Lisa E. Sherbert
I am a Senior Data Analyst at STScI. Senior means I've been doing this a long time (6+ years now, wow!) Data Analyst, well, those are just some non-specific words someone else liked. I like Instrument Scientist Aide because mostly I do what one or another of the GHRS (Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph) Instrument Scientists needs done, whether he knows it yet or not. Often I try to keep track of what is going on with the telescope involving GHRS. I do some light programming, lots of looking at data and reducing it (running software to put the numbers into a form you can use to compare to other data), and making plots to display the results of the reduction. Supposedly I am here to work with calibration data, and that certainly receives priority when it comes in, but I do a lot of looking at other kinds of data, not at the science it contains, but more to see how the instrument is behaving.
OK, loose the acronyms: STScI: Space Telescope Science Institute, where the science end of HST (you gotta know that one!) is handled. GHRS: Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph, one of the spectrographs on-board HST. A spectrograph records light over a certain wavelength range, but only in 1-dimension whereas a camera records it in 2-dimensions.
Additionally, I volunteered to sit on the hotseat, or Help Desk, to answer technical questions. That mostly involves knowing who has the answers and how to get them to give the answers out, however sometimes I know the answer. Those times are best because the person asking is usually quite grateful and it makes me feel good to know I helped.
How did I decide upon this career? Sometimes you just fall into a good thing.
I studied Geology in college. I was working at the Office of the Bursar and thought I should try for a job in science since that is what I was studying. However, the secretary at the Geology department informed me they didn't hire undergraduates. I found out from friends that the Astronomy department did, and sure enough I got a job there helping to archive observations of Comet Halley. That got me into astronomy and my experience on Sun computers and with Unix got me into STScI.
I like being a resource for information. I like meeting people from all over the world. I like being in an academic, scientific environment. I really like having a Sun Sparc5 workstation on my desk.
I don't like politics. I don't like it when the computers go down.
One summer, my brothers Steve and Brian let me keep the Radio Shack computer they had jointly bought. It was a TRS-80 with a cassette recorder to use for storage! We played games and I thought the computer was magical -- you type in something and, surprise!, an answer comes out. We had programming books to teach us BASIC by writing little games. I liked playing the games until I learned how to write my own programs. Then all the magic went away because I knew what the program was going to do. I was disappointed: no more magic, no more surprises.
Now I use programs as tools to make repetitive jobs easier and knowing what the program is supposed to do is the way to know if it is working right. The surprise is when it does something different than expected and the fun is in figuring out why it did that and in fixing it.
Probably my brother Steve had the most influence on me winding up with a job in astronomy. He majored in Astronomy and worked at Goddard Space Flight Center as a Telescope Operator for IUE, the International Ultraviolet Explorer. He introduced my brother Brian and I to computers. He used to take us to the University of Maryland (UMCP) to play Star Trek and Adventure on line printers: Dec keyboards attached to printers instead of to screens. He also took me to the UMCP observatory once or twice. Thanks to Steve, astronomy and computers weren't scary unknowns to me. A little bit about me: I am married to Douglas and we have two sons. Christopher, age 7 and Kyle, age 1.66. Chris loves trains and reading and being silly. Kyle's favorite thing in the world is playing with balls. We four often play games of Koosh Ball toss in our living room. When the weather is nice we enjoy miniature golf and batting and an occasional game of duck pin bowling.
I spend a lot of time reading. I especially like Jane Austen and science fiction. Before I had children I enjoyed dancing, hiking, and the occasional rappell. I hope to be returning to tap dance classes soon.