Skip to Navigation ↓
This week’s interview is with Jason Eastman.Jessica Barton: What is your job title?Jason Eastman: Postdoctoral fellow.JB: What does your work at LCOGT involve?JE: My major focus is building the NRES prototype spectrograph for BOS. (NRES stands for Network of Robotic Echelle Spectrographs.) We now have funding from NSF to build six identical copies which will go with the 1-meter telescopes. At each site there will be a NRES spectrograph connected by fiber to two 1-meter telescopes. This way the spectrograph can be used by one or both telescopes at the same time.I also work on transiting planets and planets in general. I just had a paper published about EXOFAST which is a program I wrote that simultaneously fits radial velocity and transit data for an exoplanet, and gives parameters such as the mass and radius of the planet precisely.I’m also part of the KELT collaboration. KELT stands for Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope and it’s a survey telescope in southern Arizona designed to find exoplanets. We actually just discovered our first two planets!JB: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself - your education, interests, past work experiences.JE: I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. I went to Boston University for my undergraduate degree which was a B.A. in astronomy and physics. I did my Masters and PhD at Ohio State University. Apart from a job at Sizzler in high school, all of my jobs have been research related. During undergrad, I worked with my advisor to build a spectrograph called PRISM which is a different type of spectrograph from the ones we are building here. In Ohio I had TA and research assistant positions.Besides astronomy, I’m also interested in astrophotography, rock climbing, and road biking.JB: What led you to the career or job you are doing now?JE: I’ve always been interested in the origins of Earth and humanity. When I started my undergraduate degree, I wanted to do a double major in theology and cosmology. It turned out that between astronomy and physics, my schedule for four years didn’t leave room for many theology classes, but that was ok with me because I was more satisfied with the scientific theories of the origin of the universe anyway.My dad was also always interested in astronomy, and I remember one time when I was a kid, my dad had a little telescope set up in the back yard pointed at the moon. I looked at it, then looked away for a few minutes and when I looked through the telescope again, the Earth had moved and the moon was no longer visible. I was sure my dad had moved the telescope and it took him awhile to convince me that it was the Earth’s rotation that had caused the moon to move out of the field of view.JB: What is a typical day at work like?JE: I do a lot of computer programming and processing and analyzing data. I also spend some time playing in the lab, building and testing equipment.JB: What advice would you offer people wanting to go into the type of work you do?JE: You’ll need to learn to use computers and to program. Pay attention in your science and math classes, and also in English class. You can be the most brilliant scientist in the world, but if you can’t communicate clearly in writing, no one will ever know what you are doing.JB: What attracted you to LCOGT?JE: I liked LCOGT’s focus on time domain astronomy and small telescopes. In astronomy there is often this temptation that bigger is better, and to keep building bigger and bigger telescopes. But with smaller telescopes you can automate and get more data with less effort. My PhD thesis was about roboticizing a 0.5 meter telescope, so this opportunity with LCOGT was a perfect fit for my interests in robotic telescopes, exoplanets, and building instruments.JB: So what do you think of the news about the Higgs boson?JE: I was actually a bit disappointed. I had been hoping that something was going to be discovered that would show clearly that the standard model is wrong and that we would have to rethink everything. I’ve never been all that satisfied with the the need for dark matter and dark energy. It seems like we just really don’t understand gravity very well. But with the Higgs boson now, it seems like the evidence is saying we are actually pretty close to the standard model.JB: Thanks Jason!
Sign up for the LCOGT newsletter