FB: One thing that is interesting and cool about LCOGT is that it is not a typical place for a scientist to work. It is an environment where not everyone is a scientist and you get to work with people with lots of different specialties. I think it’s a great experience!

JB: Thanks Fed!

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