Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Intrigued by the secrets of the universe

For centuries, man has studied the stars, planets and space in our search to understand what is in the skies above us. Astronomy is a science that offers many career opportunities for those fascinated by the vastness and magic of the universe.

Dr Ceren Ulusoy, at the University of South Africa (Unisa) Department of Interdisciplinary Research explains, “Astronomy has been my passion since childhood and I remember thinking back then that we might not be alone in the universe. Nothing has changed for me since and astronomy is my passion. Being a professional in this field further ignites my curiosity about the secrets of the universe.”

She describes an astronomer as a space historian who works on the photons of light carrying information from the past. For her, this makes astronomy fascinating when discovering the future too.

For students wanting to pursue a career in Astronomy, the pathway comes down to subject choices at high school. It is recommended that Science, especially Physics and Maths be taken as subjects. After high school, the vast majority of those who go on to become professional astronomers will continue their studies at university in physics, mathematics, engineering or computing. As part of university studies, students often undertake research projects in astronomy.

For example, Dr Ulusoy has a BSc in Astronomy and Space Sciences from Ege University in ─░zmir, Turkey, and went on to complete an MSc and PhD. Her education relates mostly to pulsating stars and their evolution. Having been awarded her second National Research Foundation (NRF) postdoctoral fellowship, Dr Ulusoy is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Unisa involved in a multiwavelength research project.

Dr Ulusoy advises students who share her passion for stars and would like to study astronomy, “Improve your research skills because that is advantageous in so many areas of employment. You should also communicate with researchers in the field, heed their guidance and take note of their future plans.” As for her plans after completing this postdoctoral stint, Ulusoy says that she wants to continue her academic journey in both astrophysics research and teaching.

However if research and a career in academia is not for you, an undergraduate astronomy degree is also excellent preparation for science teachers, laboratory technicians, computer programmers, and science journalists. It can also serve as the basis for graduate degrees in other fields, such as law or medical school.

Unisa has made science a priority and aims to grow research capacity and support research activities in the fields of science, engineering, technology, agriculture and environmental sciences through the Unisa Science Campus.  Students wishing to study Astronomy can visit the Unisa Observatory in Tshwane which houses a 14-inch computer-controlled telescope where they can explore the skies and fuel their passion.

Contact for more info, interviews / pictures:
Sam Kaase
Chillibush Connect
Tel: 010 5944629 / 072 6235795

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