Noah is a graduate student at the University of Michigan.
His work has largely focused on characterizing how well we need to control the level of unknown errors in our measurements of galaxies in order to ensure that we can trust the science that uses them. Right now that means comparing different methods of separating the local from cosmological components in Large Scale Structure data to make sure DES can maximize the value of this hard-won information.
We asked Noah a few more questions, here’s what he had to say…
What motivates / inspires you?
I am motivated by a sense of discovery, and inspired by all those around me who work daily to enrich the lives of others through sharing some of the amazing things we’ve learned about this universe over the last hundred years. Working to add to our human understanding of the cosmos helps me feel connected to something much greater than myself.
What do you think has been the most exciting advance in science / technology in the last 10 years?
I would say the proliferation of cheap data, with perhaps the development of smart phones as a specific example. These devices are collecting unimaginable amounts of data on humans and how we live. We have the potential to learn a ton and to help address some of our greatest challenges, such as climate change and inequality, but there are also serious privacy implications. Furthermore, what insights are gained and how they are used will be largely driven by who has access to and controls this data, which right now is limited to a fairly small number of profit-driven companies. To really benefit from this explosion of data, we will need a framework that democratizes access and control, and perhaps provide incentivizes to use such data for public good.
Any advice for aspiring scientists?
Always be curious and seek out opposing viewpoints. Also, science does not take place in a vacuum. It is shaped, funded (or not), and directed by the social and political interests of the day, so it is important to consider the potential social impacts of your work. Rigorous scientific thinking is a valuable and necessary tool for addressing many pressing social issues, so don’t be afraid to engage in those areas!