Devyn T.

January 7th – January 14th (1 hour) –  In preparation for the new year I did myself a favor and refreshed myself on some of the material Wilson and I had covered. Some of things I covered were image reduction, properties of light, and atmospheric conditions. While I won’t be seeing Wilson until tomorrow the 15th, I feel now more than ever that I’m ready for the new year and to tackle the SMART goals I made for myself, I’ve discussed with Wilson, and before the semester is over I can certainly achieve them. The goals I have for myself are to 1.) Complete the entire process of image reduction on my own to the point of reliance, and 2.) Export the entirety of the physical CD’s and DVD’s on a number of flash drives, so they can be uploaded to the database. I’m confident from what I’ve learned already, and I’m excited to start.

From my time working at NOAO, the most apparent skill I’ve learned is to document everything. More than anything, I’ve learned how terrible it is to follow unclear instructions or to try and piece together shoddy work. From digitizing the documents alone, I’ve learned just how crucial it is to be specific with your work, and how critical it is to leave clear instructions, regardless if someone’s following your work or not.

Being punctual about work I feel will always be an important trait to carry for any line of work. Especially in scientific fields, the credit of ones work falls solely on the reputability of the piece. Having poor or confusing work can tank your career, regardless of where you work. I feel that realizing the importance of the quality of ones work may just be the most important thing I’ve learned from my time at NOAO.

Recently, the talk at NOAO has been about funding. With the government shutdown, funds have been incredibly tight, and it’s beginning to become a critical issue. Thankfully however, NOAO has a backlog of checks they’ve written, meaning that the people working there can still receive paychecks until the first of February.

January 15th – January 28th (9 hours) – The past two weeks have been stressful around the office for everybody. Due to the shutdown, a fair number of people had made plans for find other work in fear the shutdown would continue for much longer, since the backlog of paychecks NOAO holds would of run out by the 15th of February. Thankfully however, the shutdown has been delayed, so things may just work out before then.

In the office we’ve all been hard at work to finish projects in anticipation of the shutdown, which unfortunately means I haven’t had many opportunities to work with Wilson directly. In the meantime, I’ve been working on finishing my first SMART goal, which is to collect and organize all of the data I’ve processed over the year.
Though it doesn’t directly relate to the industry, the word on everybody’s mind in the office has been furloughed. Though furlough means to take a leave of absence, for people working for the government during the shutdown, it’s meaning now means to leave due to an absence of pay available.

January 29th – February 11th (6.75 hours) – Recently, there’s been an issue finding exactly what there is for me to do around the office. Heidi and I have been racking our brains thinking about what I can do and we’ve settled on a solution. I’ve been going through old meeting logs, and like always, I’ve been digitizing them. It’s roughly the same work as usual, but I’ve been specifically tasked with spot checking work that had been done before. Heidi had scanned most of the books herself, but she’s unsure of which ones she hasn’t done, so I’ve been tasked with making sure she hadn’t missed anything. It’s a lot of busy work, but i’m sure that it’ll help out.

SMART goal 1: To collect all physical log sheets, CD’s and DVD’s and digitize them on to a single Hard drive / Flash drive.

For my first smart goal, I chose to digitize all the documents I had been scanning, and collect and document each one to move the boxes of binders to permanent storage.

After hours of vigorous effort and tedious documentation, I have collected all of the spectrograph logs and digitized them. When I started, there were boxes and boxes full of binders packed to the brim with handwritten logs and now, they’ve all been digitized, and moved out of the copy room for permanent storage.

To start, the digitization process began with sorting each individual page categorizing them by month and year. Once they had been organized, they could then be fed through the document scanner to be scanned front and back. Afterwards, the documents would be placed back in the binder and stored in the copy room. Rinse and repeat about 30 more times, and I had scanned each of the binders.

A problem I faced with digitization was when I realized after almost two months of scanning, I had been scanning them backwards and in the wrong order. Realizing I had made a tremendous goof the only option I had going forward was to continue digitizing them in the same way, as to keep the continuity of each of the documents. In reality, it shouldn’t matter if they’ve been done backwards, upside down or right side up, as they’re just tables of data and there’s no way to orient them in the typical PDF format.

