Tuesday, February 21, 2017

My first conference

As we approach conference season, our new recruits at PVL are getting their first taste of what it is like to present your work in front of the scientific community and to interact with labs working on disparate problems. Look for more posts in this vein and details about what we'll be discussing in our nine abstracts at the upcoming 2017 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, Texas in March. The image above is taken from the poster session at the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting, the largest conference on the Planetary Calendar.

By T. Giang Nguyen

As my third term rolls around as a graduate student, I’ve grown rather cozy of the little office where I generally spend most of my time. Aside from a summer short-course at Western University, I have not strayed far from York University since the fall term started. You can get pretty comfortable relying on daily routines but once in a while, it’s healthy to mix it up a bit. There had been discussions between the different events that we can attend and the group is heading to Houston, Texas for the 48th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) in late March. Excitement and anxiety kicks in as this would be the first time that I would participate in a conference and it’s outside of Canada. Although this winter has not been as unforgiving as previous winters, I do enjoy the thought of escaping the ice and snow.

It is all about safety!

Dr. Abdelkrim Toumi has been reviewing our safety procedures in the lab as we work our planetary simulation chamber up for its first research use. This is something we take very seriously at PVL.

by: Dr. Abdelkrim Toumi

If you are working as a chemist, there are many potential dangers you can face. It is of your responsibility to be aware of the procedures that must be followed for working in safety. Different kinds of dangers exist in a laboratory such as chemical, physical, biological or radiological and each of them has its own safety procedures. During my research as a postdoctoral fellow here in the Planetary Volatiles Laboratory, we are working on a camera that would be able to detect water in some specific polar regions on the Moon. I have to deal with special environment, instruments and chemicals so I have to be very careful when I want to perform an experiment. Different safety procedures must be followed but it is not as easy as it sounds. In this post, you will find a non-exhaustive list of procedures that must be taken during my work.

Surfing the Rings: Using Small Spacecraft to Explore Saturn’s Rings

MIT's ion micro-thruster, (developed by the Space Propulsion Laboratory - Photo: M. Scott Brauer) is a technological development which has contributed to MSc student Eric Shear's conception of what a small satellite fleet might accomplish at Saturn. Find out more, below!

By Eric Shear
Over the last several months, I have been working on a CubeSat mission proposal to Saturn’s rings as part of my master’s thesis, now called “Saturn Ice Ring Exploration Network” or SIREN for short. I wrote about the science rationale in my blog post “The Ring Paradox.” The first draft should be completed by the end of this month, and I’d like to use this blog to reflect on my experience developing SIREN.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Importance of Public Outreach for the Younger Generation

  A photo of my siblings and I during the holidays where I gave a talk at their school. This was during my sister’s grade 6 class where they are learning about space. Hailey is 10 here while Arden is 8.

 By Charissa Campbell

One good thing about being a scientist is not only trying to learn about how the world works but being a good role model for the younger generation to encourage them to study science as well. This can be done by taking part in public outreach or, as in my case, encouraging your younger siblings to always be interested in science. I could do both of those things due to the significant gap in the age between my siblings and I. I took part in a public outreach program with a local science center teaching kids about astronomy in an observatory. Nothing was more satisfying than seeing little kids say “wow” or just to see their eyes bright up when I would show them Saturn or even just the moon. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Telecommuting to work on the Red Planet

Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems
Self portrait of the MSL Curiosity Remote Sensing Mast via MAHLI. Taken on sol 32 of the surface mission. Helping to write the plans for taking images like these is just another day at the office for the PVL trainees working as Collaborators on MSL (Christina, Casey, Charissa and Jake).
By: Casey Moore

Members of the group typically fit into “Team Mars” or “Team Moon” — I am a part of “Team Mars.” Our involvement on Mars is through PVLs Participating Scientist (PS) grant on the Mars Science Laboratory mission — MSL or Curiosity for short. This means that certain members of the group can participate in Science Operations.  Since we are stationed outside of the United States (and MSL is a mission led through NASA/JPL) — the work we do is funded by the Canadian Space Agency. In addition to our operations activities, our research involvement in MSL has lead to several peer-reviewed paper authorships for PVL members and many more to come.

So, what is exactly do I mean by Science Operations? Well, in short, this is where members of the lab participate in planning Curiosity’s sol-to-sol activities (a sol is a martian day, approx. 24h39m). Participating in rover ops is a time commitment, but it is enjoyable and a nice break from the daily grind.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Transition: From Undergrad to Grad Student

 As we approach the end of the year, it is an excellent time for reflecting. In this post, PVL MSc Student Elisabeth Smith considers the change in moving into her graduate studies.
By Elisabeth Smith
One year ago, I was sitting at my desk in the bedroom of my upper-year student apartment, with various textbooks, notes, past exams, and cans of Red Bull scattered about. I was preparing for the final exams of my undergraduate engineering degree. It was also right around this time that I suddenly woke up one day and thought, “gee, I think I’d like to go to grad school!” and began researching some interesting graduate programs. I suppose that I thought that I was really enjoying the whole education thing, and wanted to continue learning. I soon learned about the Earth & Space Science program at York University in my old hometown of Toronto. Looking more into it, I found that several of the professors were doing some very interesting research, and decided to send an application. At this point, it was too soon to be certain that I would be accepted into any graduate programs I applied to, so I also sent out several applications to companies for entry level engineering positions.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

TA-ships and what they can offer in return

 As part of this post, Jasmeer has sent along the view from his desk (pictured above).
By Jasmeer Sangha
Part of becoming a graduate student entails taking on some teaching duties. When first offered positions, I wanted to make sure my assignments would allow me to interact with the students face-to-face. I’ve had experiences both teaching a class and being solely a marking TA, and the sum of my experiences have taught me that the prior is more favourable.

In my final year of undergrad, I was presented with the opportunity to teach a tutorial section. This experience taught me that a team of students is needed to ensure a class is run properly. The team would meet once a week to go over the topics that were to be taught in the upcoming tutorials. These hour-long sessions would consist of all the TAs solving the quizzes we would be handing out to our students, and sorting out any ambiguous terms or statements in the provided tutorial slides. It was particularly challenging to coordinate the content students were taught in lectures versus what we, the tutorial leads, had planned to discuss with them. This was my first experience teaching individuals that were not close friends or family asking for assistance. I noticed that one must approach issues from a very different angle being an authority figure representing an institution, as opposed to a peer who is giving a helping hand. Having the responsibility of strengthening and contributing to these students’ education was a new feeling for me.