Monday, October 8, 2012

Astronomer of the Month: Nimish Hathi

Each month we will highlight a member of the CANDELS team by presenting an interview introducing them and what it's like to be an astronomer. This month's Astronomer is Nimish Hathi.

Tell us a little about yourself!

My name is Nimish Hathi. I am a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, CA. I am from India and have taken a long road to reach here. I did my Bachelor’s and Master’s in Physics/Electronics from Gujarat University in India. After my Masters, I went to Australia and attended the University of Queensland (UQ) in Brisbane for my second Masters, but this time in Astronomy. I spent a few months at the University of Western Australia in Perth before coming to the USA for my PhD. I completed my PhD at Arizona State University (ASU) in 2008.

What is your specific area of research? What is your role within the CANDELS team? 

My specific area of research is extragalactic astronomy. I study distant galaxies to understand their intrinsic properties and how these properties evolve with time. I am a co- investigator in the CANDELS team. I am involved in various working groups including galaxy morphologies, high redshift galaxies, and ultraviolet observations of lower redshift galaxies.

What made you want to become an astronomer? At what age did you know you were interested in astronomy? 

Challenge. Wow! While growing up in India, I did not have much exposure to astronomy and I got interested in astronomy only while taking postgraduate courses at UQ in Australia. So at a much older age than most other astronomers :-)

What obstacles have you encountered on your path to becoming an astronomer and how did you overcome them? 

As an international student, I/we face different kinds of obstacles. These could range from language and communication to social environment to living away from families (I visit my family every ~3 years) to immigration issues (e.g., the process to get visas for study, work or permanent residency can be time consuming and very frustrating) to financial restrictions, etc. How do I overcome those? Using the `hang in there’ motto. Keep going day-by-day and learn to deal with (most of) them.

Who has been your biggest scientific role model and why? 

No one in specific but I always look up to Indian scientists (e.g., Ramanujan, C.V. Raman, Chandrasekhar) who have risen from humble origins to scientific glory.

What is it like to be an astronomer? What is your favorite aspect? 

Special, something different from normal (profession). I like what I do but it is also little frustrating at times when I think about the future. My favorite aspect is to see the reaction of the people (specially in India) when I say I am an astronomer because still it is not the obvious or common profession in India. It is mostly one of awe.
What motivates you in your research? 

In day-to-day research we try to explore and understand unknown, new things and that keeps me going. Even if we don’t solve or understand everything, we learn and develop new important skills.

What is your favorite astronomical facility? (This could include telescopes or super computers, for example) 

Considering my very limited ground-based observing experience, I have to say the Magellan Telescopes in Chile.

Where do you see yourself in the future? What are your career aspirations? 

In the future, I would love to continue doing astronomy research, but I am also open to teaching and other job options. I will know soon when I start applying for a new job later this year.

If you could have any astronomy related wish, what would it be? 

Two wishes:-) 

I wish for better funding for current and future astronomy projects to continue our excellent research and make way for new discoveries.

I wish for more opportunities for permanent jobs to attract and retain young astronomers.

What is your favorite, most mind-boggling astronomy fact? 

The observational breakthroughs we have made in the last 10-20 years e.g., evidence for the big bang, existence of black holes, searching highest redshift galaxies, finding planets around other stars and many more.

Is there anything else you would like for the public to know about you or astronomy in general? 

I think the general public should know that astronomers not only gaze at the night sky with curiosity but they also develop techniques and technology which can be used in many other fields.

Enjoy the night sky :-)

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