Earlier this week, I attended the Star Party with Professor Filippenko, hosted by the Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholars Association’s Faculty Committee. In a span of one and a half hours, we got to gaze at stars, planets, and nebula, and talk about fascinating stuff! A large, high-power telescope was focused on the Orion Nebula, and we could see four bright dots in a diamond shape clustered in the center of the bluish cloud of gas and dust, adjacent to Orion’s belt. Professor Filippenko mentioned that it takes a million years for the stars to form out of the particles in the nebula, and each of the bright dots we saw formed at different points in time.
This is one of my favorite things to tell people when I am leading them around the Berkeley campus on my tours because it is one my favorite things that I do here. I get to the part of the tour that talks about research opportunities (which happens to be in front of our giant T-Rex fossil exhibit, come check it out!) and I get to impress everyone by telling them about my own research position. “I work for a Ph.D candidate who studies pollinator evolution in Yosemite,” I say. To most people, that doesn’t mean much, so I follow it by saying that I get to play with bees and butterflies and call it scientific research. For six hours a week, and two units of class credit through the Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program (URAP), I get to participate directly in hands on research.