After all the binders had been scanned, I could start working on the CD’s. There were approximately two thousand five hundred individual CD’s that had been compressed onto about 50 DVDs. My job was to cross reference the data on the CD’s and see if they matched the data on the DVDs. Instead of checking each individual file on each CD (which contained anywhere from 20-60 files) I used a statistical method of random assignment to choose which CD’s that would be chosen. In short, I would chose about 7-10 CD’s at random, and compare 5 of the files on each CD to their DVD counterpart. After doing this with every DVD, I was able to conclude that the data on the CD’s matched the data on the DVD’s. After this was concluded, we can now place the CD’s in permanent storage.

Working with the CD’s was surprisingly smooth, organizing each CD by month and day and matching them to their DVD went swimmingly, and I think will genuinely help with the avalanche of CD’s that’s crammed in the huge cabinet.

Doing all of this work has taught me something important however. That when working in academia, It is important to keep a consistent categorization and documentation method. More than anything I’ve found the value in making a coherent data management system, as it keeps an understandable system for complete strangers to find exactly what they’re looking for. This I feel will ensure that in any future clerical position I may have, I’ll be able to keep a coherent system for people to understand

As I’m going through the old meeting logs, I’ve noticed a lot more names have been popping up that I’ve recognized. Dave Wilimarth notable has stood out to me, and it took me quite a bit of time before I realized what it was. Wilimarth is the person who made the ODI Pipeline and worked with Wilson to make it. It’s funny seeing some of the old presentations he made about it while it was still in its early stages.

February 12th – February 25th (9 hours) – Over the past few weeks, It’s been challenging to find something productive for me to do around the office. The on-site manager, Heidi, has been working with me to find something that isn’t intrusive, and can be done without disturbing others work. We eventually decided on spot checking the work she had already done. In the past, about 2 years ago, Heidi went through and digitized all of the meeting minutes and collected them in the same hard drive I’ve been working with. For the foreseeable future, my job is to go through all the files she’s scanned, and make sure they’re legible, and that they were scanned properly.

While working with the old meeting logs, I’ve seen the word minutes being thrown around. While it isn’t necessarily exclusive to NOAO’s terminology, it is relevant. Minutes, is a short way to say “The log of events that occurred in this meeting.” This includes the subjects talked about, any presentations shown, who was there, and most importantly, the times in which they took place.

February 26th – March 11th (9 hours) – Between practicing my image reduction and scanning documents, It’s been slowing down at the office quite a lot. The problem with the ODI has been resolved, it turns out it was a loose screw flying around inside a chip set causing it to short out. Now, Wilson is having me clear out the remaining documents in the copy room to make room for the new office that’s going in the room. They’ve hired another technician to help on the ODI, and his office is going in the copy room, so Wilson and I have been going through the old documents and verifying if they’ve been digitized or not.

My second smart goal for this year was to complete the image reduction process without the pipeline by myself. After seeing the process in which images are reduced with the pipeline, I was curious on how image reduction was done without it. To start, I needed raw images to reduce, and thankfully there were plenty of raw images to choose from. As I’ve mentioned before, the images before reduction looked like television static, and without looking at any of the associated data, there is no possible way to tell what you’re looking at, so at this stage I could only just pick an image at random.

The image reduction process started with first choosing a series of images, they all have to be aimed at the same general object (Say a star or a comet,) though they do not need to be at the exact same angle or orientation. Once the images are selected, a string of code can be ran to take a statistical average of every pixel in the image, in short, this process takes away almost every artifact present in the image. Artifacts are information on the image that appear due to an outside error, this can include dust, lense warping, or lens ghosts. This initial process also reduces the image to a single flat which will be used as a base for future reduction.

At this stage, the image still looks like television static, but less cluttered. Next, we will have to determine if the image is supposed to be in color or not. If not, the next step is to run an additional line of code (preferably in python) to take away any pixel values that exceed a certain light value, this simply dims the image and gets rid of the junk information you’re not looking for. If you’re not getting the image in color, you’re done, but if not, before the final step, you’ll run a similar line of code in the beginning in each of the color bands (Red, Green, and Blue) to find where color value would exist in the image. At this stage, your image is complete! And can be used for scientific study.

