06 March 2017 10:00 - 10:15
Title: My AVN School Experience
Author: Ms Ann Njeri Ng'endo
Univeristy of Nairobi
AVN Trainee 2016
I am from Nairobi, Kenya and I was among the first students to attend the Newton funded AVN school training in 2015. The first part of the training was held in Nairobi in October 2015 and was basically an introduction to Radio Astronomy. We, the Kenyans, joined the other batch of AVN trainees from Zambia for the second part of the training which was held at the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HartRAO) in February- March 2016. This was the practical and hands-on training bit of the AVN School on Radio Astronomy. The AVN trainees’ first batch was lucky because we got an opportunity to attend the International VLBI Service (IVS) School held here at HartRAO, the first time such a training was held in Africa. Also, the school is held after every three years!At the IVS School, we were introduced to; the VLBI technique and principle, various softwares used for scheduling of VLBI experiments, VLBI data correlation and analysis centres, uses of VLBI in Astronomy, Geodesy and Astrometry, and applications of the VLBI technique in real life, such as in GPS.
The third and the last part of the AVN School training was held in Kenya, in June 2015. The training covered areas of Radio Astronomy data reduction methods and the softwares used for the same. After the school, I got an opportunity to work on a research project, which is still funded by the Newton Fund, at HartRAO. The project is looking on how best to optimise the AVN antennas for Astronomy, Geodesy and Astrometry. The school gave me an opportunity to learn from the best in this astronomy field, to travel and to meet different people in this field, and most importantly, it helped lay a foundation for my research path!
More about the author:
I grew up in Gilgil, a small military town about 140 km west of the capital, Nairobi. My father worked in the military and mother was a stay-at-home mum. I had one sibling, a smaller sister. I was a very competitive pupil and always topped my class in primary school. I enjoyed competing with boys and beating them in science and mathematical subjects, which were considered to be male oriented subjects. This trend continued throughout high school up to university. Growing up I always wanted to be a lawyer. However, all this changed during my last year in primary school after the NASA’s Columbia Shuttle accident which killed all the seven astronauts on board. After that accident, I was mesmerized by space and the universe at large, and I only wanted to study space and perhaps even become an astronaut! That’s the reason why I chose to do a BSc degree in Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Nairobi. It was the only course focused on space studies in the whole country and mine was the pioneering class in Astronomy and Astrophysics. In the year 2013, I graduated with first class honours.
In 2015, I want back to school for my masters. I opted for MSc degree in Nuclear Science because we do not have a post graduate course on Astronomy and Astrophysics in the country. However, the Newton Fund AVN training came at the nick of time and drew me back to my first love, Astronomy. As a result, I am currently working on my research project for my MSc thesis titled: Optimising the African VLBI Network for Astronomy, Geodesy and Astrometry: A Case Study for Kenya. I am really excited because I am working on a real life science project and our results will be used in making some crucial decisions on the AVN! It has also given me a good opportunity to develop new technical skills in radio astronomy and core science at large, while building a valuable network within the radio astronomy community, which I would not have acquired at the graduate school. This experience will solidify my career path and build my resume as I work towards further studies and research in this field. It has enabled me to do a course/project at a radio observatory, the only one in Africa, something that was beyond my wildest imagination a few months ago.