Aspiring Astronomer!

Published on December 7th, 2011
Aspiring Astronomer!

We chat to Louise Steward who’s been studying Astromony at the University of Cape Town for the past three years to find more about this fascinating field!

When did you first realise you wanted to study Astronomy and what about it interests you?

I have been interested in Astronomy since I was about 8 years old and my dad bought me my first Astronomy book. Science has always appealed to me and it seemed only natural to pursue it further after school.

What is the name of the Astronomy programme?

I have just completed a BSc Astrophysics and Physics, and have been accepted into the National Astrophysics and Space Science Honours programme for 2012.

What subjects do you need for the course?

You obviously need to have taken Mathematics and Physical Science at school level, and then in order to complete the degree you need to have 3rd year Astrophysics, which entails prerequisites of Physics, Mathematics and some Applied Mathematics.

What kind of things do you learn during the course?

We basically learn about everything in the Universe! The three years of Astronomy education that I have received has covered everything from the Sun and how it works all the way out to the large scale structure of the Universe and the way in which clusters of galaxies have arranged themselves over time.

What is your most memorable moment during your studies?

My favourite part has definitely been the practical element of the course. I have been on a number of observing trips to the SAAO observatory in Sutherland, and meeting astronomers from around the world is fantastic. The talk around the dinner table is not what you’d normally get over a home-cooked meal!

What kinds of qualities do people need for Astronomy?

You need to be passionate about science and Astronomy, to start. You also need to be able easily get along with other people, as Astronomy is a community, and interaction with scientists from around the world is regular part of the career.

What kinds of jobs are available out there for Astronomers?

Teaching, research and telescope operation are the main career options that I have come across.

What are you planning to do after studying?

My plan at this stage is to study as far as PhD level, and then try to land some sort of teaching and research position at a university. I am really keen to be able to teach and hopefully be able to give back some of the lessons and experiences that I received from my lecturers.

If you were given a free ticket to fly anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

I would probably start at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, the site where Carl Sagan’s Contact was filmed. That movie is one of my favourites and also stars a woman Astronomer!

What advice would you give to people who may be keen on studying Astronomy?

Work hard! If you think that this is the right choice for you, do your research, enrol in the right courses and stick with it!