While reducing images by hand like this, the hardest part would always be when I mistype the code and completely ruin the process and have to start over. The smallest mistake could completely crash the program and potentially ruin the image, it could be as small as placing a space between semicolons and parentheses, or accidentally running a line of code before it’s fully typed. This was always infuriating and would often lead me to set it down for the day and work on something else. Thankfully though, when the code goes according to plan, there’s a real strong sense of satisfaction knowing you completed it by hand.

In the future, if I ever decide to go into another career that involves running delicate lines of code, having the experience of running code like this, will hopefully reduce the chances of further mistakes with different code.

With the recent fix of the ODI, a lot of the office has been talking about short outs. Short outs are when in a electrical circuit, something else interacts with the wire, causing the electricity to be diverted, and corrupting the circuit. While it isn’t specific for NOAO, it is localized enough.

March 12th – March 25th (9 hours) –  Things have slowed down around the office quite a bit lately. As I mentioned in my last log, Wilson and I have been busy working on clearing out the copy room in anticipation of their new hire. Thankfully however, I haven’t been scanning very many documents. The bulk of the work, is verifying that we do indeed have digital versions of the logs that we find. Because of the work I’ve done though, a lot of the documents we’ve found have been ones I’ve gone through myself.

I asked Wilson about the new hire, and found out that they’re going to be an Instrument Scientist like Wilson. An Instrument Scientist’s job is to ensure the health of the instruments. While Wilson works with the ODI, the new hire works more on the other telescopes on Kitt Peak, specifically the 4 meter telescope.

March 26th – April 8th (9 hours) –  Things seem to be stabilized around the office lately. The current issues with the ODI has been resolved, and business has been pretty slow. Now all that’s left it seems is to finish clearing out the copy room for the new hire. Unfortunately, we’ve found a full box of more documents that haven’t been scanned, and that’s kept my attention for almost two weeks. Luckily, Wilson has been giving me a hand since he’s had the free time, which is much appreciated.
More than anything, this internship taught me that I wasn’t ready for an office job like that. I’ve learned that I appreciate the physical labor more than the sit down work. I really enjoy what NOAO does and how it encourages critical thinking, but for my own health, I think it would benefit me greatly to get some physical work under my belt. Through pushing papers and moving boxes, I’ve found that I genuinely enjoyed it, and that I should follow it.

For the incoming juniors, I’d ask them if they can truly have the time to take on this internship. More importantly, I’d recommend them to really think about what they want to do, as they’ll be stuck with it for the rest of their year. While I personally enjoyed the program, I don’t know that every student would get the same experience with the program. Most importantly, I’d ask them if they have any plans for the middle of their senior year. If something pops up, it may be a while before the internship clears up before they can act on it.

Lately, the talk has been mostly about digitization. Digitization is when you convert a physical document into a digital format. These formats mostly consist of PDFs, and PNG files. Usually, digitization is done on physical documents that were made in an era where digital documents weren’t viable or just didn’t exist.

April 9th – April 22nd (10 hours) –  For the past two weeks, NOAO has been hosting a variety of WIYN board members for annual meetings. Due to this, I haven’t been able to physically meet with my mentor, as he’s been hosting members and preparing presentations. However, I have been able to continue my work in the copy room, preparing it for the new hires. In fact, the new hires have been introduced and inaugurated, and will be ready to work fairly soon. That being said, I’ve been busy busy busy wrapping up the loose ends in the copy room. I’ve found a few loose pamphlets and binders to sort through which has given me plenty to do before I go.

Though I’ve been working with NOAO for almost a year now, I don’t think I’ve stated what NOAO stands for. NOAO stands for the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, which is a facility that hosts nighttime observation equipment. NOAO is a joint facility that includes help from University of Wisconsin, Yale, and Indiana.

