Thursday, January 18, 2007
Last day at work
Thanks Kathryn for the cake! Haha I don't know why "you" is in quotes. Thanks to the lunch crew also for treating me at the Thai House in Westwood. I'm definately sad to be leaving UCLA/IGPP, but I'm counting on crossing paths again. According to the records I started working there March 2000. It was the first job I ever had, the only other gigs I had before was tutoring math. But as far as the federal government is concerned its the only place that has ever issued me a W-2 form. I think I started working there to pay for my snowboarding hobby. Since I also worked full time over the summer it payed a lot of my rent and tuition during college.
I remember when I applied for my first job there as a lab assistant, I had no idea what space sciences was or what a magnetometer was. I just happened to fit the job description because I knew how to code a little and knew a few unix commands. I worked for Xinping who hired me to help her do data processing for the magnetometers aboard the Polar Orbiter. She worked on the code to clean up all the noise and interference in the data collected from the mag and I helped her debug and run the code on the data. Its kind of amazing that the polar orbiter is still running, it was kinda old when I started working on it. Its gone through more than 3,600 orbits since I started working on it and its still going. A lot of times the work got really boring, since I had to go through a lot of 3-axis data of the Earth's magnetic field, sometimes just to find a couple hundred stay data points in 8.3 hz data. It was also kind of interesting because I would have class one day about some kind of math class about numerical method and then later on when I got to work, what do you know, I have to run some code that pretty much takes some matrices and applies said numerical methods over our data sets. I also learned a lot about the intricasies of space flight, like once in a while the spacecraft is eclipsed from the Sun by the Earth, throwing off the spacecraft's solar depended timimng mechanisms and it completely messed up or data.
I think at times I got in way over my head. A couple of times Xinping went on vacation, and when she took maternity leave I pretty much took over most of the job for 9 months So for a time these research groups out there are counting on our data that some kid is producing between Tagalog class and Math 157 that he's taking for the second time. Of course this was all before I found out that people used the data for modelling of the earth magnetic field and deciding when to throttle down power plants to prevent them from blowing transformers due to solar flares.
Right around when I graduated, Sophie, our system administrator quit. It was kind of unexpected, but she found a nice job at JPL, so she got out of there fast. So lucky me, the timing couldn't have worked out any better. Haha expect that Sophie had the job down after sys admining for 7 years and I meanwhile didn't even know how to turn a Sun Workstation. As it turns out, what you knew was a helpful, but knowing how to know what you need to know is even more helpful. So after two years, I learned to do the job. When you work with technology, the know-how to know how is very important since new things are being introduced all the time and what you know today may be obsolete tomorrow.
As a programmer I also got to work with the engineers a lot. Mostly I worked on THEMIS, which is a pretty interesting mission. Along the northern frontier of Canada there are shacks with cameras and magnetometers pointed north. They're suppose to take picture of the aurora borealis and record magnetic field data. The scientists should find some pretty cool stuff since the northern lights are visual effects of the solar wind interacting with the earths magnetosphere. There's also a satellite component to the mission and secondary mag sites run out of local high schools, so there should be lots of data to analyze and corroborate.
I learned a lot at UCLA, not just at IGPP, but since I first set foot on campus as a freshman in 98. It wasn't just academics or professionally either, I learned a lot about myself, other people, the world in general.