Joseph E. Pesce
I am a postdoctoral fellow here at the Institute. A Postdoc is similar
to an internship in the medical field; I have my Ph.D., but not a permanent
position, yet. I "do research" 100% of the time, which specifically involves
studying observations from ground- and space-based telescopes. I study
extragalactic objects called BL Lac objects, a type of quasar. Specifically,
I am trying to find out what sort of neighborhoods they "live" in - are
they isolated, or are they surrounded by other objects, such as galaxies
(in which case they would be in clusters of galaxies).
I have always been interested in Astronomy, from the time I started
reading. I also always knew I would be an Astronomer, and have taken the
necessary steps throughout my life (in education, for example) to meet
that goal. This meant studying math and physics as well as Astronomy (more
the first two!). Planning is necessary and I had my undergraduate and
graduate education mapped out by the time I started high school.
The best part of the job is studying nature and learning its secrets.
I'm (basically) my own boss and can choose (more or less) which aspects
I would like to study. I think this is terrific and is what science is
all about. Frankly, I don't think there are any "down" sides to the career
(though writing proposals for observing time on telescopes and grant money
can get to be a nuisance now and then).
As I said, I have always been interested in Astronomy. I read everything
I could find. This is important, I think. After that, if the person is
still interested, they can get a small telescope (but before doing this,
I think everyone should know as much as possible from books, at the level
of learning the constellations, etc, before getting a telescope). A telescope
isn't necessary, binoculars or even the naked eye will do just as well
(many Astronomers have never used a telescope!). Joining a local astronomical
society is useful. Again, a strong basis in math and physics is essential
and the student should start with a good backing in high school.
My parents have always encouraged me to do whatever I wanted and I think
this is the most important aspect of any career, not only Astronomy. Other
than that, I don't think there was any one person who influenced me. My
parents encouraged me to join the local astronomical society and to speak
to professors at the university (even when I was in junior high) and to
go to seminars by Astronomers. All of this was very useful.
Astronomy is a fantastic field (I think one of the best!), but it also
requires a lot of hard work. However, when you are doing something you
love, it doesn't seem like hard work!