Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Science Team Meeting

I spent last week at JPL in Pasadena for some training and my first Athena team meeting. It was a long but fulfilling week for me!

The first two days, I shadowed the Keeper of the Plan, a job I hope to start in a month or two. This job is to keep track of all the science activities people request for the day. Like Doc, which I’m doing right now (right now!), it’s a good way to keep my interest in the day-to-day activities of the rovers. It’s like the difference between taking a class for credit or audit – when I audit a class, it’s more difficult for me to find the time to devote to it than if there’s something riding on it. During the first part of the week, I spent the mornings in the science meetings and the afternoons with the planners and learned more about the process. Steve Squyres himself was there as chair, so it was wonderful to sit through the process with him and pick up bits of knowledge.

While we were all at JPL, we had some very crowded planning meetings and happened across a white sand patch that turned out to be packed with sulfur. My roommate Aileen and I were up very early in the mornings to get in and help with picking targets! I know things are busy when they cut into my precious sleep time.

The last three days were spent with the entire Athena team, gathered in the auditorium to talk science. I was very intimidated at first, had to introduce myself to everyone and felt like I should justify my addition to the team. But everyone was super, very welcoming and interested. I gave a talk on my interests that went ok - I wanted it to be fabulous, but it was just ok. I couldn’t think of anything funny to put in it so just gave it straight. One thing I resolved on the second day was to speak up when I had a question or comment instead of asking my neighbor quietly. Surprisingly to me, I did that 5 times! Ultimately, the talks and the time to meet with people were great for me to see what we are still struggling with, what new ideas can be generated, and what I have the tools to jump into.

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