|Hobart, Australia (soon to be Narrabri, Australia)|
|Job Title: First Year PhD Student|
She is an Astronomer: What drove you to astronomy?
Minnie Yuan Mao: I've always been fascinated with the night sky. Some of my earliest memories involve Dad and me shivering outside with him pointing out the constellations. As I grew older I found astronomy to be a comfortable intersection between physics and maths with plenty of scope for imagination!
That being said, astronomy is accessible to everyone! Most people have wondered at some point in their life, what is our place in the Universe? Are we alone? How did it all begin? Astronomy can answer these questions and many more!
SIAA: How many hours per day do you normally dedicate to work?
MYM: As a PhD student I have a fair bit of flexibility. By the same token, it is my PhD so it is really up to me how much work I want to get done. As a general rule I aim for 8 hours a day but all-nighters aren't uncommon the night before proposals are due! (Mind you, 'work' can also consist of starting the day watching the sun set and spending the rest of the night observing distant galaxies.)
SIAA: What would most help you advance your career?
MYM: At this stage, I need to focus on deriving interesting scientific results that can lead to publications. I need to have a solid number of papers under my belt at the end of my PhD so that I will be in a strong position to apply for post-doctoral positions.
SIAA: What recommendation would you make to young women starting their career in astronomy?
MYM: I've only just started out on the crazy path to becoming an astronomer, but if the first year is anything to go by then astronomy is awesome! The Universe is intrinsically fascinating and my work allows me to peer voyeuristically through the veils of dust and gas and into the beginnings of time!
There's no denying that it is hard work, and everyone will tell you how difficult it is to find a permanent job in astronomy. But I believe that if astronomy is your passion and you want to spend the rest of your life uncovering the secrets of the Universe (literally) then you should do it. Astronomy can take you to remote, exotic locations (for observations) as well as hip, happening places (for conferences and the like). There is also lots of scope for outreach in astronomy which means you can share your fantastic results with other people, and the best part of it all is that, because astronomy appeals to everyone, they will be fascinated too!
My strongest recommendation to anyone that wants to do astronomy is just to go for it!!!