Because Of Science

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Note: This post does not have so much to do with astronomy as it does with my feelings about astronomy and how my feelings have evolved.  It's going to read very much like a personal blog post.  If this does not interest you, stop reading here.

I talked to John Huchra today.  It's probably fairly obvious that this was a rather one-sided conversation, but such is life.  I wasn't going to mention him on this blog, but I think it's more appropriate now that it is no longer an ongoing class assignment.  And I can't write an astronomy blog without talking about him, seeing as he's the reason I'm studying the subject.

I'm told I first met Dr. Huchra at a party when I was an 8th grader.  We met by chance.  He was the married to the friend of a friend of my father's.  I don't remember this meeting at all.  The first time I remember meeting him, I was asking him for a job of sorts.  My high school had an institution called project week in which we all took a week off in January to do something exciting in a field that interested us.

So in January 2008 I found myself shadowing Dr. Huchra and doing some busy work that I now doubt was actually of any relevance to his research.  It's funny; I don't actually remember much of the science part so much as sitting down and having coffee with him.  I don't even like coffee.  I have an exclusive long term relationship with tea.  I only drank the coffee because he bought it for me.  He handed me a mug, we walked down to the lobby and filled up with some sludge that claimed to be from Starbucks.  I tried to pay and he told me I could get it next time.  I can't even remember what we talked about.  That's my most vivid memory of the professor.  It's also my greatest regret—the one I haven't been able to get out of my head since last October—I never bought him coffee.

When I arrived at Caltech, I was absolutely certain I wanted to do whatever it was that he did.  Never mind that I had no idea what he actually did.  He was my mentor and I was determined to make him proud.  I'm still not entirely sure what he did.  It's a bit beyond my current knowledge base.  Anyway, this is all a bit beside the point.  I talked to John Huchra today.  I went through my SURF last summer feeling guilty that I was working in his building when he was gone.  A building that I, as an undergrad, had no right to.  I talked about that too.  It's why I've been avoiding visiting him.  I may have a SURF at the CfA again this year, though, and I had to deal with it some time.

So we talked.  And I realised that over the last term I no longer want to be him.  Impress him, yes.  Live up to his expectations, yes.  But be him, no.  If I go into his field, it will be entirely a matter of chance.  I don't know what I want to do with my life anymore.  But I do know that one day I'm going to be a real astronomer working on whatever field I find interesting.  And I have a right to work at the CfA.

2 Responses to Because Of Science

  1. We have told you how many times that you belong at the CfA?? John would have wanted you to work in the environment that he knew best. Don't forget that!


  2. I'm so happy to hear you say that, Eric! With your curiosity and passion, you definitely have a right to work at the CfA (or any other high caliber astronomy institution, although it is definitely nice to be close to your family). And I think you will definitely do work that would impress Dr. Huchra if you follow your nose to what you find most interesting.