Profile of an Astronomer
Marc Elmouttie and his wife
I've always been interested in astronomy and space travel, and like most sci-fi 'geeks' I watched all the series on TV when I was young. I got serious about pursuing this interest while completing a Bachelor of Science at the University of Queensland, specialising in Physics and Maths. I decided to write a letter to the CSIRO asking about possible careers in astronomy.
I got a reply letter (which I will always treasure) from an astronomer named Robina Otrupcek. Whilst writing the letter, she had been working late one night at the 64-m Parkes radio telescope, receiving data for NASA from the Voyager 2 space probe which was passing through the outer reaches of our solar system. In her letter, she said astronomy was the career of a life time, "but you have to be keen".
After that, I applied for a vacation scholarship at the ATNF and was lucky enough to get a chance to work with some great people and use some fantastic telescopes. Plus, Robina remembered me from my letter which was a big thrill for me!
I then completed an honours degree in Physics and started research on a PhD, studying active galaxies. I got the chance to travel to some amazing observatories in Chile and Germany, and the research very interesting. Towards the end of my PhD, I also completed a Diploma of Education, allowing me to teach Physics and Astronomy to high school students.
Physics and Astronomy has given me the opportunities to work for some different employers, such as an environmental consulting company, a medical research group, a high school and of course the CSIRO! My current project involves setting up a radio telescope at a Brisbane high school so that young astronomers can get a chance to learn about radio astronomy and how much it reveals about the heavens above. If you're interested please check out our progress on www.glc.qld.edu.au.
Astronomy is a great science to pursue, because not only is it interesting from a scientific and even philosophical point of you, but it also introduces you to skills (like computing, using advanced technology, public presentations, writing reports) that you can use in many different careers.
See the ASA Factsheet on How to become an Astronomer for more information on life as an astronomer and more profiles of Australian Astronomers.