Lauren Mc Keown
This has been a really fun two weeks! Thanks guys :)
Secondary education: Loreto High School, Beaufort. Undergraduate degree: Physics with Astronomy and Space Science – University College Dublin, PhD in Stellar Astrophysics – Trinity College Dublin.
BSc from UCD.
Favourite thing to do in science: My favourite thing to do in science is get something to work after spending a long time on it. Science can often be frustrating when things are not working out, but that feeling of accomplishment you get in the moment when you succeed really is something else.
I am a first year astrophysics PhD student in Trinity College and I am investigating the magnetic structure of the atmospheres of cool giant stars.
My Typical Day
Is fuelled by copious amounts of caffeine and chocolate!
What I'd do with the money
I would use the money to communicate astronomy and space science to primary and secondary school students.
I would come to your schools to give talks or else fund other scientists to visit! I would be open to suggestions about what topics you guys want to learn about because I would love to even play a small part in improving the outreach of space science and astronomy to school students. When I was in school, wanting to work for NASA when I grew up was always both something which was discouraged by some teachers in favour of “traditional jobs” and a full – on conversation stopper at parties. I want to show you guys the possibilities that ARE actually available to you and that if you want a career in something which often receives a “you’re doing WHAAAAAT?” response from people you know, that is O.K. Astronomy is also something which isn’t really a big part of the Leaving Cert syllabus (apart from those 5 pages or so on gravity which were my favourite 5 pages in the book :p) so I think it is important to give students a flavour for what it is all about before they hit college.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Diligent, ambitious, caring.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I like all sorts of music depending on my mood…my favourite band is Muse and I also like Blink 182, The Killers, Justin Timberlake and John Mayer (which I think are all fairly respectable…) but when I’m alone in my room, I have a few horribly guilty pleasures ranging from the likes of One Direction to Taylor Swift. I also have a cheeky penchant for country music. I guess this section shows I’m honest??
What's your favourite food?
Wagamama. I actually think the staff of the Stephen’s Green restaurant know my face by now. As I write this, I’m going there in an hour.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Whale watching in Vancouver, Canada. It was the most amazing thing I have ever done – seeing a family of whales jumping about my boat was incredible and I’m very lucky to have done it.
What did you want to be after you left school?
An Astrophysicist. Before that I wanted to be a writer and I still plan to eventually do a bit of that on the side.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
For some reason I always got in trouble for wearing a long sleeved top under my school shirt (it was cooooolllld). Apparently a bit of extra white that is “visible” around the collar is an offence.
What was your favourite subject at school?
Physics, art and English were my favourite subjects at school. I still try to keep an interest in the other two by going to art classes and I used to write for the college paper.
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
I have 3 best things. The most recent best thing I have done in my little life so far as a scientist was receive what I had hoped to get in my degree. I became a shadow of myself for it (living in the library, taking in hot water bottles and 4 – can packs of Diet Coke with me, losing all regard for my appearance to the point of wearing jogpants I also wore to bed into the library.) So yeah, getting that bit of paper written in Latin was a proud moment for me of late! Another great thing I have done was getting accepted as a PhD student here in the Trinity Astrophysics group. Outside of academia, I got accepted to the Intel Youth Enterprise Camp at NASA Ames in California just over a year ago, where I was part of a group which designed and pitched a mobile phone app to the deputy director of Ames and some pretty influential people at Intel. This was a really cool experience which showed me the entrepreneurship side to science so I would definitely consider that one of the best things too.
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
I saw on the news that scientists had found water on Saturn’s moon Enceladus. The water actually shoots off the surface in these giant plumes which extend from the moon’s surface. This absolutely fascinated me (and to this day I’m still a little obsessed with Enceladus) but I sort of started going on the NASA website after that, learning about stuff going on with space and here I am now! Of course, a lot of people and places helped me along the way…for my 16th birthday, my Mom arranged for someone out at Kennedy Space Center, Fl. to take me around on a tour. To say I was in my element was an understatement and I think things took off from there! My parents always encouraged me to follow my dream so they were a great inspiration too.
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
Probably a writer or a journalist.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1. To have more time in the day. As a scientist, it is very hard to stop working when you are on to something so it would be great to get things done before I go to sleep rather than have to sleep on it and begin from where I left off the next day! Also, it would mean I would get to see people more :) 2. To be able to cook. The Big Bang Theory is a very accurate description of my life at the moment in terms of Sheldon and the lads living off Thai takeaways. As amazing as physics is – it involves long days. Being a culinary – challenged person, cooking takes me a long time so when I get home late, it just never works out that way. It is both a great and a terrible thing that I live beside my favourite Thai place! :p 3. On a serious note, I wish I was better at public speaking. Even if I know the subject well enough to rant about it for 10 pages, I find it challenging to convey that same information to a room full of people who are all staring at me and my slides. It is a daunting task, but as part of my PhD I will hopefully learn how to better that! :)
Tell us a joke.
A neutron walks into a bar and asks “how much for a drink?” The bartender replies “for you, no charge”.