July 20th – August 13th (2 hours) – On the first day on site, my mentor, Wilson, walked me through the ODI (One Degree Imager) pieces and some of the common problems encountered while it was operating. Additionally, we had a quick run through on what the ODI was collecting in terms of data. We discussed the methods used to clean the images, to ensure that only pure data was being collected, and how the chips used to process data worked. This opened the door to further study, and allowed me to be more prepared the next time I would come on site.

From the Vail Senior Internship program, I primarily hope to learn what it takes to be prepared for the working world. To know what employers are looking for, what I should expect to overcome in my future, and what I should ultimately do to be prepared for the many years to come. For my time shadowing Wilson however, I hope to learn more about the ODI, what level of college experience is required to work in the field, and where I can find information regarding astronomy. I’m confident that I can advance my understanding of astronomy and engineering to be prepared for any future college courses and work environments. Above all, I hope that at the end of the internship program, I’ll be ready to take the next step, and get a head start in any future endeavors. That I’ll come into college, work, and life prepared for what’s to come.

On the first day of my internship, I had come prepared with information about the ODI and it’s common problems, and going off that information I was able to learn about the core pieces of the ODI, and how they’re maintained. This was an excellent experience because it showed me the importance of planning ahead and going above and beyond expectations. Because of that, I was able to advance further than I expected, and allowed me to reach higher goals and standards. This I believe will be critical in my success in the business world. That coming to work or college prepared and excited will be key to becoming the professional I wish to be.

August 14th – August 27th (4 hours) – While I would of liked to work more hours last week, I was able to make the most of the time I had. Wilson and I met the other members of the NOAO staff while showing me the other rooms of the office. I was surprised to see the incredible diversity of the researchers and engineers working there who were all incredibly friendly. While I couldn’t complete as much work as I would of liked in the office, Wilson had given me a “Cookbook” for the ODI I could study in the time in between my visits, which had been written by him and one of the other members at NOAO. While the cookbook is a technical manual for advanced engineers, Wilson has faith that I can make some sense of the material and I’m sure I wont disappoint him.

August 28th – September 10th (4 hours) – In the past 3 sessions I had the chance to explore more of the NOAO facility and meet more of its staff. On the 5th, I went down to the Optics Lab and met Gary, Senior Optical Engineer, who had been working there for 35 years. Gary gave us a tour of the lab and we were able to install the construction of a 75 thousand dollar filter, which directly ties into my critical question for my senior exit project.

Recap aside, this week I was finally able to start meaningful, hands-on work. Wilson instructed me on image processing, and helped me learn the coding in the Pipeline program. I was also able to start document digitization, which taught me just how valuable the time is of each individual working here at NOAO. The items I digitized were old data logs from the 1991-1994 HYDRA telescope, and through doing this work I truly got to appreciate how valuable digital logging and data collection truly was to this line of work.Here at NOAO, the typical work behavior follows something very close to a study hall. Each member on the NOAO team has an important job, each with their own office where they can work on their specific tasks. Wilson for example, spends his time managing and overseeing the process on the telescope on Kitt Peak, while also managing to oversee data flowing through the Pipeline Program, to ensure the data reaching the researchers is accurate.

The rest of the staff at NOAO is fairly diverse, and while I haven’t been able to observe what exactly other members do exactly, I do know the dynamic here at NOAO is incredibly diverse. There are members from the college campus, new engineers and senior researchers all doing their part on keeping the WIYN ODI telescope running. NOAO I feel is an incredibly unique work space, in which every member has all the tools and space they need to manage the tasks they’re given. For me, that’s perfect. As previously mentioned, it feels much like a study hall, minus the quiet library expectation. The members here are incredibly diverse, all of which are noticeably vibrant and friendly, and most importantly understanding and helpful. Everybody here knows each other, and are capable and willing to help out in whatever way they can.

The only struggle I’ve had so far at NOAO is keeping up with the technical aspect of projects. While I’ve pretty much nailed image processing, I still find myself having to take a double take on lines of code or technical jargon.

