Demonstrator - Computer Specialist
School of Physical Sciences
Faculty of Sciences
I am involved in small-telescope, collaborative research programmes in optical astronomy.
This has involved CCD photometry of cataclysmic variable stars, active galactic nuclei and exoplanet host stars.
My current emphasis is on moderate-resolution spectroscopy of bright targets such as eta Carinae, and selected southern Be stars, using the university Observatory. This work, done in collaboration with overseas researchers and major facilities such as the Hubble Space Telescope, also feeds into development of research projects for students undertaking the Bachelor of Space Science and Astrophysics degree.
I also work as part of the SABRE (Sodium iodide with Active Background Rejection Experiment) dark-matter detection experiment, primarily providing IT support (wiki maintenance and development of website content).
I have been demonstrating Astronomy 1 since the late 1980's, and have seen the nature of activities change from predominantly hard-copy-based activities to software-based activities. Recently, effort has been put into using such computer-based resources as a means for demonstrating astronomical fundamentals to students, as well as some of the experimental techniques that astronomers use.
That said, there has always been an observational component to Astronomy pracs, and this continues- there is nothing quite like getting a direct, real-time view of the Moon and other objects with one's eye...
The University's Observatory is used by first-year and second-year Space Science and Astrophysics students for observing-based pracs, and in spite of occasional poor weather, these sessions represent a unique insight into methods of observational astronomy for these students, something that no other SA university provides.
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