Laura Lusardi: An Early Start in Astronomy


My name is Laura Lusardi and I am a full-time student at UWRF, where I will be attending as a sophomore in Fall. I am majoring in physics with the intent of continuing on into astronomy. I expressed interest in astronomy at a very young age and my interest has only piqued over the years. My physics lab professor knew that I was interested in astrophysics and contacted me suggesting that I apply for the IceCube internship this summer. I had admired the IceCube project for a number of years, as I had read about it; however, I didn’t know much of the details. I knew that River Falls had connections to the project, but I was unaware that I could even apply for internships as a freshman, believing they were exclusively for upperclassmen who had taken years of physics and programming classes. I applied anyway and was absolutely astounded to hear that I had been selected.

I heard that I would be working with five other students doing a lot of computer programming and data analysis for the IceCube project. I believe the actual description of our first week was, “an intense week of computer programming instruction and a crash course in particle astrophysics.” Needless to say, I was a little intimidated, but excited all at the same time. Naturally I was nervous to meet the other interns. I worried that I would be the youngest and the least experienced of the group, but upon meeting everyone, I found that we were all on the same page. The first week was a little clunky to begin with; the information was rather overwhelming, as I had no experience with computer programming, and everyone was extremely quiet. My initial thought was, “this is going to be a long ten weeks if this is how everyone is going to be.” I hoped that things would improve as the summer progressed and sure enough, a week away at Madison was just what this group needed.

The second week, the six of us packed up and headed down to Madison for a week-long IceCube boot camp. I was a little overwhelmed in Madison. Much of the material that was taught to us was way over my head, as I had only had one week of programming experience at the time, but regardless, I was able to pick up on a few things. It was extremely enlightening and a real privilege to hear from some of today’s greatest minds in particle astrophysics.

Having been on the project for a few weeks now, I am truly amazed at how much I have learned. The first week, I had no idea what a DOM or gcd-file was; now I find myself using these very same terms as well as IceCube lingo in everyday conversation. I can’t even begin to imagine where I’ll be by the end of the summer. I was told many times by many different people that I would hate the work, but I can honestly say that I am thoroughly enjoying it. Having met many of the IceCube collaborators and hearing all of their stories about being involved in the project, makes me want to continue to work on it. IceCube is exactly the kind of work that I hope to do in the future as an astronomer, so this has been and will continue to be an absolutely fantastic and rewarding experience for me!




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