Working with Wilson with image processing, the word Bias has been used a lot. An image bias is in all simplicity, what the camera sees before it’s introduced to light. These are the amalgamation of dead pixels, data bleed, and missing chunks. Biases are taken away from the final image using a mathematical equation, formed from the average damaged pixels in the bias.

September 11th – September 24th (8 hours) – Recently I’ve got to work hands on with the reduction process with Wilson. I had the chance to sit down with the Pipeline and manually reduce images taken from the telescope. It was a great time, not only did it teach me about the hard code used, but allowed me to do actual impact work here at NOAO. Additionally, I have been digitizing old historical documents from hand written logs of ODI. This not only has been a huge help for the other scientists at NOAO, but has allowed me to take a peek into the data being collected from ODI WIYN. The manual work also teaches me the importance of digital formatting and data collection.

Recently the big talk around the office was A/2017 U1. U1 for short is the first extrasolar object to enter our solar system. This is a huge event, having it be the first alien object to enter our solar system, will surely draw attention to ODI.

September 25th – October 8th (0 hours) – Unfortunately I wasn’t able to schedule a date to come in and work in the office due to scheduling conflicts from myself and my mentor, but before the break we were able to lay out a plan for the future schedule. Rather than only scheduling Mondays and Fridays for two hours each, we’ll schedule Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for two hours each. While this doesn’t immediately compensate for the hour deficiency, we have a solution. In the coming months before the semester ends, there will be an opportunity for me to do an overnight stay at Kitt Peak, which will allow me to earn more than enough hours for the semester.

At the internship at NOAO, the main form of communication are emails. Though every office is within walking distance, the most efficient way to communicate are through emails and carefully made slideshows. I’ve questioned why they don’t walk from place to place and verbally communicate and Wilson (my mentor) walked me around the NOAO offices to show me how truly large the facility is. Additionally, NOAO communicates 24/7 with the telescopes at Kitt Peak, and by maintaining a consistent feed of communication is key to operations running smoothly. Rarely though, they have been known to use small radios to talk to maintenance and optic lab employees the building over, to keep members posted with updates of construction. Personally I’ve yet to email or talk over the radio to NOAO members, but I have been able to walk to various offices to deliver information .

Thankfully, the environment at NOAO is wonderful, and I have no problem communicating with any of its’ members. While I haven’t had any reason or chance to communicate with members for work related reasons, they have been very lovely to talk to. For example, I currently work on digitizing documents, and this has me working on a small computer with a document scanner, which often gives me a few issues. when it starts acting up, one of the new members of the team has offered to help, which I frequently ask for. To do this I lightly knock on his door and ask if he has a few moments to spare to help with the computer, which has been a huge life saver.

One of the terms I’ve heard used around the office recently is the ODI Portal. While I have mentioned the ODI Portal before I hadn’t elaborated on it before. In short, the ODI Portal is a website dedicated to the reduction of images, and features a algorithm that does the laborious work of image reduction automatically. The ODI Portal has been immeasurably useful, and I have had the personal experience of using it to create one of my own reduced images.

October 9th – October 22nd (44 hours) – With the staggering amount of hours I’ve worked in the past two weeks, I’ve learned a good lesson about scheduling and communication. Firstly, in a panic I worked extremely hard to meet the hour requirements, and managed to sort all of the physical documents that needed to be digitized, and have now started to check DVD logs to see if their information is correct. Doing the amount of work I had to do took an incredibly large amount of time from my personal life, and taught me the importance of managing my time and keeping informed of the schedule in the grand scheme of things. Now in the future, I can be prepared for the year to come, and manage my time efficiently so that I can not only meet the hour goal, but exceed it. Additionally, my site visit went wonderfully, and I’m glad that I was able to showcase the work that I had been doing and proving that I had been working hard.

Now that I’m done digitizing the hand-written documents, I’ve started verifying the CD’s and DVD’s, and have had to identify Fits files. Fits files are in simple terms, the file in which large-scaled telescope images are tuned down so that observers can make observations and draw conclusions. The fits files have been compressed on to CD’s back in the 90’s, and were eventually up scaled onto DVD’s. Now I’m going through and identifying the fits files on both, and making sure they match and that they’re readable.

