A few weeks ago I was asked, for the first time ever, to referee an article for a journal called Classical and Quantum Gravity. For those of you outside the immediate realm of science and scientific research, being a referee means that you are given an article which was submitted to a journal and are asked to report back on its content: is it worth being published? how can it be made better? You become a guardian of science. Someone out there thinks you're good enough to know if this particular article is worth being published, and they respect your opinion (to a certain extent, obviously). You (and sometimes a second independent referee) become responsible for what scientific research is printed. That's a big responsibility.
Being asked to play such a crucial role in the scientific process was incredibly emotional for me: I went from being incredulous (me? really??) to being very flattered (they must like something I did!) to being terrified (what if I screw it up??) to finally accepting that everyone must feel this way at first, so why not give it a go?
After having written the report and having made my recommendations, I find that I've learned a lot. I felt that I was really capable of fulfilling this role and that I did in fact help to make an article a bit better.
Does this mean that I'm a real scientist now? Who knows?
Image: Heimdall, Guardian of the Rainbow Bridge to Asgard, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heimdall_(comics)
What a busy month! One may have guessed by now that I apply for a lot of travel grants. This is a must right now in the UK, and if I'm not mistaken, a must in pretty much every research institute in the world at this particular moment in time. Travel is expensive, and getting funding from outside your group can be key to attending more conferences.
In this spirit, I applied for the Moreton Travel Award (this year one could apply for a maximum of £650) and was awarded £620 to attend the International Pulsar Timing Array Conference in Krabi, Thailand. This is awarded by the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Birmingham.
Due to the vast expense of this particular conference (mostly just getting to Thailand is expensive, staying there is rather cheap!), I also applied to the Royal Astronomical Society's (RAS) Research and Grants fund to further offset the cost of this meeting to my group and was awarded £1000.
So far, I have been successful in obtaining the following travel awards: the RAS's Research and Grants Fund, the Institute of Physics', IoP Research Student Conference Fund, the IoP's C. R. Barber Trust Award and Universitas 21 (check if your Uni is a member) and so could you! I strongly encourage physics graduate students in the UK to regularly apply for to these awards. Also, check your College / School / Department for funding to defray the costs of your travels. It looks good on your CV and your group will thank you!
American grad students, you can apply for the APS Physics travel grant for $500! Next deadline is May 20th, so get your buts in gear.
So far I've been able to wrangle £6,970 out of Birmingham's School of Physics and Astronomy (via the Moreton Award), the RAS and the IoP. If I can do it, so can you!
In March, I put together an application to work with Prof. Ingrid Stairs at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. We proposed to do further tests of General Relativity with either the double pulsar system or a pulsar-white dwarf system.
As I've just found out that my application was successful (hurrah!) I'll be going to UBC in January 2014 to carry out this research.
If you're a researcher on the Canadian or American west coast, I may be able to pay you a visit/give a talk at your institute while I'm over. Let me know if you're interested! I plan on sh
Great news! I've been asked to teach the engineering section of Math Matters again this fall. That means I'll be back in Ottawa in late August/early September to teach the course at Carleton University.
Further to the new teaching assignment, I've been asked to give a talk in the Physics Department at Carleton on my gravitational wave work. I'm really looking forward to giving a talk to my former professors on my research :D
On Thursday the 25th of April 2013 technical companies, research- and educational institutes will opened their doors to young girls aged 10-15 years in order to awaken their interest in science and technology. During Girlsday, organized annually by VHTO, more than 8,000 girls discovered the world of science, technology and IT. On Thursday morning Princess Máxima officially launched Girlsday in the presence of the minister of Education at the independent research organisation TNO-the Hague.
I was invited to participate in Girls Day 2013, via Skype, at ASTRON (Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy) in the Netherlands. My role in this was to chat with 2 pairs of young ladies for an hour on Skype and to tell them about my work in astronomy. They were also encouraged to ask personal questions (not too personal! i.e. are you married, have kids, how old are you) so that the girls would see the astronomers as real people. I was very happy to answer their questions, and they indeed seemed to be very interested in my personal life over my career, but think this is normal for 13 year olds!
It was a great opportunity to inspire a new generation of scientists and I hope the girls had as much fun as I did :)