Michael works on the operations team for DES data management (DESDM). DESDM is responsible for “processing” all the images that come hot off the telescope – removing noisy electronic signatures from them, picking out all the galaxies and stars in them, combining them to make beautiful images – so that scientists can use them for their studies. He is interested in the interface between science and the computing systems that enable research. He enjoys investigating ways to use Python to make user-friendly data management systems.
We asked Michael a few more questions – here’s what he had to say:
What is your favorite part about being a scientist?
To be able to contribute to our collective understanding of the Universe. The freedom to explore where your questions take you.
When did you know you wanted to be a scientist?
1997. My father brought my brothers and me out into the countryside at 4AM to watch Comet Hale-Bopp. It was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen. After that, I was hooked – I knew I wanted a career in science.
What motivates / inspires you?
Music, nature, my wife.
Do you have any hobbies or play any sports?
In my free time I enjoy playing the bass guitar, listening to music, hiking, and birding.
What is your favorite space-related image, and why?
The classic Pale Blue Dot photo, courtesy of Carl Sagan and the Voyager 1 space probe. It is very humbling to realize that we are just a tiny “mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” There is such poetry to the passage that accompanies the photo. I think that the photo/passage highlights what science is all about: to understand our Universe and our place in it. Furthermore, it’s a call to humanity to better understand and protect our only home, Earth. What’s more inspiring than that?
What is your favorite book, movie, and/or TV show?
- Book: “Cat’s Cradle” by Kurt Vonnegut
- Movie: “Me, You, and Everyone We Know”
- T.V.: Futurama, Arrested Development, and Star Trek!
If you weren’t a scientist, what would your dream job be?
A writer/poet or musician.
What do you think has been the most exciting advance in physics / astronomy in the last 10 years?
Finding the Higgs Boson candidate – predicted over 40 years ago – was an incredible discovery, a big confirmation of our understanding of particle physics. It will be really exciting to see if it can point us towards new physics (e.g., dark matter candidate particles or elusive supersymmetric particles). Who knows what we’ll learn?
One of my personal favorites: the results of NASA’s Kepler mission, finding that roughly 20% of all Sun-like stars have potentially habitable Earth-sized planets. Think of the possibilities!