October 23rd – November 5th (4 hours) – Recently, Wilson and I have been working together on getting a program called Mosaic working. Mosaic is a program that allows the stacking of images, and will allow me to complete work from home. Getting the program working has been a huge struggle, and has caused more than a few problems at home troubleshooting. Working with Mosaic has taught me the importance of good design, and the importance of making a well comprehended system. This has impacted the work I do, allowing me to perform the best work I can.

In the office, there aren’t very many opportunities to talk to my co-workers, let alone see them. Recently however, I got to meet some of the people working on the programming for NOAO. I didn’t catch their name unfortunately, but I was able to talk a bit about the blackout, and what it had done to the telescope. Long story short, they had to re-code an entire program, because the lack of power injected junk code inside the whole system, making it unusable. They also showed me around inside the server room, and told me if I ever had any problems with the computer I work on, to come to them. This was a fantastic experience, proving the importance of making a good bond with your co-workers, and making friendships within the workplace.

Fortunately, I had met some of the NOAO employees previously. My step-father works for the observatory across the street, and occasionally they have get-togethers once a year. I had met Wilson for the first time when I was about twelve when Wilson first came to work for NOAO. I had also met Heidi, the on-site manager there as well. Now that I’m working for NOAO, a lot of the staff feels a lot like extended family, and knowing them on a personal level adds to the work experience, and allows me to fluidly convey ideas and speak freely.

As mentioned previously, Wilson and I have been working with Mosaic. Mosaic is a program that compiles, and adds the collection of images taken from a telescope in a sitting. The program works with telescope specific files that can store images, as well as raw data. Mosaic is free, and can be downloaded for public use.

November 6th – November 19th (4 hours) – Since I’ve completed my required hours, I’ve been able to spread out my visits more efficiently. Often I would find there was nothing new around the office, and the day would consist of mainly scanning documents and verifying discs. Now that I’ve been coming in once a week, there’s been more for my mentor and I to discuss, and a significant increase in advanced work I can do. Until the new semester begins, I can come in the office when my mentor needs me, as to make the meetings have more meaning, and allow me to help my mentor in more useful ways.

As of the time writing this reflection log, it’s past the due date, and I feel that reflects poorly on the perception of my performance with my internship. It’s never been my intention to miss a deadline, or to simply shrug an assignment off, and I’ve made sure it’s never happened at my internship site. My mentor and I work wonderfully together, and I haven’t had a better experience in a professional environment, and I feel that if I keep up the pattern of barely missing deadlines, it won’t translate well into the real work world.

The last thing I’d want is to disappoint the people who put their faith into my performance, I’m lucky I’ve been given the chances and opportunities to continue my work in the internship program. I’ve kept my mentor informed every step of the way, he’s as familiar with the program as I am, and what I value most, is that he’s aware of how hard I work, and of my good work ethic. I think I’ve made my mark in a good way.

To be completely honest, I’ve made a complete blunder of my first semester. I wasn’t properly dressed for the interview before I was accepted in the program, I barely met my semester hour requirements, and now I’m submitting a reflection log late. More than anything, I’m disappointed in myself. I used to brush those off as problems with the program, blaming my defeats on “poor instructions” or “not finding dates/links” but it had recently dawned on me, that’s my responsibility, that if things are confusing, it’s on me to worry about it, and to fix it. I look on my mistakes with great shame, knowing that not only had I let myself down, but my mentor, and the internship program directors. I won’t make excuses, and I won’t ask for mercy, but what I can do is prove to my directors, my mentor, and to myself that I won’t make the same mistake twice, that this will be the last time I let anybody down.

A recent splash in the news lately has been about Oumuamua. Oumuamua is the name of the asteroid U-1, which I had discussed in a previous reflection log. I bring Oumuamua up again because of the theories that have been circulating about its possible alien origin. Oumuamua is now a running joke around the office, because of how a simple asteroid has been turned into a alien space craft by the media. My mentor and I went over the basics of U-1 again, and to recap, it’s simply an extra solar asteroid which came from an unidentified solar system.