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This week’s interview is with Rachel Ross.Jessica Barton: What is your job title?Rachel Ross: Jedi Master!JB: What does your work at LCOGT involve?RR: I wear many hats including being a part of the education and outreach and science teams. I am becoming involved in some of the operations and commissioning for the first 1-meter telescope in Texas, and in the past (and hopefully a bit in the future as well!) helped assemble some of the 0.4-meter telescopes as well as participating on a few engineering and deployment trips.JB: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself - your education, interests, past work experiences.RR: I grew up in northern California, went to UC Davis for my undergraduate degree, and received my Masters in Astronomy from James Cook University in Australia. At Davis, I was very involved with the astronomy department where I worked for a research astronomer for about two years, was a ‘roof helper’ (the undergrad form of TA for astronomy classes) for the Introduction to Astronomy labs for 4 years where I taught the sky as well as helped to update and write labs, and I was a member and officer (secretary and president) of the astronomy club where I helped to expand the reaches of the club and improve its outreach. I started with LCOGT in September 2005, three months before graduating from Davis, and have loved being here ever since!JB: What led you to the career or job you are doing now?RR: I wasn’t that into science until I had an awesome physics teacher my junior and senior years of high school. My senior year of high school, all students had to do something called Senior Exhibition which was a year-long research project on a topic of our choosing. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do mine on, so my teacher suggested I read A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. I was hooked and did my project on a blend of cosmology and astronomy.My first quarter at Davis I took Introduction to Astronomy and loved it. From then on I was a roof helper for the lab portion of that class and continued to be involved in most things astronomy including taking all the available classes at the time, as well as other related classes in physics, geology, and even philosophy.JB: What is a typical day at work like?RR: There’s really no such thing as a “typical day”, but I usually start by checking email to catch up on everything that happened during the night before. I’m working with some exoplanet data that I have taken from Sedgwick, ELP, and both the 1-meter and 0.4-meter telescopes in our back parking lot (doing some light curve analysis and modeling with Jason Eastman’s program Exofast, including helping find a couple of bugs by throwing wacky data sets at it) that was originally started by taking data for Agent Exoplanet and that I hope will evolve into something else. I’m also helping to develop a system to check operational statistics for ELP which will expand as new telescopes are deployed (based on what I’ve already done and planning to upgrade for FTN & FTS) as well as doing some work on the commissioning side. On the education side of things, I plan and host star parties at Sedgwick and Photon Ranch, Jessica and I take turns planning tours and workshops at LCOGT as well as science nights at local schools. I also write, or convince others to write, blog posts on our website about all the exciting news happening at LCOGT.JB: What advice would you offer people wanting to go into the type of work you do?RR: Don’t let anyone tell you that you can or can’t do it! I had two experiences with sexist advisors in college who looked down upon women in the sciences, but since I’m generally not good at taking ‘no’ for an answer, I persevered despite the discouragement. My mom always taught my sister and me to love what we do even if it doesn’t come with a big paycheck (as long as we can support ourselves). If you don’t enjoy what you are doing then it’s not worth it. Try many different things to find out what you like (or don’t) and do it, even if it’s challenging. And never stop learning.JB: What do you do in your spare time?RR: I’ve always loved to read, most anything to do with the beach, hiking, cooking, traveling, and playing with my cats (who are training to be Jedis).JB: Thanks Rachel!
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