A Short Trip to Deep Space: Virtual Visit by a NASA Scientist

Secondary

On Tuesday, February 15, Grade 11 Higher Level Physics students had the chance to connect with NASA astrophysicist Dr. Serrano Borlaff, who zoomed in from Mountain View, California late at night.

Astrophysics is studied as an optional module in the Physics HL syllabus, and the class of 2023 Physics students have shown interest in pursuing the topic in their Extended Essays (4000-word essays on an academic topic of their choice), as well as possibly in their IAs (Internal Assessments). This talk was designed to spike their interest in the field as well as engage with a professional who could give them a better feel for what it is like to work as a researcher.

Dr. Serrano Borlaff gave an engaging twenty-minute presentation, in which he provided a brief overview of his work, and set out the aims and challenges of the astrophysics field. He even showed some exciting and exclusive footage of a recently discovered galaxy. Afterwards, the students had the chance to ask Dr. Serrano Borlaff plenty of questions. They showed a strong interest in finding out more about the use of telescopes, and how to perform computer simulations of galaxies in the presence of dark matter. The students reported that it was fascinating for them to learn about the specifics of space telescopes and how telescopes can be used to look back in time. As a teacher, it was fantastic to see how engaged the students were, and the questions they asked showed excellent understanding as well as interest in developing their comprehension.

Not only did the students learn more about the field of astrophysics, but they also looked into the field of research as a possible future career path, as they found out about the requirements and demands placed on a young person to become a successful scientist. Dr. Serrano Borlaff’s tips for the students for their future careers are to think about what motivates them, and what position they would aspire to have at some point in the future, to then work towards developing the desired qualities and skills needed for that position. However, he mentioned that above all, it is essential to find a good balance in life: after all, doing non-work related activities that makes a person happy, will lead to better performance at work but also to happier colleagues and more personal happiness!

Elien de Backker
Grade 11 Advisor

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